Desert Plan Swings into Action

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Key stakeholders in the protection of the environment at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund have reported progress on the implementation of a contingency management plan designed to conserve natural attractions during the festive season. On the eve of the Christmas festivities, about 50 experts in the environment industry gathered at Langstrand to discuss ways in which they could protect the area between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. This meeting, last month, followed on concerns 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 habitat of different bird and animal species found in the desert. Due to the negative impact that an influx of holidaymakers can have on the environment at the coastal towns, a plan to protect the environment had to be designed. 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 negative environmental impacts have been observed through the years. “Key stakeholders on the ground have already started with the implementation of this plan, and they are making good progress,” reported Nacoma representative Rod Braby. According to Braby, it is that time of the year again when the coast is inundated with tourists on their summer holidays. Although good for the economy, the damage to the natural environment can have severe consequences. Activities during this period, for instance quad biking and other off-road adventures, have a strong negative impact on the aesthetic and natural environment and as such, 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. Currently, there is a lack of understanding amongst tourists about the severe impact of unregulated quad biking, littering and the free roaming of dogs. As part of the government’s efforts, one of its key strategies is to raise awareness and educate tourists on different issues pertaining to the coastal area. So far, a zonation map, which was agreed upon by various stakeholders at a recently held workshop to discuss a draft contingency management plan for the dune belt area between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, has been designed and will be widely available to the public. Starting this week, there will be an increase in the number of billboards between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay and pamphlets, brochures and other campaign material are to be distributed on how to avoid destroying natural endowments, he added. “Tourism must be environmentally friendly to remain viable – after all, most visitors come to enjoy our beautiful nature. Much of the damage left is usually due to a lack of education and awareness by the tourists and tourist operators,” he said. In order to promote tourism for Namibia’s development and at the same time conserve the very sensitive environment this festive season, members of the public are expected to help in conserving natural resources. “You can assist by directing visitors to the designated places for leisure activities and educate them as to which zones are off limits for conservation purposes,” Braby proposed. Namibia is known for its wide spaces, and while encouraging both local and international people to enjoy the beauty that the country offers, it is also important that they strive to maintain the attraction areas. Key stakeholders in this campaign include Nacoma, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Regional Council, Municipality of Walvis Bay, Municipality of Swakopmund and other partners from the private sector.