Holidaymakers Must Abide

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Contingency Plans for Summer Vacation By Petronella Sibeene SWAKOPMUND Holidaymakers visiting Walvis Bay and Swakopmund will this season have to abide by all the environmental rules to help halt the current destruction being exacted on the coast’s natural attractions. About 50 stakeholders gathered at Langstrand yesterday to mark the beginning of the implementation of a Contingency Management Plan for the affected areas. Due to the negative impact that an influx of holidaymakers can have on the environment at the coastal towns, a meeting was deemed necessary just before Christmas arrives to address this problem which if not tackled immediately might seriously affect some of the natural habitat on which the country prides itself. Walvis Bay and Swakopmund receive thousands of visitors from within and beyond the borders of the country annually, but especially during the festive season. Despite the positive contribution these visitors make on the business of the two towns, a number of impacts of environmental concern have been observed through the years. According to Josephine Ashipala, from Integrated Environmental Consultants Namibia, the recreational area or the dune belt between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund during Christmas or summer vacations in southern Africa is frequented by many holidaymakers. Activities during this period, such as quad biking, have strong negative impacts on the aesthetic and natural environment. Minister of Environment and Tourism, Willem Konjore, in his opening remarks said that the Walvis Bay Nature Reserve and the dune belt between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay have been identified as areas needing intervention and support to halt the destruction of the area’s desert habitats and subsequent attendant biodiversity loss. While the two towns have spectacular scenery that has of late attracted Hollywood celebrities, the adverse effects of visitors seems to be on the increase every year. Recreational angling, water and motor sport, sand boarding, flying in various craft and off-road adventures all form part of the favourite activities of holidaymakers at the coast. Currently, there is a lack of understanding amongst tourists about the severe impacts of irresponsible activities such as unregulated quad biking, littering and the free roaming of dogs. Further, it is unclear who is responsible for the management and regulation of activities in the designated area while the existing draft regulations prepared by the Municipality of Walvis Bay have not been passed to date. Not wanting to discourage visitors from having fun, the minister however expressed concern over the destruction or change in the desert substrate, which may inhibit biological processes. The area is endowed with biodiversity with no faunal counterpart elsewhere in the world. Konjore mentioned among others the extraordinary high diversity of beetles and other insects that are new in the science world. Reptiles such as the Namaqua chameleon and Peringuey’s sidewinding adder also top the unique fauna. The area further hosts about 770 birds of about 50 species per kilometer, making it recognized as an international migratory flyway and staging post for birds. “We need business, we need tourists and we need our people to continue enjoying the beauty that the country offers, but we are also responsible for restoring nature or else our grandchildren will blame us,” Konjore said. The minister appealed to stakeholders to assist his ministry and other relevant authorities in coming up with innovative measures to address the unsustainable activities during the upcoming holidays.