By Charles Tjatindi
The final draft of the much-anticipated coastal management white paper, which is expected to set out Namibia’s future policy on coastal management, has been completed.
The white paper when finalised will become a government blueprint stipulating policy on the management of the Namibian coast line, dune belt and desert nature reserves. The main mandate of the coastal conservation policy, which forms an integral part of the white paper, is to protect the fragile coastal area stretching from the Kunene down to the Orange River. The tourist mecca zone between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, where quad biking activities and off-road driving have been destroying the sensitive ecosystems endemic to this area, forms part of this region.
The Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project (Nacoma), which has been leading efforts in the finalisation of the draft coastal vision, has embarked on a series of public meetings aimed at raising awareness of the envisaged coastal white paper.
The meetings are also aimed at gauging the public’s opinions on some proposed plans for the utilisation of the Namibian coast. This includes among others the proclamation of the area between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, including the Kuiseb Delta as part of the Namib Naukluft Park or as a separate national park, and the west coast recreational area also as a national park.
Conservation activists and residents gathered at the last sensitisation meeting at Walvis Bay raised a myriad of issues pertaining to the management of the coast and its resources, most notably over fishing and the degradation of the fragile environment due to off-road driving activities. The effects of the ever-increasing presence of commercial mining activities in the region were also a big concern.
Dr Francois Odendaal who is facilitating the white paper process on behalf of Nacoma, expressed concern over how livelihood is being slowly taken away from local communities in the region that are heavily dependant on the desert and coastal ecosystems for survival. Citing the Topnaar communities residing along the boundaries of the Namib Naukluft Park, Odendaal noted that their dependency on wild fruits harvesting has placed their livelihoods in danger as such wild fruits have become less accessible due to the improper utilisation of the desert and its ecosystems.
“These people’s major diet consists of the !Nara plant which is only endemic to that part of the desert. However, due to human activities such as off-road driving and other forms of degradation to the desert ecosystems, such plants might not be around for much longer,” he said.
One of the initial planned outcomes of the Nacoma White Paper development process is to define “coastal zone” in the context of developing a Namibian coastal policy. Although there is no single definition of the coastal zone, it is important for the relevant parties to agree on the geographic area that the policy will address. Experts reasoned that since the influence on the coast can originate way beyond the coastal zone, the policy might not be restricted to the coastal zone itself. It, however, remains vital to create a uniform definition of “the coastal zone”.
The US$4.9 million global environment fund project, which is backed by the Namibian Government has been a long time coming and work on crucial matters regarding zoning, regulations, management of all the west coast recreational areas is ongoing.
The Nacoma project’s global and project development objective is to strengthen conservation, sustainable use and mainstreaming of biodiversity in coastal and marine ecosystems in Namibia. The project supports the Government through regional councils, local authorities and line ministries by putting in place a coastal zone management system for sustainable development of the coast and to conserve its unique environment and biodiversity.