Craters lie where concrete bunkers once stood, testament to the powerful explosions that occurred when a Mozambican ammunition depot accidentally blew up in 2007, killing more than 100 people. Now work is underway to transform a site littered with old rockets, grenades and shells into a nature reserve with museums, restaurants and a children’s playground.
Mozambique said it had removed all known land mines with the help of the United Nations and international groups like APOPO, a nongovernmental group, ending a massive project that began after its civil war ended more than two decades ago. Much of it is considered harmless, but some military explosives there have degraded fuses, making them a particular menace.
The plan to create a weekend getaway for families out of a no-go zone symbolizes Mozambique’s peaceful aspirations after conflict that started in the 1960s with the war against Portuguese colonizers and ended with a 1992 peace deal in Rome between rival Mozambican factions whose divisions still sometimes spill into violence.
“We want to see if it can be a place for pleasure, not connected to war,” Alberto Augusto, director of Mozambique’s National Demining Institute, said of the former depot at Malhazine, about 4 miles north of the international airport. He compared plans for a park there to New York City’s Central Park, saying Maputo must establish green areas as development accelerates in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.
“It’s something that locals will never forget,” said Lordes Zavale, an APOPO operations manager. Making the area safe for civilians is very challenging, but can be accomplished with time and resources, he said.
Mozambique’s environment ministry is designing the nature reserve, which will include antelope and other animals. There will also be a zoo, a water park, a botanical garden, a camping ground, a military museum and an observation tower.