By Charles Tjatindi
The Municipality of Walvis Bay is embarking on various initiatives to promote the sustainable protection, utilization and management of biodiversity for the benefit of residents both in the present and future.
The most prominent of these initiatives is the Local Action for Biodiversity Project (LAB), a three-year project initiated by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), with a focus on enhancing planning and management of biodiversity at the local level. The Municipality of Walvis Bay has been a member of ICLEI since 2003.
The LAB is part of the revised Integrated Environmental Policy of the Walvis Bay town, which would pave the way for a more prudent management of the precious and unique environment of Walvis Bay.
The Integrated Environmental Policy is the brainchild of the Walvis Bay Municipality’s Environmental Management Section within the Municipality’s Department of Water, Waste and Environmental Management.
According to its policy document, the envisaged environmental policy is a statement of purpose that commits the municipality to certain principles, policy directions and tools for implementation.
The Integrated Environmental Policy emerged from the Walvis Bay Local Agenda 21 (WB LA21) Project, as one of its four components.
The policy will be implemented with adherence to existing national policies and laws, international treaties and strategies and municipal policies and by-laws. Once implemented, it would be committed to taking a sectoral approach to the management of Walvis Bay’s natural and man-made environment.
Among its visions for its sectoral approach, the policy would see the coastal area being managed collaboratively by all stakeholders in such a fashion that it achieves its potential. The area of 1 124 square kilometers under the jurisdiction of the Walvis Bay Municipality is flanked by 60 km of the cold, rich South Atlantic Ocean’s coastline on its western, seaward side.
To the north and east, the Namib Desert’s dunes and plains surround the town.
To the south are the 12 600 hectare Walvis Bay wetlands, listed as a Ramsar Convention wetland in 1995, and the adjoining Kuiseb River Delta.
The coastal area’s Ramsar wetlands, notably the Walvis Bay Lagoon is being affected by sedimentation, which in turn compromises its status as an important shorebird and seabird area.
The sand spit Pelican Point, which encloses and protects Walvis Bay and its harbour, is potentially subjected to breaching.
Adding to this is the marine pollution stemming from factory effluent and shipping activities which adversely affect water quality in the bay and lagoon.
Given these conditions, it appears that damage is imminent if nothing is done to halt the dangers threatening the important marine life.
This, according to the policy document, is what the envisaged Integrated Environmental Policy aims to address and hopefully remedy.
The Integrated Environmental Policy has therefore given birth to a detailed biodiversity action and framework that will be developed for the entire Walvis Bay jurisdiction, the WBA Environmental Fund and the Environmental Management System.
A total of 20 cities worldwide are taking part in the LAB project. Walvis Bay, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni (formerly the East Rand), Durban and Johannesburg are the only participants from Africa.
The Walvis Bay Local Action for Biodiversity Project is implemented in collaboration with various local stakeholders such as the Coastal Environmental Trust of Namibia (CETN), NamPort, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Municipality of Swakopmund, NACOMA Project, Friends of the Swakop River Mouth, Erongo Regional Council, Topnaar Traditional Council, Walvis Bay Salt Refiners, Gobabeb Training and Research Centre and the Quality Managers Forum of the fish processing industry.