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Media Release: SANParks refutes claims that new Zoning Plan for KNP is controversial
This according to SANParks CEO, Dr. David Mabunda who said National Parks the world over are no longer islands from the societies that created them but an integral part of those societies. “People are part of ecosystems and their needs inform how national parks should be managed in the 21st Century.”
He said a number of factors were ignored by the pre-2006 zoning plans, these range from an exclusion of socio-economic needs of black communities living around the park, the population growth in the Lowveld, urbanization of the cities, and the Maputo corridor development which placed wilderness areas into full exposure of external light, noise and human pollution coming from the communities living in close proximity of the park. The Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) was also ignored, let alone the tourism route between Maputo, Northern KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland. The plan also did not provide for restitution beneficiation or anticipate the security threat from Mozambique on rhinos.
According to Dr. Mabunda the old plan was premised only around the biophysical properties of the Park and was generally out of kilter with international best practice and protocols…“and these are all the changes that have occurred over time but not captured by the zoning as we now have rhino poaching happening mainly around the periphery in the south and the east. The new zoning plan approved by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs recognizes all these changes not just the hotels.”
“It is for this reason that I would caution many critics not to see this as a new phenomenon for South Africa, but rather as part of the entire process of societal transformation enshrined in Section 24 of the constitution, which makes it crystal clear that national parks should be managed for the benefit of society and may pursue development that is ecologically friendly. “We took a conscious decision to serve society better through our new vision of South African National Parks – ‘Connecting to Society’.
Dr. Mabunda said the Constitution's section 24 defines a social contract that is completely different from that followed by the National Parks Board before 1994. Whereas communities were evicted to make way for conservation areas…“we are mainstreaming conservation areas into communities in a formula that creates a healthy balance between people's aspirations and conservation objectives in line with international best practice that dictates the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which protects biodiversity and encourages access and benefit sharing of such resources.”
He said the Programme of Action of the CBD underpins the management of national parks and is completely different in the approach followed by both the Colonial and Apartheid era conservation strategies which informed a purist view that national parks must be exclusively managed for animals.
In responding to questions around commercialization of certain functions of the KNP, Dr. Mabunda said commercialization is part of SANParks total transformation of the conservation system in South Africa to generate money to save the rhino, create investment opportunities, as well as jobs and economic prosperity. “In our case commercialization of certain aspects of the parks has seen revenue increase by almost 11%, particularly as tough global economic times are impacting negatively on state budgets and governments are balancing priorities in favour of socio-economic needs like education, health, fighting crime, providing water etc.”
In concluding, Dr. Mabunda said many conservation agencies globally are increasingly relying on commercialization of non-core functions to manage their estates, “so this is not unique to South Africa.”
SANParks Corporate Communications
For media enquiries:
Reynold “Rey” Thakhuli
GM: PR, Media Liaison and Stakeholder Relations
Telephone 012 426 5203 / 073 373 4999