From Sperrgebiet to Tsau //Kheib – completing the final link in the coastal conservation chain stretching from Angola to South Africa
The Sperrgebiet is one of the most pristine desert biomes in the world due its almost complete lack of human intrusion. For over a century, entry to Namibia’s south western corner has been prevented by law to keep the land as a buffer between the interior and the alluvial diamond mines on the Orange River and the Atlantic shoreline.
This jewel has been proclaimed a national park in 2008 but it was only earlier this month that the actual groundwork began to develop basic park infrastructure with the assistance of the KfW development bank. Developing the park is part of an ongoing long-term joint development programme to improve all national parks in the country.
In the meantime, the park has been named the Tsau //Khaeb National Park to reflect its indigenous roots to the Nama people.
At the groundbreaking ceremony earlier in July, the Minister of Environment and Tourism Hon Pohamba Shifeta, the German Ambassador, HE Christian Schlaga, and the Deputy Minister of Economic Planning, Hon Pieter van der Walt, turned the first sod in Kolmanskop, the ghost town near Lüderitz, from where a number of the administrative functions will be run. Other dignitaries included the Governor of the Karas Region, representatives of the local Traditional Authorities, Mr Uwe Stoll from the KfW Development Bank and Mr Colgar Sikopo, the Director of Parks in the environment and tourism ministry
Since the park comprises such an enormous land area with zero infrastructure except on the periphery, establishing administrative facilities is seen as the first step before any other infrastructure can be developed. The old post office building in Lüderitz will be refurbished to serve as operational base for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. New offices will be built in Aus while the existing offices in Rosh Pinah and Oranjemund will be extended. Park entrances will be built at Grosse Bucht south of Lüderitz, at Kolmanskop where currently the entry control point to Elizabeth Bay diamond mine is, and at Rotkop, Garub, Aus, Obib, Sendelingsdrift and Swartkop.
The enormity of Tsau //Khaeb National Park is difficult to comprehend. From the coast to the interior boundary, the park stretches for about 150 kilometres while the distance from Oranjemund to Lüderitz is about 260 km along the shore.
The park is part of one of the longest protected coastlines in the world, stretching from the Iona National Park in south-western Angola across the Kunene River into the Skeleton Coast Park, through the Dorob National Park and the Namib Naukluft Park to the /Ai-/Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the Ramsar Site at the Orange River. Offshore lies Namibia’s only protected marine area.
Access to the general public is another of many hurdles that will have to be crossed, if Tsau //Khaeb is to succeed as a national park. In this regard, the environment and tourism ministry has been in discussion with the Ministry of Mines and Energy and Namdeb to reduce the current boundaries of the diamond protection area so that roughly 70% of Tsau //Kheib will fall outside the diamond buffer zone. For this, a number of laws and regulations will have to be amended.
Caption. Breaking the ground for developing the Tsau //Khaeb National Park, are the Deputy Minister of Economic Planning, Hon Piet van der Walt, the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Hon Pohamba Shifeta, Mr Uwe Stoll of the KfW development bank and the German Ambassador, HE Christian Schlaga. (Photograph by the German Embassy in Windhoek)