3 August 2010

Namibia: Coastal Biodiversity Celebrated

Swakopmund — Swakopmund was a hive of activity during the Coastal Biodiversity Weekend on Friday and Saturday, with people taking part in events which celebrated the conservation and sustainable utilisation of the country's natural resources along the coast.

Rod Braby, Coordinator of the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management (NACOMA) Project, said the Coastal Biodiversity Weekend formed part of Namibia's contribution towards the celebrations of International Year of Biodiversity 2010.

It was also held to increase awareness and promote education on the coast's fragile natural resources.

The theme of the weekend was, "Supporting the conservation and sustainable use of Namibia's coastal biodiversity".

Although the event was initiated by the NACOMA Project, the staging of future awareness and education events would require the efforts and contributions of other stakeholders, Braby said.

Regarding this year's celebrations, Braby praised the contribution and role of various private and public sector entities in staging the weekend's activities.

One of the main attractions was public lectures by experts in the fields of environment and tourism.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002, targets were set for nations to curb the rapid rate of extinction of species by 2010.

"These targets were not met. Indeed, the current rate of extinction is 1 000 times higher than it should be. The loss of biodiversity stands alongside climate change as one of the most pressing challenges of our time," he said.

Nacoma aims to increase and integrate biodiversity conservation into key political and social processes.

Three billion people on the planet depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. In Namibia, the number is said to be a mere fraction and people are concentrated in towns in the Erongo and Karas regions, mainly due to mining, fishing and, more recently tourism.

According to Braby, Namibia has been actively addressing arrangements made in Johannesburg in 2002 through a draft National Coastal Policy aimed at integrating sustainable coastal management.

The white paper, he added, will be discussed at a high-level retreat shortly for Cabinet's final approval.

While a strategic environmental assessment of the coast has been completed and the coastal towns are developing environmental management plans, recommendations from assessments and plans are being implemented.

In 2008 and 2009, three new areas were added to Namibia's coastal parks, linking them to a new park provisionally known as the "Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park".

The new mega-park links Namibia's protected areas network to Angola's Iona National Park and South Africa's Richtersveld National Park.

The Etosha National Park will be linked by a network of conservancies. There is also a possibility of creating the Kunene People's Park.

The new park, once all management plans and regulations are finalised, would be the largest in Africa, the sixth largest in the world. Namibia will be the first country to have its entire coastline under protected management.

"Namibia was the only country apart from the host, Uruguay, to be showcased at the recent Global Environment Facility General Assembly meeting in May, 2010," Braby said.

The Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park protects 12 of Namibia's globally important bird areas and five globally important plant areas. The breeding areas of many threatened species, he says, have been secured.

Charismatic flora like the pachypodiums and other succulents, the !naras, welwitschias and lichens; charismatic fauna like desert elephants, desert lions, desert rhino, brown hyenas, southern rights whales, Benguela dolphins, bottle-nosed dolphins, rock lobsters, line fish and African penguins are but some of the largely endemic species that will benefit from the park's proclamation.

Others are Damara terns, bank cormorants, Cape gannets, Namaqua chameleons, dancing white lady spiders and fog-basking beetles.

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