The Namibian Ports Authority (NamPort) will invest N$3 million over a period of three years in a detailed study of the environmental health status of Walvis Bay lagoon, which is home to rare bird species, such as flamingos and also hosts saltpans.
Namport and the University of Namibia (Unam) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday to conduct the research and to establish a cooperative relationship between the institutions, to assess the ecosystem health status and biodiversity of Walvis Bay.
The study will be conducted from February next year by researchers from the Sam Nujoma Marine and Coastal Resources Research Centre at Henties Bay.
The lagoon is in close proximity to Namport’s northern container terminal expansion project, hence the concern that construction activities may affect the health status of the entire lagoon ecosystem.
The lagoon is home to hundreds of thousands of bird species, many of which use the area as a migratory route from Africa to the Arctic Circle. It covers an area of seven kilometres and is about two metres deep.
The lagoon was declared as a Ramsar site in 2005 and provides vast economic benefits to many local industries, such as the fishing sector, sport, fisheries, dolphin- and bird-watching, and is thus important to Namport and the economic life of the harbour town itself.
According to Namport CEO Bisey /Uiriab, they have to date spent more than N$30 million on environmental management and saw a need for further detailed research to determine the health status of the lagoon, so that mitigating measures can be put in place if any negative impact is detected.
Uirab added that the rise of a global knowledge economy is intensifying, as well as the need for strategic partnerships that go beyond the traditional funding of disjointed research projects.
“Most importantly, it is our hope that the identified research activities over the next three-year period will yield recommended management strategies for the wetland and possible mitigation measures of any negative impacts on our Ramsar site,” he said.
Vice chancellor of Unam Professor Lazurus Hangula said the research would focus on and assess the status of the physical and chemical condition of the lagoon; detect any changes to the physical parameters; as well as the status of biological communities and would also determine the environmental and biological indicators of the health status of the lagoon.
He said the MoU has the potential to transforms the role of the university in the 21st century, as well as anchor Unam as a vital centre of competence to help tackle pressing social challenges, including employment creation and advancing economic growth.
“The research team is eager to work with Namport and to improve understanding around the sensitive ecosystem of the lagoon and to also came up with a baseline study that will serve as reference points and enable knowledge-based decision-making,” he said.