By Wezi Tjaronda
The dune belt between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay will be declared a protected area to safeguard the area from further deterioration.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism said on Tuesday it would submit a notice to the Cabinet to proclaim the area between the Walvis Bay, including Kuiseb Delta and Swakopmund up to the Swakop River mouth, a protected area on its own or to be incorporated into the existing Namibia Naukluft Park.
The National West Coast Recreation Area will also become a national park in a move to protect the coastal areas from further damage.
These measures, which will be finalised by June this year and be implemented fully before end of year holiday season, follow the ministry’s failed attempts to get cooperation from drivers of off-road vehicles who continue to drive in prohibited areas.
In a statement the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Permanent Secretary, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, said urgent action had to be taken against uncontrolled off-road driving in the dune belt between the two towns and the National West Coast Recreational Area to reduce further damage to the country’s ecologically sensitive coastal areas.
Shangula said the area would be zoned for different uses and the Government would apply different means such as concessions and a permit system to allow people to utilise and manage different land zones within this area.
“Government through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism will also increase the protection status of the National West Coast Recreational Area to become a national park and apply the same measures as intended for the area between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund,” he added.
Last month, a meeting of tourism and conservation officials noted the destruction caused to the rich and vulnerable coastline during the holidays was the worst ever experienced, with the largest damage caused by off-road driving and quad biking in restricted areas.
Other affected areas include north of Henties Bay, which consists mainly of gravel plains, as tracks of off-road vehicles could be seen almost along the entire stretch leading to the mouth of the Ugab River, which borders the Skeleton Coast Park.
Part of the 30-km coastline between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund and areas along the pristine sites of Mile 78 and Mile 108 is also badly affected.
The said coastline is designated as an important bird area and is home to up to 770 birds per kilometre of rocky shore, the highest linear count of birds anywhere in southern Africa.
The Damara Tern, rare and specially protected and endemic specie has its important breeding ground in this area. In addition, the dunes have unique beetles and spiders, reptiles and mammals that live mainly on the vegetation or on the slip faces.
The ministry and its partner, the Namibia Coast Conservation and Management (Nacoma) project carried comprehensive public campaigns to inform the public of where they were not allowed to drive, which included roadblocks, newspaper articles, radio and television interviews, workshops and various meetings.
But, Shangula said, “This seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.”
“Proclaiming this area as a national park does not mean that the different existing land uses will be terminated but will be managed better,” Shangula said.
The area will be zoned for different uses and relevant regulations and laws will be developed under the New Environmental Management Act and the Parks and Wildlife Management Bill, he said.