German agency commits N$222 million to Sperrgebiet

LADERITZ, The Namibian-German Development Cooperation will construct new staff houses, offices and park entry gates for the Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park in //Kharas Region.

Last week Thursday, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) officially launched the construction of this project at a groundbreaking ceremony that took place at Kolmanskop Ghost Town near Luderitz, where the first Namibian diamonds were discovered in 1908.

The groundbreaking was undertaken by MET Minister Pohamba Shifeta and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Christian Schlaga and the Deputy Minister of Economic Planning in Presidency Pieter Van der Walt.

Shifeta stressed the development will include the refurbishment of the historic old post office building at Luderitz as the Ministry of Environment and Tourism local office, the construction of new office at Aus which is an extension to the existing office at Rosh Pinah and Oranjemund. Furthermore, park entry gates will be constructed at Luderitz Leninsula, Kolmanskop, Rotkop Garub, Aus, Obib, Sendelingsdrift and Swartkop.

The infrastructure has been funded through the Namibia National Parks Programme (Nampark) Phase lV, at a cost of N$330 million, with the German Government through KfW committing a grant of N$222 million, for the implementation of activities and N$108 million by the Namibian government in support of the country's development and conservation.

The new park management infrastructure to be constructed in Tsau //Khaeb as well as the on-going construction of the Buffalo Park Management Station in Bwabwata national Park and Shuno in Mudumu National Park represent the latest phase of the NamParks, which has been running since 2006.

Previously, new stations were built at Mahango, Susuwe in Bwabwata National Part; Ngenda in Mudumu National Park, Khaudum and Sikeretti in Khaudum National Park. All these stations in the northeastern parks are operational and provide ideal conditions for enhanced park management.

During the groundbreaking event, Schlaga handed over park management equipment to enhance the management of the park. The equipment included a 4 x 4 truck co-financed by the Germany government and the MET through the Game Product Trust Fund, park tourist information signage, water point equipment, tool boxes for water maintenance, fencing materials, biodiversity monitoring equipment, GPS, cameras and office-based equipment.

These high-quality new stations and equipment will improve the MET's ability to manage Sperrgebiet, proclaimed as a National Park in 2008 after being closed to the public for over a century.

Today, the park is part of what has become one of the longest protected coastlines in the world, stretching from the lona National Park in South-western Angola, bordering the Skeleton Coast Park, through the Dorob National Park, the Namib-Naukluft Park to the /Ai-/Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the Ramsar Site at the Orange River.

In addition to the terrestrial parks, the Tsau //Khaeb lies adjacent to Namibia's only marine protected area proclaimed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. After a decade since its proclamation as a National Park, access is still strictly regulated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy through the Diamond Act (Act 13 of 1999).

To improve access to one of the world biodiversity hotspots, the MET has been discussing with the Ministry of Mines and Energy and Namdeb on access into the park for both tourism and for park management.

The two institutions also intends to reduce the boundaries of the Diamond Area No. 1 by de-gazetting 70 percent of the park that falls outside Namdeb's Mining Licence area to increase access to the park

The ministries are working on amending the Diamond Act to allow for controlled tourism and restricted traversing rights for tourism concessions holders through Diamond Areas as well as to empower park officials to enter diamond areas.

Both processes are expected to be completed by March 2019. Meanwhile, access negotiations are continuing with Namdeb on controlled tourism access to part of the park.

In preparation for tourism development, the MET with support from the NamParks lV project, is revising the Park Tourism Development Plan to guide tourism development in park. Other investment includes the development of park specific regulations, tourism information signage, revision of the Park Management Plan, provision of park management equipment and staff capacity development.

The German Development Bank (KfW) supportsthe development of Namibia's Parks is part of the support for the focal area Natural Resource Management one of the three main German-Namibia Cooperation Areas. This support is also in line with the Namibia National Parks Programme that was initiated in 1995 by the MET to foster both nature conservation and socio-economic development in the county. Within the framework of their bilateral development cooperation efforts, the Namibian and German governments have long realised the substantial contribution National Parks bring to economic development. The promotion of sustainable tourism, which is directly linked to National Parks is an effective strategy to enhance grow and employment and thereby reducing poverty.

Germany has committed approximately N$400 million (Euros 30 million) for its past and present support to MET's development and management of Namibia's national parks.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia