Kasane — The outbreak of the COVID-19 is said to have slowed down plans to implement a project to regenerate tourism development in Kasane.
The project is part of the Kasane/Kazungula Tourism Project that commenced in 2012 as a proposal from the Botswana Economic Advisory Council for the Botswana Tourism Organisation to come up with a strategy to maximise the tourism potential of Kasane/Kazungula area in response to the Kavango, Zambezi Transfrontier Park initiative.
It entails the relocation of government buildings along the riverfront that include the Department of Civil and National Registration, Labour Office, Department of Information Services, Department of Transport Road and Safety (DTRS) and Department of Forestry.
The other part of the multimillion pula project, which however, encountered implementation challenges from an administrative point of view, resulting in little to no activity until 2019, is the relocation of some residences at Old Kazungula village and Kgapamadi, as well as institutional houses at Newstance location.
The project is aimed at creating a tourism hub in Kasane and Kazungula is meant to release prime land for tourism investment as well as infrastructure upgrading of the area to make it attractive for business and tours.
Project coordinator (Kasane/Kazungula Re-Development Plan), Mr Jobe Ofetotse confirmed in an interview that the outbreak of COVID-19 affected the progress of relocating the buildings.
"The lockdown period affected the disbursement of compensation funds as the Chobe Land Board was partially closed," he said.
Mr Ofetotse further stated that the parent ministry was also in the process of appointing new board members, which process was also affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
"Alternative plots for those who are relocating from Old Kazungula village were identified, and they were to relocate once compensation has been paid," he added.
Mr Ofetotse also said the delay was due to the fact that consultants, who were sourced from outside the country, could not come because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The coordinator, however, said now that the lockdown restrictions were being eased, equipment might be on site at any time.
Mr Ofetotse explained that the objective of the project was to diversify the country's tourism product offering away from wildlife resources to urban tourism, recreation and cultural heritage.
He said the intention was to maximise returns from tourism and increase its contribution to GDP.
Mr Ofetotse further stated that in order to allow for a systematic and logical implementation of the activities, the project had been divided into seven components, the first being environmental planning and management, which involves undertaking environmental assessment of the project area.
He stated that the sub-components included Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Solid Waste Management, among others.
He explained that an assessment of the solid waste management challenges in the project area has been completed with the assistance of the Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control.
"As part of this assessment, it was established that UNDP and the Department of Energy are planning to engage a consultant to prepare a plan for the conversion of waste to energy in some of the major landfill sites in the country," he said.
Other components include that of Land Use Planning and Development Management, which involve undertaking land use planning (Town Planning), relocations, valuations, assessments, compensations, development of geodatabase and land and topographic surveys.
On other issues, Mr Ofetotse said in Kazungula, three upgrading plans for the old village, Kananga and Ferry precincts were prepared and approved by the council planning committee in November last year.
Additionally, he said a detailed master plan for the sports precinct was completed and approved last yeat, while in Kasane, a detailed layout plan for relocating 159 private properties affected by the plan in Kgaphamadi neighbourhood was also completed and approved by the same committee in 2019.
He said all the 160 private properties affected by the Plan in Kazungula were assessed and completed by Chobe Land Board.
Mr Ofetotse said funds for compensating the affected property owners continued to be disbursed, while in Kasane, the affected private properties in Kgaphamadi and Newtown were yet to be assessed and valued as the land where to relocate the residents was yet to be serviced.
Alternative plots for residents that are relocating from Old Kazungula have been identified and residents are to relocate once compensations have been paid, he said.