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No tourism in Sperrgebiet

 Samson Mulonga, coordinator of the Strengthening the Protected Area Network (SPAN) Project. (Photograph by Lorato Khobetsi)A number of planning exercises have been undertaken for the development of the Sperrgebiet National Park and a Habitat Management Plan has been completed and approved by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Management, tourism and infrastructure development plans have all been completed. However, development in the national park has been hampered by restrictions on who can access the park.

Samson Mulonga, coordinator of the Strengthening the Protected Area Network (SPAN) Project, said no concessions will be awarded in the national park until restrictions to access the protected area has been lifted.
“The issuing of concessions has been put on hold until the access issue has been resolved. At this point in time, it takes up to six months to obtain police clearance. But once the access issue is resolved, tourism operators will not need such clearance,” said Mulonga.
Speaking at the bi-monthly Park Talk hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Mulonga said restrictions to access the Sperrgebiet should be lifted as soon as possible as tourism would inject money into the surrounding areas.
“A national park means tourism and we need to make money from this park. We already have a lot of ghost towns in the area, therefore tourism activities in the park should inject money into Oranjemund, Lüderitz, Aus and Noordoewer. We do not need other ghost towns,” Mulonga said.
In terms of Section 52 of the Diamond Act, only members of the Namibian Police, mine and diamond inspectors, the Diamond Commissioner, labour inspectors, fisheries inspectors and government employees with the authorisation of the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, may access Sperrgebiet. Section 27 of the Act states that people may access the area provided that they give detailed information about themselves and receive police clearance.
A park advisory committee was set up to address the access issue and consultancies were carried out in 2010 to determine a legal solution. The committee recommended that in areas where there are no active mining licenses, unrestricted tourism should be allowed.
Tourism development in the park will be based on responsible and sustainable planning so as to have little impact on the environment, Mulonga added.
All developments within the park will be carried out in accordance with the Namibian Tourism Policy, National Heritage Act and Marine Resources Act. Detailed environmental impact assessments and management plans will also be conducted for all developments, he said.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism will also follow best practice guidelines on the design, planning and construction of buildings and associated infrastructure to minimise environmental impacts and use already impacted sites. The ministry will conduct continuous environmental education and awareness campaigns.
Regular monitoring will also be carried out in the Sperrgebiet in order to combat illegal activities and to ensure operators adhere to regulations.
Sperrgebiet has been off limits to the public for 100 years due to diamond mining. The territory covers 26 000 km² of globally important semi-desert and forms part of the Succulent Karoo biome that extends down into South Africa. Conservationists have classified the area as one of the world’s top 34 biodiversity hotspots because of its diverse plant species. The area is home to 2 439 endemic plants, with only 11% in protected areas.

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