Desert Rose – The thorn in Dorob National Park’s side

In an article by Michelle Pfaffenthaler, distributed by the coastal advocacy group, Swakopmund Matters, the proposed Desert Rose development in the Dorob National Park, is attacked fiercely.

Ms Pfaffenthaler argues that a group of developers are proposing to grab a stretch of coastline zoned as strictest conservation area (IUCN category 1), within the Dorob National Park, to develop a massive hotel, convention centre, golf course and upmarket residential area – Desert Rose.
According to her, the concerning fact is that their proposal is being entertained. “To propose this kind of development in this location is as preposterous as proposing to develop it in the garden of State House. Why you might ask? Because it does not belong there!” she says.
The Dorob National Park is zoned for conservation and before any development of any sort can be entertained, the area would have to be rezoned, she says.
“The Environmental Management Act requires an environmental impact assessment for any rezoning application. This is a fundamentally important issue because before the viability of a development such as Desert Rose can be considered, the public and the government need to consider whether it is in the best interest of the country to rezone an area from gazetted conservation to something else,” she adds.
“Rezoning one of the strictest conservation areas in Namibia is not a simple paper exercise. It may require for that portion of land to be excised from the Park and for subsequent de-regulation of that portion from National Park to something else. This is no small undertaking and is something the Proponents of the proposed Desert Rose Development have totally overlooked,” she says.
Pfaffenthaler says when President Hage Geingob disclosed his assets he sent a clear message about his commitment to transparency and accountability. In his state of the nation address he shone a torch on corruption and tasked Namibians with playing an active role in stamping our corruption.
He also stressed that to build a nation we have to add on from what has already been built. Namibia’s constitution and laws form a strong foundation and we shall not be successful in addressing the needs of the poor or meeting our development goals if we try and do so outside the ambit of the law.
According to her Namibia spent millions of dollars of both donor and government funding on the development of the Dorob National Park and it was undertaken with extensive public consultation.
The management plan for the park and the zoning of areas was also undertaken with extensive input from scientists, people dependent on the park and the public. The result is that by the time the park was gazetted in 2010, both the public and government strongly supported the establishment of the Park. In addition by creating the Park Namibia was able to boast a conservation area that stretched the full length of their coastline – a selling point that has been used extensively in the branding of Namibia as a tourist destination.
“The Desert Rose proposal, which grows more grandiose by the day, and is proposed to be funded by Government, has been met with substantial opposition from coastal residents, conservationists, scientists and employees from various ministries and government agencies. It also has vociferous support from the Governor of the Erongo region and the previous Major of Swakopmund.Opposition has been trying to contend this development by questioning the extent of the consultation process in the EIA process, by raising valid questions pertaining the accuracy of the final scoping report and by highlighting a number of issues that have not been considered,” she says.
“And while our commitment to an EIA process that is transparent and accurate is valid, and our call for alternative sites and consideration of the no go option is sound, I feel we have overlooked the simple but compelling ruling that NO development is allowed here EVER -period! It is a gazetted National Park with a management plan endorsed by the minister,” she adds.
Pfaffenthaler suggests that more immediate and fundamentally the people need to understand if we are really living in a country that honours their constitution and laws.
“Because the manner in which this proposed development is being handled throws a spotlight on Namibia’s governance and legal system and the outcome will be indicative of how robust our democracy is and the extent to which white collar corruption and greed is able to usurp assets that belong to all of the people of Namibia,” she adds.