TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
First edition November 2010
AUTUMN EDITION OF ‘AFRICA TRAVEL’ NOW AVAILABLE
The latest ‘Travel Africa’ magazine, the autumn edition, reached me over the weekend and was as usual again providing a wealth of information from across the continent. The magazine is available vis a vis an ‘e-version’ too but nothing beats being able to leaf through it, go back and forth and in particular see the many commercial adverts, often of new places, which show the confidence of investors in the hospitality and tourism industries across Eastern and Southern Africa. Visit http://www.travelafricamag.com for more details or to sign up for a subscription … and no, I do not earn commissions from this recommendation but want to propagate wider access to the wilderness areas of Africa as shown in Africa Travel and the sister magazines ‘Travel Namibia’, ‘Travel Zambia’ and ‘Travel Zimbabwe’.
UWA SAGA BOILS ON
The unsavoury events at the Uganda Wildlife Authority seem to fester on, and those ‘daring to comment’ are regular recipients of Latin bywords, probably looked up on Google and revealing the hollow minds behind these utterances. Meanwhile has John Nagenda, Senior Presidential Advisor and former Chairman of the Uganda Wildlife Authority also taken issue with the present breed of masters there in his latest Saturday column, published in the country’s leading newspaper The New Vision: We must revisit, once again, the cesspit at luckless Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), in order to bring you up to date with what is happening. Failing to catch up will be only because of the lightning speed at which UWA is being dragged through the mud. Why the monotony of ever going back to this same subject? Because then at least nobody will ever feign ignorance of it, least of all Government. I always recall returning, again and again, to another subject: the selling of the Uganda Commercial Bank. We questioned the method of its selling, the dubious breaking of rules, some of them from the World Bank. And finally we queried the amount we received from the buyers. And we all failed—poor old Uganda robbed again. Should this not entice us to zip our lips, since the struggle is so often non-availing? Never! At UWA, we must re-walk the same plank. By now all the original directors are out. And still the carnage continues. This week Mark Kamanzi was confirmed Acting Executive Director. These new fellows don’t do things by halves! His fame hitherto was as owner of Fat Boys, a bar in Bugolobi. Absolutely under no circumstances does he qualify for ED. Line Minister Rukundo enjoys much time on his hands since everyone now goes straight to Maj. Gen. Otafiire. The Board budget is already depleted since, because of endless, highly rewarded meetings. You, and hopefully the Auditor General, will want to know what happens to the Fixed Deposit account. Quoting the National Anthem: “Oh Uganda, the Land of Freedom, we lay our future in thy hands!” Shall we find it there?
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION CELEBRATE 50 YEARS
A fly past by the Kampala Aeroclub’s Jungmeister ‘double decker’, showing off some acrobatic flying with Capt. Howard on the ‘stick’, crowned the 50th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Air Traffic Controllers Association here in Uganda, where the ‘locals’ too made merry on the occasion. The Ugandan ATC’s on the day also helped cleaning up nearby beaches, planted trees and donated fishing nets and dozens of life vests to fishermen going after the trade in the shallow bays surrounding the Entebbe International Airport, who gratefully received the gifts from their ‘neighbours’. On the same day did the Civil Aviation Authority also launch the inaugural edition of the Eng. Zephaniah Baliddawa Air Traffic Management Awards. Eng. Baliddawa is not only an aviation veteran in his own right but has also for the past several years been the capable and highly respected Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Civil Aviation Authority. Recipients were the Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre in Kajjansi, Mission Aviation Fellowship – also based in Kajjansi – and Air Uganda, while Kenya Airways was selected from amongst the international airlines flying to Entebbe.
ENTEBBE AIRPORT NOW BANS ‘DROP OFF’ AT DEPARTURE TERMINAL
The decision, under the pretext of ‘security’, to ban drop offs of passengers and baggage at the departure (upper) level of the Entebbe International Airport, has prompted angry exchanges between passengers and security operatives and letters to the editors of local media. Departing passengers are now required to use the main car park, chaotic by all appearances during the ‘rush hours’ when several flights arrive and depart almost at once, and they have to brave heavy downpours or stinging sunshine while seeking trolleys and then push their baggage towards the upper departure levels. Elevator space proved totally insufficient for the purpose and when reaching staircases, passengers who are alone and travel with for instance two suitcases and hand baggage have been observed to have to leave bags at the bottom of stairs, make it half way up, then return to fetch the balance of their bags, before they reach the upper level, hoping that none of their belongings disappear ‘en route’. Acid comments were heard about the ‘b… …t arrangements’ which according to one passenger this correspondent spoke with during a recent visit to the airport, were ‘pulled out of somewhere by someone trying to justify his or her existence’ without giving any consideration to passenger needs, the logistics of reaching the terminal or taking into account weather conditions. Business owners at the airport too have complained that their revenues were suffering because of ever more stringent measures which are in effect keeping casual visitors away from the airport, while passengers, losing much time on the way to make their check in, also had less opportunity to spend money on food, drinks and last minute souvenirs while rushing to their departure gates. A statement released by the CAA pointed out that disabled passengers would be allowed access to the upper departure level by car, but failed to mention the hardship and hassle one has to go through to achieve this, while not making any materially valuable comments about the challenges passengers now have to ‘navigate the hurdles’ before reaching the terminal. This correspondent’s advice: consult and think first before rushing into activism … before adding: you have clearly not learned any lessons from past such hasty decisions which needed prompt revisiting and revision to make them work …
MORE WAITING FOR LAKE TRAVELLERS
As predicted recently here, the repairs of MV Kalangala is taking longer than the Ministry of Works and Transport initially admitted and the earliest the ship cum ferry will go back into services is now thought to be in mid December. The ministry, following persistent complaints by regular travellers to and from the islands, and traders going after their daily business there, needed to publish a revised timeline, and is facing acid criticism from those who ‘told them so’ and were then reminded to mind their own business, as the ministry bureaucrats’ claimed to know what they were doing. Safe lake transport is critically important across the lakes of Uganda, in particular on Lake Victoria, where sudden storms often ambush travellers in small boats, which lack safety equipment or well trained crews, costing lives in the process. The introduction of the ship cum ferry some years ago brought relief to many residents of the Ssese Islands group as well as to weekend tourist visitors from the city, and the extraordinarily long process of overhauling the ship’s engines and completing safety inspections, the latter incidentally to be carried out across the lake in Mwanza / Tanzania, was an immediate bone of contention for the public, for many of whom the ministry’s performance in general is under constant scrutiny. This correspondent’s best guess for service resumption: before Christmas …
LOCAL AIR OPERATORS BLAME SHELL FOR AVGAS WOES
Anger and frustration has now taken over the relations between Shell Uganda, the sole supplier of AVGAS in the country, and the air operators in Entebbe and Kajjansi, using single and twin ‘piston engined’ aircraft for charter flights. Information has also been unearthed that the recently established AVGAS tank facility in Kajjansi, able to hold 40.000 litres, designed and initially built by Shell and then taken over by a former Shell executive who now operates the facility as his own business, is showing a serious design fault, as some 6.000 litres of the precious liquid cannot be pumped out of the tank since the ‘suction inlet’ has been placed too high, adding to the frustration of those depending on this type of fuel. To add financial injury to insult has Shell, without providing any information or acceptable explanation, raised the prices of AVGAS from the agreed US Dollars 2.08 per litre to US Dollars 2.25 per litre in September, charged retrospectively as assured by several charter companies, although after threat of legal action and other measures Shell, effective 01st November, reduced the price to its previous level again. Air operators vowed not to pay the ‘surcharge’ as it lacked in contract and was unilateral and arbitrary. It was also learned from aviation sources in Kenya, that during the period in question the prices in Nairobi and Mombasa DID NOT change, nor did they in Tanzania, where another international oil company delivers AVGAS to the various airports, aerodromes and airfields. Details received from Tanzania for instance also confirmed that Shell Uganda engages in what can well near be described as extortion with their pricing, and allegations have long been made that every time the protests of air operators become too vocal and intense, AVGAS runs out altogether, almost as in dishing out punishment but at the same time crippling the aviation industry which continues to use a sizeable number of ‘light’ aircraft to fly tourists and business travellers to often remote airstrips where larger aircraft cannot land or are too expensive for only a handful of passengers. The cost of AVGAS in Dar es Salaam was quoted, for the period in question as costing per litre US Dollars 1.5013, Zanzibar quoted US Dollars 1.5127, Arusha Municipal Aerodrome quoted US Dollars 1.6098 and the more remote Dodoma and Tabora quoted US Dollars 1.6257 and 1.6478 respectively. In further comparison, a litre of AVGAS at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport last week cost a mere US Dollars 1.75 per litre, a difference until the end of October of 50 US cents. The difference in pricing is evident and with the cost of a tanker load from Kenya to Kampala given at a whopping 18.500 US Dollars it is becoming increasingly clear that Shell is pursuing an agenda of their own and while making soothing remarks when taken to task let their action speak a much harsher language. Of late air operators have reviewed the concession agreements Shell has with the Civil Aviation Authority to provide aviation fuels to the airline industry with a view to establish if the CAA could sanction Shell for ‘gross misconduct’ or for ‘failing to supply’ whenever AVGAS runs out, but the outcome of this and other parallel initiatives still remains to be seen. Meanwhile though, Shell has maintained its ugly image as a multinational corporate Gorgons at its worst!
UWA SIGNS ACCORD WITH PARK NEIGHBOURS
Communities living along sections of the Queen Elizabeth National Park boundaries have reason to jubilate as UWA last week signed an accord with them governing access into the park. There, as was the case for time immemorial, the communities are allowed to fetch dead wood, cut tall grass for thatching of their homesteads and collect medicinal plants, along strict guidelines about quantities to be ‘harvested’ to ensure sustainability and prevent ‘commercial’ extraction. This is the second time the respective communities have obtained a written contract and agreement with UWA and critics were told that the deal is aimed towards empowering poor communities depending on subsistence ‘collections’ from areas near the park boundaries. Educational programmes will also reinforce the message of conservation towards the communities to support the agreement through better understanding and co-owning protection measures taken by the wildlife authority personnel in the field. Well done!
MT. ELGON NATIONAL PARK SUFFERS FRESH ENCROACHMENTS
Disturbing reports emerged last week that aspiring politicians, either seeking re-election or vying for office for the first time, have again allegedly incited communities living near the Mt. Elgon National Park boundaries and seemingly encourage a number of them to invade the park and claim land. It was not long ago that prolonged rains swept villages away, created near steep hills which were tilled without safeguards, killing hundreds in the process and prompting hasty evacuations of other illegal squatters from the park area for their own protection. However, with memories seemingly so short, a fresh wave of park invasions is now expected during the election campaign, as few politicians hunting for votes will dare to tell the people the bitter truth, which is that the park boundaries must stand, illegal farming inside the park is dangerous and that they must desist from squatting in the park only to face eviction, at times at high cost to their property and health, at a later stage. Some politicians are alleged to have led a campaign to destroy boundary markers and fence posts erected at high cost by UWA and investigations are underway to establish the facts in the ongoing ‘battle for land’ around the Mt. Elgon National Park. Visitors numbers, which had reduced considerably after the widely reported landslides, remain below expectations and forecasts, partly because the tourism fraternity is also still concerned over the safety of tourists, which may be caught in the ‘cross fire’ should violence break out over the intrusions between UWA rangers and squatters. Yet, the unique mountain ecosystem, shared with neighbouring Kenya, holds special attractions for visitors and communities nearby should help to attract tourists to the park, from which they could benefit in many ways, instead of creation conflict scenarios which keep foreign visitors and their money away. Watch this space.
PEACE CORPS NUMBERS SWELL TO 156 IN UGANDA
Last week a further 45 member of the Peace Corps were sworn in before the American Ambassador, after coming to Uganda to ‘do good’ in rural communities across the country. This brings the total number of peace corps volunteers based in Uganda to over 150. Most of the new members will serve in health centres, in education projects and related fields while a few will fill posts to do with environmental protection and projects. Thanks to the young Americans who devote some of the best years of their life to helping out here in Africa.
MIGRATION STILL ON – REPORTS TO THE CONTRARY ‘PURE MALICE’
A report published last week in regional media and picked up without second thought by international media soon afterwards, that the migration of the wildebeest this year into the Mara was ‘inexplicably and abruptly cut short’ was rejected by leading tourism stakeholders from Kenya as ‘pure malice’ and ‘wishful thinking’, while others claimed the ill timed misinformation in sections of the media was simply lacking facts from the ground and were peddled by someone who may never have been there in the first place. Fact is that the migration this year arrived relatively early starting from mid to end June, when the first columns of the big herds began to cross the Mara river and started to spread out over the traditional grazing grounds. This was well documented with regular reports on relevant Facebook sites like ‘Mara Triangle’ and confirmed by a range of other sources, but also reported here by this correspondent at the time. Up to now, large numbers of wildebeest and zebra remain in the Masai Mara and are expected to start their long trek to the low grass plains between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro soon, where they will eventually give birth to the next generation before resuming their endless migration circle back North again. Sources in Nairobi were somewhat bewildered what prompted these reports and where they originated from, besides the known author who has since gone shtumm over the issue, but ulterior motives are suggested, allegedly having to do with the highly controversial plans to build a highway across the migration route in the Tanzanian Serengeti along the common border with Kenya. This however could not be independently confirmed, although rumours are abound amongst Kenyan safari operators and other tourism stakeholders. Ugandan travellers who last week had been to the Masai Mara, also confirmed that they saw ‘huge numbers of wildebeest’ while on game drives across the reserve as part of their air safari. Besides the annual migration the Masai Mara however is rich in game sightings throughout the year as many personal experiences can attest to, although the ‘migration’ is undoubtedly the biggest season of the year in terms of visitor arrivals and game numbers.
LAMU FESTIVAL FOR NOVEMBER 22 – 24
The annual Lamu Cultural Festival this year will take place between the 22nd and 24th of November. Main attraction will again be Swahili music and poetry performances by leading artists in these ‘crafts’, while visitors from near and far can also enjoy the spectacle of donkey races, properly jockeyed of course, or watch the traditional sailing vessels – the dhows – holding regattas off shore. A Swahili food festival will also be held in hotels across Lamu town and the resorts on nearby beaches and islands, while at the museum a major exhibition will be featuring the crossing of continents, and what pivotal role Lamu played a hundred and more years ago. More information is available from the Kenya Tourist Board, and as space on flights and in hotels and resorts is limited, early bookings are strongly recommended.
NOW JETLINK LAUNCHES MWANZA FLIGHTS TOO
One of Kenya’s leading private airlines has announced that effective 15th November they will commence direct flights from Nairobi to Tanzania’s Lake Victoria municipality of Mwanza. The airline’s CEO Capt. Elly Aluvale announced the new route last week in Nairobi. The new flights to Mwanza via Kisumu, Kenya’s main lakeside city are leaving Nairobi at noon daily and will return from Mwanza via Kisumu at 3 pm every day, according to the details provided by Jetlink. The service will be operated with CRJ200 equipment, giving notice of ‘intent’ to Precision Air using an ATR aircraft on the route but also to Fly540, which combine their Mwanza flights with Bujumbura / Burundi four times a week. The aviation sector in Eastern Africa has in recent weeks suddenly ‘sprung to life’ with fare wars bringing tariffs to the lowest levels seen in almost a decade and wider choices as more airlines are now flying to the common but also the less common destinations, both domestic as well as regionally. Jetlink has in recent years moved progressively towards a Bombardier CRJ200 fleet, phasing out the ‘old’ fuel guzzlers like the DC9, and has in the process expanded their ‘reach’ across Kenya but also into the region, where they offer for instance two daily flights from Nairobi to the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba. No better time than now to take to the skies and fly places rather than take busses or drive.
‘GENERAL AVIATION’ BUSINESS SHOWS GROWTH
Phoenix aviation last week took delivery of another Cessna Citation twin jet in executive configuration, following the expansion of the market in recent months. Demand for air transport has been rising again alongside with Kenya’s economic and tourism recovery and Phoenix, already operating a range of twin business jets and turbo prop aircraft, has taken prompt advantage to add another top of the range aircraft to their fleet. Phoenix operates out of Wilson Airport where it also maintains a fully licensed MRO or maintenance base where the company services their own fleet and undertakes contract work for Cessna operators from the entire region.
KENYA BUZZ ‘JAZZED UP’ SOME MORE
The weekly editions of ‘Kenya Buzz’ have changed appearance in recent weeks and looks ‘jazzier and cooler’ in many ways. Kenya Buzz gives regular overviews of what’s on and where to go by ‘e’ and subscriptions are free for recipients from near and far. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in the mailing list and find out a lot of ‘secrets’ about Kenya normally only known by the ‘locals’ – giving valuable hints for intending visitors to the country.
TOURISM BUSINESS COUNCIL TO MAP OUT NEW STRATEGIES
The Kenyan Ministry of Tourism has launched their latest initiative, the rebranding of the Kenya Coast, in conjunction with the Tourist Trust Fund, the Kenya Tourist Board and their private sector partners under the auspices of the Kenya Tourism Federation. A Tourism Business Council, serving as primary consultative and implementation platform will be formed and is to be headed by the Chief Executive of Serena Hotels, Mahmud Jan Mohamed. The council is set to meet twice a year and will be drawing support and assistance from the National Economic and Social Council. Key proposals for consideration on the agenda include the long awaited ‘Mombasa by pass’ – reported about here repeatedly in recent weeks – improvements to the roads and other infrastructure in Mombasa and the beautification of the main ‘through fares’ across the coastal city to make a better impression on visiting tourists. Adds this correspondent: a laudable initiative from which other East African countries could well take a leaf from, i.e. developing hand in hand instead of being busy pulling things down while seeking one’s own glory…
PLANNING FOR RAIL LINK FROM CITY TO AIRPORT COMPLETE
The major planning stage for a railway link between the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the city / business district of Nairobi has now been completed, it was learned from well placed sources in Nairobi last week. Travel to and from the airport, previously during rush hour but now almost across the entire day, has become a slow moving process owing to an ever growing ‘population’ of vehicles, and even after the so called Nairobi bypasses have been completed, travel by road to and from the airport are expected to be hampered by too much traffic. It is understood that funding is now being sourced to begin the tendering process and once a contractor has been selected, work could go underway swiftly. Completion of the entire project could take anywhere between 9 to 12 months and would undoubtedly improve the appeal of Nairobi for anyone arriving by air at JKIA. It is also understood that government is taking another serious look at mass transportation for Nairobeans relying on public transport to get to work or for children going to school and further stretches of new railroads are reportedly forming the core of their considerations, together with the introduction of affordable and working bus services into the city centre.
NEW TOURISM ATTRACTION IN ZANZIBAR
Visitors to the ‘spice island’ can now take advantage of a new feature available to them from the international airport, aimed to show them their resort and the rest of the island from the air. A ‘microlight’ operation has been set up and can take one passenger at a time into the skies over Zanzibar, for anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour, depending how ‘deep’ one’s pockets are. It is understood that depending on the season passengers can also see
dolphin and whale shoals offshore, subject to some luck of course, although the main thrust is to get tourists ‘up in the air’ to see the island and its attractions, and their beach resort, from this unique ‘perspective’.
THE BIRDS RETURN
Reports are abound from the ‘northern safari circuit’ but also from the rest of Tanzania, that sightings of migratory birds from Europe and Asia have of late increased, signalling the ‘return of the birds’ from their summer dwellings in the Northern hemisphere. Many parts of Tanzania, but also the entire East Africa, will see the influx of birders from near and far to seek out the ‘migrants’ while resting for a while in wetlands and other places before completing their journey either further South or staying put, and trying to identify ‘rings’ on the birds to report to the international birding groups and societies. Sadly here in Uganda, major bird resting places, like for instance Lutembe – a Ramsar site, have in recent years suffered of encroachment and pollution caused allegedly by the run off from flower farms located too near the Lake Victoria shores, decimating arrivals there, and the growing threat to wetlands and ecosystems across Eastern Africa does not bode well for the long term survival of migratory bird species depending on flying to and from warmer climes depending on their season. Meanwhile though, this year’s bird migration still seems relatively intact but all hands are needed on deck of conservationists and ecologists to ensure that these natural phenomena have a long term future.
CHOP AND CHANGE AT THE HELM OF RWANDAIR CONTINUES
Information was received that Mr. Rene Janata has been replaced as Chief Executive Officer of RwandAir, with Chairman of the Board of Directors John Mirenge returning to the helm for a second time. The only information available so far was that Mr. Janata would be ‘reassigned’, without going into the reasons or what future functions would be handed to him. This is the fourth CEO RwandAir now had over the past three years, when in rapid succession CEO’s and Acting CEO’s came through the door and left again, or were ‘reassigned’ as it was elegantly put to this correspondent. The airline underwent a substantial revival in recent months, has taken delivery of two B737-500 aircraft on lease from GECAS before they will be replaced with owned brand new B737-800 models by the end of 2011, and has widened their network with new flights to Mombasa and Dubai but also more frequencies and more destinations across the region. Staff normally in touch with this correspondent remained guarded over their own reading of the situation, leaving the door open to yet more speculation as to the why’s and how’s behind this latest change at the helm. Watch this space for the most up to date information from the aviation industry across Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
RWANDAIR’S LAUNCHES DUBAI WITH 500 USD FARE
The flights by RwandAir to Dubai from Kigali, via Mombasa, will for the time being be sold from as low as US Dollars 500 per person return, all inclusive in economy class and from 737 US Dollars in business class and this fare is also valid, according to an airline source, for passengers joining from Bujumbura and the domestic Rwandan destinations of Kamembe. No information could be obtained, probably due to the weekend, if the fares would also apply for passengers from Entebbe, Nairobi, Kilimanjaro and RwandAir’s other East African destinations. The aircraft used will be a leased B737-500, due to be substituted in a year’s time when two brand new B737-800 will join the fleet. On a different note, KLM has last Sunday night operated their inaugural flight into Kigali’s Kanombe International Airport, opening a new chapter of connectivity by air to the rest of the world for Rwanda. KLM will now operate 5 weekly flights from Amsterdam to Kigali with a stop en route in Entebbe / Uganda, ostensibly to improve load factors. This mirrors the long standing and successful concept of Brussels Airlines, which now operates daily between Brussels and Eastern Africa, all flights being ‘triangular’ with two airports being served by each flight. Flights between Kigali and Brussels on SN are codeshared with RwandAir and the two will undoubtedly be well prepared for the entry of archrival KLM.
RDF LOBBIES FOR MORE AIRSTRIPS
The tourism industry got a valuable lobbying ally earlier in the week when the Rwandan Defence Forces put their weight behind pending requests to construct more helipads’, airstrips and aerodromes across the ‘land of a thousand hills’. The RDF’s main aim was to be able to organize rescue missions in case of natural disasters, which would greatly benefit from improved aerial capabilities, while the tourism sector of course sees added aviation facilities as another way to attract more tourists and have them travel the country with ease and in comfort by flying to some of the national parks and game reserves. Rwanda presently has one international airport and five airfields, some of them in urgent need for rehabilitation and modernization, which is considered insufficient considering the topography of the country.
RWANDA RECEIVED ‘GREEN GLOBE AWARD’
The ‘land of a thousand hills’ last week received global recognition for their sustained efforts to protect the environment and restore encroached and depleted forests and wetlands, when the country was handed the prestigious ‘Green Globe Award’ for the ‘Rugezi-Bulera-Ruhondo wetland’. The announcement was made in Japan during a global meeting of the World Wetland Network. Rwanda has environmental protection high on the national agenda and been in the good news often in past months for the efforts and work done in conjunction with affected communities. Said one tourism operator in Kigali to this correspondent: ‘wildlife and nature based tourism is our bread and butter here in Rwanda. The high priority government gives to the sector is backed up by good policies and implementation measures and we are confident that we are on the right track. And because communities benefit from eco tourism, they support our measures to protect the environment, after all, it helps them too.’ The wetland in question has seen a remarkable recovery from its previous sorry state and a number of rare birds, animals and reptiles have already made their home there again. Nature walk accompanied by local guides can now attract tourist again and the country can showcase their efforts in its ‘Sunday best’. This seems in stark contrast with Uganda, where NEMA is ignoring information and particulars about wetland encroachment with apparent apathy and well near abrogation of its mandate to protect our environment. NEMA has often been critizised in the past for being selective, almost biased in their measures taken and even letters to the editor have, in regard to the nearby Kongo valley wetland, not yielded any visible response, leave alone that emails to them go habitually unanswered. Hence it is bouquets for Rwanda’s environmental watchdog and mega barbs for our own NEMA.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES GRADUATES MORE STAFF
On the expansion trail Ethiopian Airlines has last week graduated over 100 new staff, trained in their own aviation academy in Addis Ababa. The reportedly 115 students, after successful completion of their respective courses, are now being deployed across the airline’s offices in administrative, sales and operational functions aimed to support a growing network and a growing fleet without the need to bring expatriates ‘on board’. Ethiopian, once THE Pan African airline – a successful concept now copied by other carriers too – is still regarded as a prime example of how African aviation can match the achievements of their international rivals and their training academy for pilots or for instance their maintenance base in Addis are examples of what can be achieved in Africa inspite of often adverse other conditions. Well done.
SEYCHELLES DISCUSS CLIMATE CHANGE WITH OTHER ISLAND AND ARCTIC COUNTRIES
The University of Seychelles on the main island of Mahe was the venue for a number of participants from abroad and within, in a meeting aimed to find common ground over common problems. On the agenda was climate change and rising sea levels, a major threat to small island states and the arctic states, all of which are equally affected by the fall out of global warming. Participants came from as far as Alaska, Canada and St. Lucia, preparing a strategy and presentations for the forthcoming ‘Climate Summit’ at the end of November / early December in Cancun Mexico, where the failed discussions and agreements of the Copenhagen Summit of last year will enter the next round. It is expected that small island countries will make an energetic push towards a global agreement to reign in the emission of green house gasses to ‘safe their own survival’ and working hand in hand as a group will undoubtedly increase the chances of success.
REEF PROTECTION GETS ADDED ATTENTION
As a further sign of the Seychelles drive to maintain and restore their environment, has Nature Seychelles launched a new project to deal with damages to some of their reef formations. The US government, through USAID, has set aside over half a million US Dollars for the project which will record and monitor ‘bleaching’ of reefs and other damage and develop mitigating measures of how to best restore the reefs and corals to their original state. Increasing temperatures of the sea, and rising sea levels, are considered as the main threats for coral reefs, and with the Seychelles depending so greatly, in fact entirely on their intact ocean environment for their fishing industry and where tourists from around the world come for holidays and diving, much energy and funding is now being devoted to ‘do the right thing’ and prevent where possible any damages while restoring where necessary any previous negative impact. The project by Nature Seychelles will run for a three year period. In a related development was Nature Seychelles also handed a donation from the UK, comprising high quality binoculars for the monitoring of birdlife across the archipelago, where several critically endangered and endemic species have their habitat like the Seychelles flycatcher. In other news it was also learned that conservationists and communities joined hands last week to restore beach vegetation as a measure to protect the shores from further erosion, and planted trees along ‘endangered’ stretches of beaches. Participants came from schools but ‘ordinary’ citizens and community leaders too turned up to take care of their immediate neighbourhoods under the project called ‘Sandwatch’.
GST TO RISE BY 2 PERCENT
The recent announcement by the government in Mahe, that the Goods and Services Tax is to rise from the present 10 to 12 percent, came not entirely unexpected by the tourism industry, which has to pay this tax from its transactions. Yet, several stakeholders promptly contacted this correspondent to voice their concern, that this may be somewhat premature and that recover of the sector should first progress some more before levying new additional tax percentages on the various segments of the tourism industry. However, other sources voiced a different opinion, claiming ‘as long as some of that money comes back to the tourist board for promotion abroad we can live with it’. Visitors hence need to brace themselves for a two percent increase on the cost of hotel accommodation, meals, drinks and excursions. The rate was reduced to 10 percent in 2008 at the height of the global economic and financial crisis as a support measure to make tourism to the Seychelles more affordable, but with a new arrival and spending record now visible on the horizon for 2010, economists clearly thought the time was right to bring the tax back up to its previous levels. The measure is in place since November 01st.
ST. ANNE RESORT SIGNS UNION DEAL
The Seychelles Transport and General Workers Union has welcomed the signing of a deal with the St. Anne Resort last week as ‘ground breaking’, putting other hotels and resorts across the archipelago also on notice that they will be seeking to negotiate collective bargaining agreements for their membership. Both the hotel management and the union have praise the maturity of the negotiation teams to achieve a result and stakeholders in the hospitality industry are now reportedly consulting about the impact of this agreement and are strategizing over the way forward for other hospitality businesses not yet in talks with the union representatives.
AND IN CLOSING AGAIN … material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, generated week after week by Gill Staden who lives at the Victoria Falls in Livingstone and is a frequent traveller across her region. In fact, it seems that ‘their problems and challenges’ are not any different from our own here in Eastern Africa!
Development in the Victoria Falls Rainforest It seems that some people are not happy with the latest development in Victoria Falls Town. Inside the Rainforest a bar, restaurant and curio shop have been constructed/renovated. Namo Chuma from Environmental Africa has written to Mr Banda, District Environmental Officer, Environmental Management Agency, Hwange, stating that, in his opinion, the development should be removed. Here are some of his arguments: Further to the Public Meeting that was held on Tuesday 19th October 2010 in the Victoria Falls Municipality Boardroom, with regards to the new development s (merchandise shop, restaurant, bar and kitchen) in the Victoria Falls Rainforest, we respectfully request that the following action be taken: That the certificate issued by EMA for this development be cancelled with immediate effect. This development is illegal on the grounds of the existing legislation in the Environmental Management Agency Act 13/2002, 5/2004 (s.23), 6/2005 (s.28) ……. The Environmental Impact Assessment report and process is flawed for the following reasons: The description of the project in the EIA report and the actual development on the ground are not the same The project was misrepresented to the public, being presented as an UPGRADE of existing facilities, not NEW infrastructural developments. The restaurant, kitchen and bar are new infrastructures which requires a new plan and development permit. This is not in line with the guidelines stated in the Joint Management Plan of 2007 which was submitted to UNESCO by the Zimbabwean and Zambian governments. No proper scientific environmental assessment studies were undertaken No socio-economic assessment was carried out The Environmental Management Plan is totally lacking in dealing with day to day environmental management issues. For example the existing sewerage system had been condemned by the District Environmental Health Officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. In the EIA report, she recommended that because of the increased number of people in the area at any one time the existing facilities would not support this and should be increased. This was not done and the current situation with the new development is giving the developers challenges in terms of sewerage waste disposal. There is no reference to Victoria Falls being a World Heritage Site and national monument, which is governed by national and international regulations aside to the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The analysis of the legal framework in the EIA is very inadequate. No consultation was undertaken with relevant key stakeholders like the Joint World Heritage Site Management Committee, UNESCO, National Museums & Monuments of Zimbabwe, Traditional Leaders in the surrounding community. No local chief was consulted on this during the EIA. No adequate public participation process was undertaken in the EIA except for 11 stakeholders who were selected by the Consultant, 4 of which were from National Parks & Wildlife, leaving 7 ‘independent’ respondents. This cannot be taken as fair representation of a local population of 65,000 people. No person from the surrounding rural communities including Chiefs were consulted. …… The Victoria Falls was declared a World Heritage Site in 1989 and is bound by the national and international regulations of UNESCO World Heritage Commission which were not observed in this development. The Zimbabwean and Zambian Governments developed and adopted a Joint Victoria Falls Mosi Oa Tunya World Heritage Site Management Plan in 2007. In the document, the core zone is stated as a high ecologically sensitive zone and states: ‘Prohibited Facilities – No further infrastructural developments except those under permitted facilities.’ A new restaurant, kitchen and bar are therefore not permissible developments in the Victoria Falls Rainforest. The establishment of a curio and merchandise shop directly impacts the economic and social development of the more than 1000 curio vendors who are members of the local community. These poor Zimbabweans are earning a living through selling curios outside the rainforest and at Busy island. Allowing one operate to monopolise the selling of curios in the rainforest which is the heart of the tourism industry in Victoria Falls is going to impact negatively on their livelihoods. Therefore, this certificate must be cancelled as it violates the environmental rights and principles of environmental management in terms of the Environmental Management Act. With reference to the presentation made by Mr K T Chipunza, Chief Curator and Victoria Falls World Heritage Site Coordinator, during the public meeting on the 19th October 2010, he stated and quoted directly from the relevant sections of the Museums and Monument Act highlighting that many provisions of the Act governing national museums and monuments have been violated with this development in the Victoria Falls Rainforest, which is the number one monument in Zimbabwe. Moreover, the Joint World Heritage Site Management Plan already in place since July 2007 to June 2012 clearly states ‘there should be a complete moratorium on the construction and development of all tourism infrastructure, facilities or services within the World Heritage Property’. The Joint World Heritage Site Management Plan also clearly states under Prohibited Facilities – ‘No further infrastructural developments except those under permitted facilities’. A restaurant, bar and kitchen are not listed under permitted facilities. The Rainforest and its surrounding environs have been kept sacred by the local traditional people for many centuries. Rainmaking ceremonies have been conducted at the boiling pot and to start selling beer in there will be an insult to the culture of the local traditions of the area. At a public meeting which you attended to discuss the issue on 19 October 2010 all the more than 100 representatives of the Victoria Falls and Hwange Rural community present at the meeting unanimously agreed that the project should be stopped with immediate effect. We therefore, call upon your highly esteemed office to cancel this certificate with immediate effect on the basis of all of the above so that our generation and generations that will come after us will continue to enjoy this undisturbed number one monument in the country. Save the Rhinos Message from Kim Steinberg I am a single mother living in Natal North Coast. I am a struggling artist and photographer. In June I took this photograph of a black rhino in Namibia this year. The photograph has received many positive comments from the photographic and art community. I have been moved by the upsurge in rhino poaching over the past 5 years and felt I would like to contribute something towards the putting an end to this senseless massacre. I approached World Wildlife Fund and they are now supporting this effort. The attached photograph is to be printed on stretched artists’ canvas A0 size and sold to raise necessary funds. As well as the canvas original a limited number of signed and numbered prints of the photo (42cm X 30cm) are available for sale at R200 each. All proceeds after printing costs will be donated to Rhino Anti-Poaching. If anyone would like to purchase an A3 print or make a bid on the printed canvas original (A0 1189cm x 841cm) this can be made direct to me at email@example.com . It would make a fantastic centre piece in someone’s home or game lodge and the prints would make great Christmas presents whilst saving a species. I personally challenge everyone to purchase one print. It is a small price to pay for funds that will go a long way to supplying anti-poaching units with even the simplest things like radios, batteries for torches, rain coats, binoculars etc. which they are desperately short of at the moment. Thank you kindly, KIMSTEINBERG ART&PHOTOGRAPHY