29 October 2006

Zambia: Tourism Development Overtaking Conservation of Environment

The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
October 23, 2006Posted to the web October 23, 2006
Stanslous Ngosa

TOURISM as has been recognised, brings together more than one objective. It is able to incorporate the economic and social needs of the country.
The sector supports local economies in areas such as Livingstone and Siavonga. It generally benefits local communities and improves the quality of the tourism experience.
Tourism is a bridge and pathway to peace and cooperation. It has developed relationships in the general public and again between stakeholders and the public.
It is also a catalyst of sustainability and environmental protection in many ways as it promotes conservation of natural resources, especially natural parks.
The sector is a relatively clean industry, preservation of fauna and flora is in more than one way a result of tourism and in turn results into a well managed eco-tourism.
However, what is obtaining in the country is to the contrary because of the so-called 'development' which seem to be overtaking conservation of the environment.
A typical example is in Livingstone where a number of identified 'illegal' projects have been constructed with or without approval by relevant authorities.
According to the environmental regulations construction of the structures are supposed to be 50 metres away from the river but the situation in the tourist capital and Kazungula district is different as most of the lodges owned by foreigners are right on the banks of the Zambezi river.
This trend is not only affecting bird life, where eglets and water fowls lay eggs but also denying access to the local people from patronising the areas and animals from drinking water from the Zambezi river.
Despite all these evident 'illegal' structures contributing to the degradation of the environment, some investors are still being considered for land allocation in similar areas.
In 2004, the Evironmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) called for the demolishing of one identified lodge built on the banks of the Zambezi but to no avail.
One such an example of a project that has brought uproar in the tourist city is the US$200 million investment by Legacy Holding to build two five star hotel and a golf course in the Musi-O-Tunya National Park at the confluence of the Zambezi river and Maramba stream.
Apparently, the owners of the project have, however, submitted the environmental assessment impact study to the ECZ for approval.
Despite all that, former vice-Republican president, Lupando Mwape, unveiled the foundation stone on behalf of President Mwanawasa and said the unveiling of the foundation meant the approval of the project.
This is a second project to Vuma Filling Station that if approved would stand on the animal corridor at the edge of Musi-O-Tunya National Park that has raised concerns among stakeholders who have since then questioned the sustainability of the environment for future use.
A number of meetings have been held to discuss the conservation of the environment in Livingstone because the city survives on tourism and depends on the environment.
Benjamin Mibenge, an environmentalist attributed the recent drought that Livingstone has experienced in the recent past to disturbances in the water cycle because the Zambezi is no longer flowing natural due to a number of uncontrolled developments on it.
Mr Mibenge who is the former National Heritage Conservation Commission public relations manager, said the climatic pattern of the city had changed due to such developments.
He has fears that considering the rate at which the river is being affected through pollution by the over-crowded number of boats cruise companies and other structures being constructed on its banks, the river won't be there.
Environmental protection is crucial as it benefits the economy of the tourism destinations and supports the local communities and culture and also protects and enhances the natural beauty.
Livingstone Member of Parliament, Sakwiba Sikota, said such projects should not be allowed as they disturb animal movement and distort the environment.
Despite creating wealth for the local people it affects the environment which sectors like tourism survives.
"In future tourism in Zambia will be artificial as there will not be anything natural to admire about because of such projects are disturbing the environment," Mr Sikota said.

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