by Zakiya Fareed
On Thursday, 6 November 2008, CE of SANParks, Dr David Mabunda accepted 36 000 hectares of land from De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) to expand the Namaqua National Park all the way to the coast! The 99 year lease agreement was signed at Head Office (Groenkloof National Park) by Dr. Mabunda and Mr. David Noko, the Managing Director of DBCM.
The small ceremony was attended by various SANParks officials including Namaqua National Park Manager, Bernardt van Lente and Regional Manager of the Arid Region, Dries Engelbrecht as well as the deputy chairman of DBCM, Mr. Manne Dipico and their head of ecology, Johan Kruger.
The 36 000ha forms the area between the Groen and Spoeg Rivers and acquisition of this means that the park is linked from the high lying areas around the Skilpad section through to the coast. This inclusion will increase the Namaqua National Park area to 144 000ha, making it the fifth largest national park after Kruger, Kgalagadi, Addo and Richtersveld.
The greater significance of the acquisition of this land is that the park contains key components of the Succulent Karoo biome – the world’s only arid biodiversity hoptspot. The Succulent Karoo biome has been identified as a priority for protected area development. This acquisition brings into the Park 36 000ha of pristine coastline for this purpose.
The signing of this agreement also heralded the beginning of a few more plans for the area. SANParks has initiated the planning processes for the establishment of a Marine coastal Area of the coast between the Groen and Spoeg areas. It has also been decided to expand the park into the Kamiesberg mountains behind Kamieskroon.
SANParks has also already initiated an R8,5m Working for the Coast project, which is employing 55 people over a 3 year period in rehabilitation and development of this area. SANParks has also accessed just over R1m from DEAT and have employed a section ranger and two rangers for the daily management of the area.
In addition, Dr. Mabunda announced to the group that he had, just that morning, approved an allocation of R3,7m from the Park Development Fund in order to implement a fencing project for this coastal component of the Park. This news was well received by all, especially Bernardt van Lente and Dries Engelbrecht.
“Through our approach of labour intensive infrastructure development and local procurement, we would hope that this will give a further stimulus to the area. In longer term, of course, what we are all working towards is the development of a viable and sustainable eco-tourism economy in this wild and beautiful coastal area,” said Dr. Mabunda.
In closing, Dr Mabunda expressed his gratitude towards all partners, De Beers in particular, for making it possible to move forward towards a biodiverse and economically vibrant future for all. He further thanked De Beers for the productive relationship built and expressed hope that the relationship would be nurtured in future through similar projects.