Earthworks to prepare site for construction of new US Embassy in Windhoek started
Preparations of the site along Nelson Mandela Avenue where the new United States Embassy will be constructed, started in earnest this week after relaxation of certain lockdown restrictions.
The old homestead where legendary Namibian businessman, Axel Behnsen, and his wife stayed for decades, has been demolished towards the end of last year to make room for the new embassy buildings. This property, one of the last expansive colonial German plots in Klein Windhoek, was acquired from the Metje Trust after Mrs Behnsen, a Metje by birth, passed away.
The earthworks, due to have started early in the year, were delayed by the lockdown but restarted this week, clearing and levelling a roughly one-hectare square patch of the vast property. In the process a number of indigenous trees have been bulldozed, among them several dozen protected Shepherd’s trees.
Following many comments during last year from concerned Klein Windhoek residents regarding the removal of trees, the US Embassy in Windhoek this week informed the public in a statement, saying “Our efforts to preserve as many of the existing trees and plants as possible began in late 2018. In February 2019, we had a local nursery conduct a survey of the grounds to identify and mark protected trees and plants.”
“We later contracted a leading Namibian botanist to map the locations and assess the viability of relocating the flora. Regrettably, given the shallow root systems caused by the underlying bedrock, it was determined by Namibian experts that most of the trees could not be transplanted. However, the aloes on site were identified as having good potential to be successfully replanted. As many aloes as possible will be saved and either incorporated into the landscaping or donated locally,” the embassy continued.
Regarding the new embassy campus, the embassy assured local residents that environmental sustainability is a cornerstone of the design process for the new US Embassy. “We have ensured the new embassy compound will include renewable energy through solar panels, minimize water usage, and incorporate indigenous trees and plants, including as much as possible some currently on the site.”
The embassy further stated that some trees had to be removed but added that all invasive plants are also being removed. The earthworks contractor has received all required permits and permissions from the Namibian Government and from the City of Windhoek.
As a consolation, the embassy promised that only indigenous plants and trees will be used for landscaping the terrain after completion of the compound buildings.
“We are grateful for the counsel Namibian experts have provide as we work to preserve as much flora as possible. We share their deep care for Namibia’s natural resources. We are fully committed to preserving all the trees and plants that indeed can be preserved. For those that cannot, we look forward to watching the next generation of Namibia’s beautiful indigenous trees grow on the new US Embassy compound,” stated the embassy.