The Namibian (Windhoek)

31 July 2012

Namibia: Gecko Needs Dorob Chunk for Industry

CABINET yesterday remained tightlipped about the Gecko Group's request to buy 700 hectares of the Dorob National Park to build its planned N$13-billion heavy industrial park at the coast.

In total, Gecko wants about 4 000 hectares of Dorob. However, the group has to buy 700 hectares which it can then use to raise the money needed to build its controversial Vision Industrial Park (VIP), comprising a sulphuric acid plant, a desalination plant, a soda ash and bicarbonate plant, as well an office park and port outside Swakopmund.

The remainder, about 3 300 hectares, Gecko wants to develop as a public private partnership (PPP) with Government for future expansion.

Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob and Cabinet Secretary Frans Kapofi both yesterday confirmed that the request was reviewed at the last Cabinet meeting on July 11, but wouldn't give any more details.

Geingob said Cabinet will take a final decision on the matter at the next Cabinet meeting either today or next Tuesday.

An inter-ministerial committee led by Tom Alweendo, Director General of the National Planning Commission (NPC), has found the Gecko project to be economically viable.

The project, regarded as the most ambitious one in the history of Namibia, will require a total investment of N$12,7 billion. Construction will take three years

and at its peak, will employ 11 250 people. Once completed, VIP will provide direct permanent jobs to 2 470 workers, with the potential of 17 000 indirect jobs.

Cabinet was told that by 2017, about N$588 million will flow into State coffers from Gecko taxes. By 2023, the amount is estimated to balloon to N$1,4 billion.

Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to study and advise on the environmental impact of the proposed project.

Gecko maintains that the effect of emissions at VIP will be minimal and far below standards prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The company hasn't minced its words when it comes to environmentalists opposing the project. Concerned groups have voiced worries about toxic pollution and health risks, the destruction of sensitive and endangered fauna and flora, and a negative impact on tourism and fishing.

"While pitying prophets of doom who lack the insight to grasp the spectacular future that lies ahead for this incredible country, we believe that they should quietly move aside to allow those who have the vision, both in the public and private spheres, to grow Namibia to its real potential," Gecko says on its website.

After a meeting last August with a group of independent environmentalists who branded VIP an "industrial monster", Gecko said it wouldn't be "influenced or lead by emotional hearsay and would certainly not invest billions of Namibia dollars in a project that might subsequently prove to affect the health of people which will result in legal challenges".

Gecko said it will abandoned its VIP plans if an environmental impact assessment proves that the health of people and the environment will be compromised.

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