Crackdown on Environmental Abuse

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By Petronella Sibeene SWAKOPMUND In view of the upcoming Christmas season that is just around the corner, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Leon Jooste, has appealed to both local and foreign tourists visiting the coast to respect basic environmental preservation principles. Concerns have been raised by different individuals and watchdogs – such as the Namibia Coast Conservation and Management Project (NACOMA) – that visitors to the recreation area between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are destroying the natural habitats of different bird and animal species found in the desert terrain. Jooste says Namibia is known for its wide spaces, and while the ministry would encourage people to enjoy the beauty that the country offers, it is also important that people strive to maintain the attraction areas. “Let us respect the environment while we enjoy ourselves. We are custodians of this area and we do not want to be too law-enforcement oriented,” said the deputy minister. Meanwhile, a recent one-day meeting held at Langstrand and organized by NACOMA as a short-term solution to the current problem resolved that a management committee composed of representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Regional Council, Municipality of Walvis Bay, Municipality of Swakopmund and partners from the private sector be established before the end of this week. The committee will be responsible for the implementation of a contingency management plan at the coast during this coming festive season. In raising awareness, pamphlets with information on how to avoid destroying natural endowments in the area will be distributed and warning signposts will display information on what not to do. Two accessible zones were similarly identified to lead dune climbers and quad bikers. These short-term solutions are likely to be incorporated into long-term goals that should be identified at least by the Easter vacation next year. Activities during the festive period such as quad biking have strong negative impacts on the aesthetic and natural environment. Minister of Environment and Tourism, Willem Konjore, this week expressed concern over the destruction taking place between the dune belt of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Konjore called for urgent interventions and support to halt the destruction of the country’s desert habitats and subsequent attendant biodiversity loss. Koos Botha of Dare Devil Adventures told New Era that although he has been in his business for the past five years, he supports the stakeholders’ concerns. “We support their efforts, we want to preserve our nature and we are interested in working with NACOMA,” he said. He however clarified that not every area at Langstrand is sensitive, except for the gravel plains between the dunes. He added that sensitive areas are near the Swakopmund River and as such, he always directs his clients to areas where no natural resource can be destroyed. During the festive season, his business receives about 2 000 tourists who have an interest in quad biking, dune boarding and kids’ tracking.