12 October 2011
We’ve been keeping a beady eye on developments along the Lower Zambezi Valley for some time now.
In April 2009 Protea Hotels announced plans to build a 144-bed hotel on the Zambian shoreline of the Chiawa GMA on the lower Zambezi River directly opposite Mana Pools National Park. Strong objections were put forward by Zimbabwean, Zambian and international conservation and tourism bodies. A public campaign ensued and Protea Hotels withdrew their planning application in April 2010.
Then it came to light in October 2010 that Zimbabwe's Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) had asked stakeholders to ratify four new 24-bed lodge developments for Mana Pools National Park, World Heritage Site, on its own side of the river.
Here’s an overview of this latest development plan.
Q: What’s being proposed?
A: Two of the original four proposals have since been withdrawn. The two remaining proposals consist of the 24-30-bed “Nyamepi Lodge” on the exclusive Nkupe Site, 3kms downstream of the Parks HQ at Nyamepi, and a potential second lodge on an existing site known as Vine Camp, located between Vundu and Ndungu sites.
Q: Why might there be objections?
A: These developments were announced after preparation of a 10-year Management Plan for Mana Pools, as yet unsigned by Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment.
During the management planning process, stakeholders agreed that further developments along the Zambezi River frontage at Mana Pools would be likely to increase tourism pressure to a level which could damage the very fragile ecosystem of the Mana Pools. The Plan recommended that there should be no further developments in the Zambezi riverside/floodplain zone of the Park and that only small (12-bed) semi-permanent developments should be encouraged at identified sites inland.
Zimbabwe's Middle Zambezi Valley was amongst 13 new international sites given enhanced conservation status as "Biosphere Reserves" by UNESCO in June 2010.
Q: What’s the industry saying?
A: The Zambezi Society is calling for the Plan to be re-visited in the light of the potential impacts these new proposals might have on the environment of Mana Pools and on the tourism experience of visitors to the Park. The organisation suggests that the Management Planning process should be widened to include the entire Mana Pools/Sapi/Chewore complex which constitutes the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Q: What next?
A: An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is underway for the proposed Nyamepi Lodge.
A group of international tour operators have expressed their concerns in a letter to UNESCO in Harare. The letter was copied to the Director General ZPWMA and the Institute of Mining Research (responsible for the EIA's) in which a formal request for an update on developments was made.
Feedback from UNESCO is anticipated some time in October 2011.
Q: Where can I find out more?
Friends of Mana Pools on Facebook
Keep Mana Pools Wild community on Facebook