NEW infrastructure built at a cost of N$80 million in the Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park is aimed at improving access to the park in south-western Namibia and to assist in the management of the park.
The new infrastructure was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by the minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, and Germany's new ambassador to Namibia, Herbert Beck, at Lüderitz on Friday.
The Tsau //Khaeb National Park was proclaimed in 2008. In a bid to avoid confusing people, the government in 2012 approved the naming of the park as the Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park, incorporating the German name under which the park area had previously been known.
Shifeta said little progress had been made since the proclamation of the park in 2008 due to the limitation of access the area in terms of the Diamond Act of 1999.
Describing the park as a world- class tourism destination, Shifeta said its transformation showed that biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism development could coexist within a mining area.
He said the new park infrastructure was constructed under the Namibia National Parks Programme (Namparks), which is co-financed by Germany's KfW development bank.
Shifeta said the park forms part of a conservation area stretching from Iona National Park in south-western Angola, bordering the Skeleton Coast Park, and including other national parks up to the Orange River mouth's Ramsar wetland site.
The old post office at Lüderitz has been renovated to serve as the park's headquarters while eight houses for staff members were also built at the town. Eight more houses were built at Rosh Pinah, three at Oranjemund and two at Aus.
Prior to the proclamation and renaming of the park, it was only known as the Sperrgebiet, to which public access was restricted for more than a century due to the mining of diamonds in the area.
The German ambassador said the word "Sperrgebiet" - meaning "forbidden area" in German - in his invitation aroused his curiosity and he had to come and visit the place.
He said since Namibia is rich in natural resources, it is important that there should be a balance of protection and utilisation for the economic development of rural areas.
Beck said Germany through the KfW has provided N$700 million to co-finance natural resources management projects in cooperation with Namibia, accompanied by technical assistance through the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
"We had had an opportunity to get some spectacular impressions of the landscape of the Sperrgebiet and the interactions between humans and nature. We learned that the national park, which was designated in 2008, now belongs to 34 global diversity hotspots and also that the preservation of mining history is not only good for historical reasons but can also attract tourists, and nature conservation and tourism are forms of alternative land use," said Beck.