TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Get daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or read the daily postings on my blog via: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com
Fifth edition August 2011
HAPPY IDD UL FITR TO THE MUSLIM FAITHFUL AS THEY CELEBRATE THE END OF THE HOLY MONTH OF RAMADHAN ON TUESDAY, 31ST OF AUGUST
East Africa News
EAC TO DEVELOP BETTER ARUSHA TO MOMBASA ROAD LINK
With the completion of the Arusha to Nairobi highway finally in sight, the East African Community is now turning its attention to ‘the missing link’, a better highway connection from the seat of the EAC in Arusha via Moshi – Taveta and Voi to Mombasa. Arusha, as the ‘capital of East Africa’ has seen its economic fortunes change to the better and being called ‘the safari capital of East Africa’ is a key gateway for tourists. This has spurred a boom of sorts for new hotels, resorts and conferencing facilities spring up in recent years along the corridor from the Kilimanjaro International Airport and Arusha itself, supporting the tourism industry but also facilitating the business travelers as well as ever more political delegations interacting with the EAC Secretariat. Sections of this road on the Kenyan side between Voi and the border with Tanzania at Taveta are still in need of an upgrade and EAC officials have now made this a priority to ensure that a modern road enables increased trade but most importantly easier road access to the Tanzanian national parks for tourists coming from Kenya. A range of natural attractions await visitors to this part of Tanzania just across the border, from Lake Chala over Kilimanjaro National Park to the Arusha National Park, and of course the famous parks on the northern circuit.
Mostly though it is the access to the port of Mombasa which is of keen interest for the EAC as it aims to promote growing internal trade, including access for agricultural produce to key consumer markets and create the infrastructure to attract more investments from abroad.
Adds this correspondent in closing: Just make proper provisions this time to maintain all these beautiful new roads to keep them intact …
MORE MISCHIEF FROM THE KHARTOUM REGIME
Khartoum’s formal application to join the East African Community has been received with some incredulity in Arusha, causing a blinding diplomatic headache to community bureaucrats and the member states.
No longer having any direct borders with any of the East African Community, the regime in Khartoum is thought to have placed their membership application to not only spite the new Republic of South Sudan but also to cause maximum diplomatic discomfort and division between the 5 present members.
South Sudan has made it known in the past that soon after independence they would place a membership application with the EAC, something warmly welcomed at the time by friendly governments in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi, as the ascencion of the new country to the regional trading bloc is considered a natural expansion and inclusion of an already strong trade partner.
Airlinks are already strong with multiple flights each day between Nairobi and Juba and daily flights between Entebbe and Juba and road links between Uganda and South Sudan are a priority for both countries to improve transport infrastructure. A planned rail link from Juba to the Indian Ocean, either to Mombasa or to the newly planned port of Lamu, is also at an advanced stage of preparation and there are intense talks ongoing between the government in Juba and neighbours Uganda and Kenya over a ‘re-routing’ of its oil infrastructure, aiming to create a new gateway ‘South’ instead of relying on the radical and largely considered hostile North Sudan which is already blackmailing Juba with demands for extraordinary oil transit fees.
The joining of the South Sudan into the EAC has now taken a knock, as the EAC would ordinarily be bound to deal with new applications for membership in the order they are received and when RoSS submits their paperwork only time will tell which of the two will beat the other to the door of the EAC.
Conventional wisdom though has it that South Sudan will still make it first into the trade bloc as the harmonization of laws and regulations required for applicant countries will create huge obstacles for the radicals in Khartoum, which still largely is an economy run by decrees rather than open to market forces and where in particular an entire range of laws as well the judicial system is alien to the predominantly English speaking East African nations where the British influence on laws is still widely visible.
A regular source in Juba had this to say overnight: ‘We have not been officially told from Arusha that Khartoum has applied to join. If they did, it is one of their usual tactics to upstage us, trying to undermine us and to create diversion and maybe even disagreements amongst our EAC friends. They will not succeed. Our ties with Uganda and Kenya are very strong, we have a long history together and they are our biggest trading partners. We get supplies from Mombasa port and buy goods from Uganda through open trade routes which Khartoum is denying us, which Khartoum can close at will to cut us off. We know where we belong and our friends in EAC also know where we belong. Khartoum has to change completely, politically, legally, economically if they want to succeed joining EAC. We are committed to harmonize but I tell you, Khartoum cannot do that and they lack the political will to modernize their country’.
Watch this space as the newly independent Republic of South Sudan is now dealing with their challenges to claim a rightful place amongst the Eastern African nations.
CONSERVATIONITST DEMAND THAT CITES REMOVE CHINA’S ‘IVORY TRADING STATUS’
The growing greed and hunger for Africa’s ‘White Gold’, aka ivory in China has been largely blamed on the rocketing cases of poaching across the continent’s national parks and game reserves over the past two years, but too little action has been taken by CITES or other global bodies, allegedly of fear of ‘upsetting’ the Chinese leadership and risking lucrative trading contracts and investments in particular for African countries. The discovery of what has now been described as one of East Africa’s largest illicit blood ivory hauls in Zanzibar, authorities have now given the figure of 1.041 tusks which have been recovered, has prompted another outcry amongst the conservation fraternity.
Wrote one source overnight to this correspondent: ‘CITES is now under pressure like never before. Last week the executive committee, arguably following pressure from the most notorious importer nations of ivory, tried to exclude NGO’s and civil society and only when realizing the folly of their dictate they reversed their vote quickly to avoid a lot more negative press. But it was also apparent in their meetings, in particular on ivory trading, the relationship between their past one – off grants to sell off ivory stocks and increase in poaching on a phenomenal scale across Africa was speaking a very clear language. You allow countries to sell what they call ‘legal stocks’ and poaching immediately rockets. Then there is the issue of rhino horn smuggling and the virtual war declared on the species, especially in South Africa by money greedy poachers using automatic weapons, at times even helicopters and sophisticated communications equipment, besieging national parks and private game reserves where only last week a gruesome attack on several rhinos left at least three dead and the nation in uproar over their government’s seeming inaction. In 2008 CITES gave China the status of ‘ivory trading partner’ alongside Japan, but my fellow activists want that decision reviewed immediately with the aim of suspending it until China provides stiff laws internally over possession and processing ivory. They must show that they support the survival of Africa’s wildlife for real and we do not care how powerful China now is, what is wrong is wrong and we must be able to say so’.
Other sources from within Tanzania in fact demanded that the country drop any further attempt to seek an exception on the ivory trade rule during the next global CITES meeting in 2013 as well as renounce any other measures like ‘auctioning’ processed and semi-processed ivory seized at airports and sea ports, as was attempted last year by the customs department in a clear violation of the spirit of the respective global conventions. Zambia too is coming under pressure to forego any future attempts to sell her ivory stocks as that country had applied for an exemption alongside Tanzania, but hosting the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka actually makes discussions between the Secretariat not any easier, as the Secretariat works under the direction of the tri-annual global congress and in between with the Executive Committee, which has shown no haste nor keen interest to once and for all make ALL sales in ivory stocks illegal, and gently pushing governments in the direction of Kenya’s action, where recently over 5 tons of blood ivory were burned.
Whichever way those discussions go and wherever China’s status is heading, one thing has become clear that the sheer volume of tusks, 1.041 in total, confiscated earlier in the week in Zanzibar, has shocked and rocked the conservation fraternity which undoubtedly will become much more vocal and outspoken in their demands to protect Africa’s wildlife and in the process safeguard the tourism industries in the safari park countries of Eastern and Southern Africa, which depend on wildlife actually being alive to be photographed by tourists and not carcasses upon which they stumble during their game drives. Watch this space.
SHILLING PLUNGES TO NEW LOWS
Last Friday saw the value of the Uganda Shilling drop to new lows, when demand for the US Dollar soared and previous interventions by the Bank of Uganda evaporated with little visible impact to stem the tide for more than a day or two. Trading in the 2.820 to 2.840 range on Friday, the continuous slide of the value of the local currency is causing growing concern amongst economists, as the impact on the cost of crucial imported ingredients and general goods, especially on oil and fuel products is feared to give inflation a further boost. Already running at nearly 19 percent, the highest in the region, the latest loss of value will drive the cost of transport, and the overall cost of doing business in Uganda further up, while consumers are faced with having to dig yet deeper into their pockets to meet their daily needs. The price of a litre of petrol is now inching up towards the 4.000 UShs level while the cost of diesel is not far behind, but crucially for large sections of the population the cost of kerosene has rocketed too, as has the cost of cooking gas.
While tourist visitors get record returns for their hard currency, helping them to offset the rise in the cost of for instance a local meal, drinks and souvenir sales, this has not reflected in a parallel growth of tourist arrivals as yet, although the local tourism fraternity has hopes for an increase in arrivals with the imminent start of daily flights by Qatar Airways between Doha and Entebbe.
Both Kenya and Tanzania also suffer from double digit inflation figures while notably Rwanda remains firmly in the single digit range, a result of arguably more conscious political decisions on economic policies. No details are available from Burundi. Watch this space for regular updates on tourism, conservation and economic news from Eastern Africa.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOINS GROWING NUMBER OF DISSENTERS ON MABIRA
The ‘Save Mabira’ movement has found an unexpected ally yesterday when former Vice President Prof. Dr. Gilbert Bukenya broke ranks with President Museveni and also demanded that Mabira forest be left alone and other land be found for the growing of sugar cane. Opponents of the free give away of over a quarter of the tropical rainforest took fresh hope, as already a growing number of parliamentarians have vowed to bring down any government motion to degazetted parts of the forest. Global petition sites are gathering speed as more people sign up while it is also understood that in particular the World Bank has let government know that they will insist on contractual obligations to be fully respected, which demand that Mabira forest be left alone, as it is a key water catchment area for the River Nile and Lake Victoria.
Government’s efforts last week to show journalists ‘degraded sections’ of the forest failed when the responsible minister and her officials could not find any degraded portions of forest, since a government spokesperson had earlier claimed that only degraded parts of the forest were meant to be given away for ‘development’, an obscure phrase often used to justify the most blatant environmental infringements of cutting down forests, encroaching protected areas and draining crucial wetlands.
Unlike in neighbouring Rwanda, where forests have been made a top priority by President Kagame and where forest cover is being raised to 30s percent by 2020, here in Uganda the political leadership seems to have strayed from the erstwhile path of environmental protection. Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda, as well as the Gishwati Forest, are now crucial components in Rwanda’s drive to increase tourist numbers by providing more attractions, and a canopy walk at Nyungwe, inaugurated about a year ago, has achieved what Mabira was to accomplish already a decade ago, when this correspondent in a different capacity made proposals to construct a canopy walk and increase tourism receipts, for the forest and for the country. An award winning eco lodge, the Mabira Rain Forest Lodge, has since then been built and become a success story in its own right, but also now faces an uncertain future as the plans of government would bring sugar cane plantations almost to the lodge’s doorsteps. Said a regular tourism source from Kampala: ‘Our president is either being misled or he is misguided on Mabira. How can anyone of his capacity want to cut down over 7.000 hectares of intact rainforest and justify it by saying it is degraded, and yet his minister fails to find the degraded parts of the forest when pressed by the media to show. We have enough economic problems as it is, even if the president belittles the woes of ordinary Ugandans. He would be wise to let go of the Mabira issue once and for all and accept honest offers from landowners to lease land to Mehta. Or is Mehta now dictating policy in this country? We did not elect Mehta, we elected Museveni, I voted for Museveni, but this is not acceptable’. Watch this space for updates on the twists and turns of this ongoing controversy.
GULF AIR RETURNING TO ENTEBBE, STARTING JUBA FLIGHTS
It was just learned that Gulf Air is joining the growing number of airlines from their home region as it intends to resume flights to Entebbe from early December onwards.
Only weeks ago were news broken here that Qatar Airways will begin daily flights to Entebbe from Doha and from early December Gulf will follow their ‘cousins’ by resuming flights to the Pearl of Africa.
The added capacity of an Airbus A 320, while not able to carry palletized cargo, will nevertheless be a boost to passenger numbers as well as for exporters as the cargo hold can be loaded with ‘loose’ cargo, i.e. flowers or chilled fish, fruits and vegetables, for which there is great demand in all the Gulf states.
Tourism and trade, but also investments are bound to benefit from the added promotion Gulf will afford their latest destination, and ticket prices will stay level, or might even drop, as special promotions will undoubtedly unfold both in Uganda as well as across the Gulf Air network.
In a related development it was also learned that Gulf Air will from December onwards also fly to Juba, the capital of the newly independent Republic of South Sudan. That route will initially see three flights a week, also to be operated by an Airbus A 320. Here has Gulf Air beaten their more senior rivals like Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, of low cost carriers like Air Arabia and Fly Dubai to the door, and will try to entrench themselves in the South Sudan as THE airline from the Gulf which came first to Juba ahead of the giants. Without doubt though will this initiative prompt ‘the others’ to also take a keen look on Juba and yet more airlines based in the Gulf region may join that route too, sooner rather than later.
For now however it is Happy Landings to Gulf Air on their return to Entebbe and for their new destination Juba. Watch this space for the most uptodate aviation news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
KISUMU AIRPORT SET FOR COMPLETION
Following news a few days ago that Malindi’s airport construction was nearly complete and the commissioning of the new facilities, i.e. passenger terminal, shops, restaurants and the new control tower was only weeks away, was additional information sent to this correspondent over the weekend that Kisumu’s airport too was now counting down to the end of construction work on terminals, the expanded runway and other facilities.
Catapulted to international fame when President Obama, whose paternal relatives live near Kisumu, was elected to the presidency of the United States, Kisumu has long been in the shadow of other cities and municipalities in Kenya when it came to economic development but its elevation to city status a few years ago and keen interest by domestic and international investors in agriculture, the fishing industry and tourism has changed much of that.
Investments will now see a boost from the new aviation facilities, as larger planes can finally land in Kisumu, also allowing for direct flights from abroad, while connections with Nairobi are now at a record high, with national carrier Kenya Airways operating three daily frequencies while Fly540 and Jetlink too are flying on the route. The longer runway will also at last allow for direct export by air of fresh fish fillets to the consumer markets in Europe and the Middle East, as wide bodied cargo planes will be able to take off with full load to their final destination, similar to the ‘sister airport’ across the lake at Entebbe. This is thought to also open the door for export of agricultural products like fruits and vegetables, which in the past needed to be trucked to Nairobi for processing, giving a boost to agro investments in this fertile part of Kenya.
Some good news at last for the Kenya Airport Authority, which has been struggling with an image of incompetence vis a vis its management of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and the slow pace of construction work there.
SUN AFRICA SET FOR TWO MORE CAMP OPENINGS
Details were obtained that Sun Africa Hotels, owners and managers of the soon to formally opening Sovereign Suites, the Lake Baringo Club, the Lake Naivasha Country Club and the Keekorok Lodge will shortly embark on the setting up of two more safari camps. Tent sizes were given as approximately 60 square metres with en suite bathrooms, and the first of the two locations is going to be within the sprawling ground of the Lake Naivasha Country Club – to be named the ‘Kiboko Camp’. The second property will be approximately 8 kilometres from the Keekorok Lodge, towards the Tanzanian border, to be named ‘Mara Makari’ when open in mid 2012.
The Naivasha Kiboko luxury camp will only offer 8 tents, equipped and furnished to exacting standards, and will be bringing the overall number of accommodation units in the much in demand Lake Naivasha Country Club estate up just slightly, while the new Mara Makari camp will offer 20 tents.
There a soft opening during next year’s low season is possible and being worked towards although full operations will only begin in the early second half of 2012 just ahead of the annual migration of a million and a half of wildebeest and zebras crossing ‘over’ from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. Kenya’s tourism industry, truly up and running and offering investment opportunities galore in the sector.
NEW TERMINAL AT MALINDI AIRPORT ‘NEARLY READY’
It was learned overnight that work on Malindi Airport’s new terminal building has advanced well enough to consider an informal commissioning in mid to late October this year. A formal opening will then follow at a later stage.
The construction also involved a new control tower, for improved air traffic control services, additional parking bays and general facilities at the airport, which has seen traffic rise substantially in recent years, more so since Kenya Airways resumed daily flights between Nairobi and Mombasa. The capacity for passenger through put will rise from the present 100 to as many as 500 per hour, and finally there will be restaurants and shops to pass the time while waiting for flights to be called. A new power station was also part of the modernization of the airport, and the next phase will likely include a substantial lengthening of the runway to cater for larger planes and possibly nonstop holiday charters from Europe directly to Malindi.
Work had started in 2010 and was reported her. Watch this space for the most current news and updates from the East African and Indian Ocean aviation scenes.
REPRIEVE FOR NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK?
Nairobi National Park’s public voice, FoNNaP or Friend of Nairobi National Park, was heard loud and clear earlier in the week when Dr. Paula Kahumbu, recently honoured by the National Geographic Society for her conservation work in Kenya, spoke to the chief engineer of the Kenya National Highways Authority in Kenya’s capital. With other conservation groups involved in a last ditch effort to review the new proposed Wildlife Bill and coordinate responses ahead of a crucial deadline early in the new week, when stakeholder consultations go underway, it was up to Paula to be Nairobi National Park’s main advocate.
Notably, the highway authority was apparently unaware of the migration patterns of zebra and wildebeest, which were presented to them based on a radio tracking survey conducted by the University of Colorado, in addition of which the Kitengela / Isinya land use plan, itself only publicly launched on Friday, was also handed to the highway authority’s officials.
In response the chief engineer then alleviated the greatest fear of the planned highway being so close to the Nairobi National Park as to ‘hem it in’ when he pointed to a far more distant route, much further away from the park boundaries than had been feared, but concerns remained as the remaining open migration route would nevertheless be greatly impacted. It is understood that the highway authority will consider to include flyovers and underpasses for the projected route to allow wildlife to continue migrating while also assuring FoNNaP of the authority’s desire to make this a model of holistic planning and implementation to aid conservation efforts and retain the identity of the park. Further consultative meetings were agreed in order to monitor progress and allow sufficient time for substantive inputs.
In a related development it was also learned that NEMA Kenya has declared itself in regard of the highway, that it would not permit any construction along or across migratory routes which would disrupt the flow of animals in and out of the park. Thanks to FoNNaP and to Paula, who’s daily encounters with wildlife and birds in her Langata office you can follow on Twitter via @paulakahumbu
KENYA TOURISM ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT LATEST ARRIVAL FIGURES
‘We have it in our hands now to make this another record breaking year’ was the comment of a regular contributor and source from Nairobi, when discussing the latest arrival data for the first half of 2011.
549.083 foreign visitors were recorded to have arrived in Kenya during the first six months of the year, traditionally the ‘slower’ time as it includes the traditional ‘low season’, while the second half of the year is normally the ‘stronger half’. The trend at present is a strong 13.6 percent up compared with the previous record year of 2010 and should the Kenya Shilling stay in the 90 range vis a vis the US Dollar, earnings could race deep into the 90 billion Shillings range and under best circumstances even exceed 100 billion Kenya Shillings for the first time ever and reclaiming the top spot from the tea industry, which had in the recent past overtaken earnings from tourism.
Sources in both Mombasa and Nairobi were cautiously optimistic over the prospects for 2011 but almost everyone ‘polled’ was conscious of factors beyond their or Kenya’s control, like global economic developments, the cost of fuel, economic recovery and stability in the Euro Zone, a key market place for Kenya, before equally agreeing that ‘if all goes well and without hick ups we will indeed have a new record year for Kenya Tourism.’
Rwanda in the context of East Africa is leading the pack with a nearly 30 percent increase in arrivals over the first half of 2011. No current half year figures are available as yet from Uganda, while Tanzania is said to be slightly ahead of last year’s arrivals. Burundi is trailing and no figures, as usual one sadly has to add, are available on tourist arrivals for the EAC’s smallest economy.
SOVEREIGN SUITES NOW IN SOFT OPENING STAGE
As reported here two months ago, Sun Africa Hotels in Kenya was at the time busy to get their new flagship property in Nairobi up and running for an opening by October this year.
The time frame is still intact it was learned yesterday when information was obtained that the Sovereign Suites are now in the ‘soft opening’ stage until the ‘proper’ opening scheduled for 01st October this year.
On arrival the palatial building already impresses visitors who will instantly belief that this ‘boutique’ hotel residence is very different from any ordinary hotel, in particular when it comes to size.
The two schools of thought, one saying size does not matter while the other says size does matter are both proven right here. 11 suites, 2 family suites and 2 presidential suites, the latter two categories with multiple bedrooms and walk in closets, are entirely the ‘right size’ for the clientele Sun Africa is aiming for, and considering that it is just 15 kilometres down the Limuru road to the Village Market and the UN complex, those seeking luxury as well as privacy will find exactly that. Furnishings and bathroom fittings are of the highest quality, the fabrics match the rest of the ‘hotel’ in a warm and inviting colour scheme and the latest technologies, including the ever more important FREE high speed internet connection and flat screen satellite TV’s make the Sovereign Suites truly a home away from home, and also a place one can work from.
The lounges, sporting authentic looking ‘period furniture’ are paneled in wood and feature big fire places, as do some of the suites of course, giving the impression of a private club rather than that of a ‘normal’ hotel, not that anything about the Sovereign Suites is really ‘normal’. Residents will be ‘scoring points’ with their own guests, when inviting them to this unique property, be it for a drink – served in all the lounges of course besides the bars – or for lunch and dinner. Fine dining will undoubtedly also make the Sovereign Suites in the future a focal point for the residents in the immediate Limuru area but also from further away, as the road leading to the Sovereign Suites was during a first visit found to be in immaculate shape.
A fully equipped gym with available trainers complements the other features, as does a sauna and steam room – besides the outdoor pool which is overlooked by the garden side of the main building.
The Sovereign Suites has joined up with ‘Preferred Hotels’ and is as such assured of a wide exposure around the globe which will go hand in hand with Sun Africa Hotels’ own marketing efforts. Visit their website for more information, which also features the sister properties of Lake Baringo Club, Lake Naivasha Country Club and the world famous Keekorok Lodge via www.sunafricahotels.com
‘KENYANS FOR KENYA’ RECEIVES KENYA AIRWAYS SUPPORT
‘The Pride of Africa’ aka Kenya Airways has joined hands with the business community and civil society to assist in providing food and other daily necessities to communities in Northern Kenya hard hit by drought and failed harvests. CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni, on behalf of the national airline, handed a 10 million Kenya Shillings cheque to the Kenya Red Cross Society while also committing free cargo uplifts of donations made in Europe or other countries covered by the Kenya Airways network to fly emergency supplies to Nairobi to be handed over to the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies.
However, the company then went several steps further by announcing that for every shilling donated by the Kenya Airways staff, the airline will add TWO shillings to double match individual contributions. Staff can also convert pending leave or off days into cash for the purpose of donating the proceeds to the ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ fundraising effort. Holders of frequent flyer cards equally can donate ‘miles’ which will be monetized and donated and KQ’s ongoing programme ‘Change for Change’ – reported about here some weeks ago – will also now include famine relief contributions.
Famine has struck parts of the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa with a vengeance, and the current situation has been described as the worst for the last 40 years. Civil society and the corporate sector responded immediately to the call for help and financial assistance, and inspite of inflation and economic wobbles managed to raise in excess of 100 million Kenya Shillings already, all to go to mitigate drought impact and help affected communities in Northern Kenya to survive until the rains return. Well done KQ, something to be truly proud of.
CHUMBE ISLAND CORAL PARK GETS UN RECOGNITION
Being often accused to be anti-Tanzanian and relishing to report bad news about our East African neighbours, the news of Chumbe Island being singled out for recognition by the UN Secretary General in his report to the General Assembly should prove otherwise – when there are good news, they are told with gusto too of course, and in a happier mood than reporting the often bad news about environmental ‘crimes’ the current Tanzanian government seems to commit as serial offenders.
Sibylle Riedmiller, of Chumbe Island Coral Park Limited, yesterday passed information that their work towards the maintenance and protection of the Chumbe coral reefs have now been recognized by none other than the UN Secretary General in his report to the General Assembly, where Chumbe is singled out for their extraordinary efforts and achievements since 1995. Said Sibylle in an email to this correspondent yesterday:
‘I found that my investment and project for the last 20 years, Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd is featured there as a model case, under the heading “The role of national legislation in protecting coral reefs (including importance of inclusion of indigenous/local communities)” on Page 21, and it says:
“81. A noted example for PES within the context of coral reefs habitat is the private, non-profit Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd (CHICOP) in Tanzania. The Government of Zanzibar established a protected area around the island and its fringing coral reef in 1994 and gave the management rights to CHICOP, which is responsible for implementing the CHICOP Management Plans 1995-2016.” (Note: PES is ‘Payment for Ecosystem Services’, an incentive-based mechanism to support biodiversity protection and conservation measures)
WOW, isn’t this the highest recognition one can get on this globe ;o)?
And this comes as a total surprise, we cannot remember any correspondence from our side that got us into this report, this is totally independent recognition from the international conservation community.
Chumbe’s success story is an affirmation that individual efforts to protect our planet’s fragile ecosystems, in particular those without high profile supporters and high profile recognized voices, can in fact yield extraordinary results and play a crucial role in protecting biodiversity, well under the radar of officialdom as it seems. Find the full report through the link displayed below to better understand the challenges Chumbe’s protection work had to overcome and is faced with, but meanwhile it is a hearty congrats to Sibylle and the team at Chumbe Island for a job well done over the past 20 years and all the best for the future of course.
WHALE SHARKING FOR MAFIA’S MARINE PARK
Regular and increased sightings of the ocean’s largest fish, the whale shark, in the waters off Mafia Island, have prompted the Mafia Marine Park management to introduce and licence dedicated ocean tours to show the fish to tourist visitors. Now over 10 years old the park has started to attract more visitors year after year, allowing income generated from entrance fees to be plowed back into park infrastructure, which now features two diving facilities.
It was reported that recently nearly 40 whale sharks were sighted and information was also given that while a migratory species, the whales only journey down the East African seaboard to Mozambique and below, but also across the Indian Ocean, when plankton, their main diet, is getting sparse. They are however regularly returning to the Tanzanian waters, as an apparent satellite tracking project has recently established.
Fed by the Rufiji river the waters off Mafia Island are said to be rich in plankton, encouraging large concentrations of the whale shark to take up ‘residence’, mainly in the months between November and January and again between May and July, when organized whale shark sighting trips are much in demand. Google Mafia Island or visit the relevant websites of the Tanzania Tourist Board for more information.
HAT OBTAINS INJUNCTION AGAINST TANAPA – BATTLE OF FEES GOES TO NEXT LEVEL
Information was just received that after a week of arguments, submissions and deliberations has the High Court in Tanzania granted an injunction to the Hotel Association of Tanzania, and their members, to prevent TANAPA from collecting unilaterally introduced fees, after discarding a negotiated and signed agreement reached earlier in the year.
As reported here did TANAPA then in a case of ‘attempted business suicide’ try to offload the burden on individual tourist and tour operators bringing tourists to the parks, when a few weeks ago they stranded nearly 1.000 tourists at their respective park gates for much of that Monday and Tuesday. This triggered an avalanche of complaints and threats to sue from in particular American tourists for being illegally detained at park gates and blackmailed to part with additional money after having fully paid for their safari vacations. While more level headed personnel of TANAPA then prompted a compromise, whereby tour and safari operators had to sign ‘bills’ and commit themselves to pay for the illegally raised fees, this at least helped the tourists who could get on with their tours, while safari operators immediately dismissed the ‘bills’ as ‘documents forced upon us under duress’ and vowed never to pay.
Court now ruled in favour of the applicant ‘HAT’ and in fact ordered TANAPA to bear the cost for the proceedings, and further determined that the main suit will be heard within 6 months. The injunction is valid from the 01st of August, effectively denying TANAPA any option to unilaterally raise their fees, or else illegally attempt to offload the burden of collection on individual tourists or on tour and safari operators.
The decision prompted jubilant comments from the tourism fraternity in Tanzania, also restoring confidence in the court system which in the past often served as a tool to the executive rather than finding honest judgments. Watch this space as the main court battle will soon go underway, and how this turns out for the plaintiff ‘HAT’ and their members and the respondent TANAPA.
TANZANIAN GOVERNMENT PAYS FOR AIR TANZANIA’S Q300 MAINTENANCE
Information was finally confirmed that the government of Tanzania has indeed used some of their sparse cash to pay for major aircraft maintenance for Air Tanzania’s sole aircraft, a Bombardier Q300. The plane was early this year withdrawn from service, effectively shutting down the operations of the airline, and flown to South Africa for a C-check. Short of cash however ATCL was unable to pay for the repairs carried out and the aircraft was subsequently kept by the maintenance facility in lieu of payment. It is understood that only threats that the aircraft would be auctioned off to recover the very substantial capital outlay incurred by the maintenance firm prompted Dar es Salaam to finally ‘find’ money and pay up.
Airworthiness inspectors from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority will be proceeding to Johannesburg now and establish if they can, following the required overhaul according to airworthiness directives from the manufacturers, re-issue a certificate of airworthiness before the plane can return to Dar es Salaam and eventually resume service.
A source close to ATCL also spoke about the possible lease acquisition of two CRJ200 aircraft, a 50 seater jet in all economy configuration, now operating in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania and said to offer, even as an older model, excellent operating economics vis a vis the cost of acquisition,
Jetlink in Kenya was the first airline in East Africa to introduce the Bombardier CRJ into the East African skies, followed by RwandAir, which first leased two aircraft from Jetlink before purchasing their current two ‘birds’ from Lufthansa. Air Uganda eventually also acquired two of these sleek jets to avoid a financial crash caused by their inexplicable use of aged MD 87, before Fly540 too then added several of these jets to their fleet, now operating from Kenya into the entire region, including to Tanzania and within Tanzania between Dar and Kilimanjaro.
Said a regular aviation source from Arusha / Kilimanjaro to this correspondent: ‘I think someone at last has absorbed lessons about financial prudence and about keeping operations within financially affordable levels. Thanks God they are now abandoning their notion that they have to fly Boeing 737 aircraft, which are now simply too big for them. Precision and Fly540 have now taken over the local and regional market and to claw their way back ATCL will need to be reliable, affordable and efficient. They have to shed unproductive workers, cut down on operating cost for their aircraft and the use of the cost efficient Q300 and maybe later of CRJ’s is a step in the right direction. Let them show the travelling public that they still can manage somehow and compete with KQ, Precision, Fly 540 or Air Uganda or RwandAir, and then we will see. Personally I feel that reviving ATCL is not in the best interest of the country. We go Precision now and they are doing very well. Why government should spend much money on ATCL when we lack medicines in hospitals, TTB is short of funds to promote the country abroad and anti poaching units lack fuel to drive their donated cars around the parks, those should be priorities, not reviving a symbol of national shame which ATCL has become over all the scandals.’
None of the executives asked to comment from airlines in the region were willing to speculate on the fate of ATCL, all claiming that they had not heard about the latest developments and that they would need time to find out what exactly was going on with ATCL. Hence, watch this space for future updates and breaking news.
ZANZIBAR POLICE CONFISCATE 1.000 TUSKS IN SHIPMENT TO MALAYSIA
News broke overnight that authorities at the harbour in Zanzibar have managed to intercept a shipment of blood ivory, containing over 1.000 elephant tusks hidden amongst other cargo destined, according to cargo documents, for Malaysia. While it is understood that at least two suspects were taken into custody, the financiers and key figures suspected to be behind the criminal racket are still at large.
Conservationists consulted were of the view that the blood ivory could be from parks on the mainland where poaching in recent months has risen to record levels, but that ‘transit blood ivory’ could also not be ruled out, as Tanzania has become notorious as a convenient shipment route for ivory and even birds and reptiles from other hinterland countries, where poaching is said to be even worse.
Much of the ivory confiscated, in Eastern Africa and in the Far and South East, has been destined for China and observers were not ruling out that Malaysia was only to be used as a waypoint before the blood cargo could be delivered to the intended clients.
Notably though have news also emerged overnight that the China Wildlife Conservation Association, in association with partners like TRAFFIC and co-funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, are presently using the China Radio International broadcasts to Africa to warn Chinese citizens of buying ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products, nor attempt to smuggle it back home at the end of their deployment, or when going on vacation. Jail terms under present law in China can reach up to 5 years for those caught attempting to bring ivory into China, but longer jail terms and heavier fines are being advocated for enactment in China, and other Far and South Eastern countries, to serve as a greater deterrent and slow down demand for the ‘white gold’. Chinese companies working on the African continent too have been drawn into the campaign, as it is slowly being recognized how damaging to the Chinese image abroad ivory smuggling has become and how in particular the demand from within China has propelled poaching in Africa to new heights. A commendable initiative concludes this correspondent, worth supporting and prolonging, while continuing to lobby the Chinese government to play a greater role in eliminating demand and helping Africa to maintain its priceless wildlife heritage.
UNESCO ISSUES CHALLENGE OVER SELOUS
One of Tanzania’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Selous Game Reserve, may be declared a ‘World Heritage Site in Danger’, should the Tanzanian government continue to recklessly pursue plans to open up a Uranium mine and build a dam at Stiegler’s Gorge it was learned yesterday. This will be the second major run in Tanzania is provoking with the world’s foremost heritage protection agency after going through a very similar situation over the status of the Serengeti, when it became known that government was intending to build a highway across some of the most fragile landscapes of the national park, cutting off the migration routes of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras.
Tourism stakeholders and conservationists have joined hands with international conservation and environmental bodies, NGO’s and individuals once again in building another coalition similar to the ‘Save the Serengeti’ movement, this time for the Selous, one of the last great wilderness areas in Eastern Africa spread over 50.000 square kilometres.
The Serengeti highway plans by the Kikwete regime, going hand in hand with a range of other mega projects in what this author has named the ‘corridor of destruction’ soiled Tanzania’s reputation abroad at a time when the Tanzania Tourist Board is attempting to re-brand the destination in order to attract more visitors to the country, but irresponsible broadsides like by the country’s tourism minister Ezekiel Maige, who recently called the UNESCO World Heritage Committee an ‘insignificant entity’ have not helped and only exposed the complete U-turn from the environmental and conservation policies under founding father ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere.
Plans dating back into the 70’s to build a hydro electric dam at Stiegler’s Gorge were ‘dusted’ and revived to generate electricity, admittedly much needed in Tanzania where the energy sector however is riddled with corruption, inefficiencies and mismanagement. Stiegler’s Gorge is one of the Selous’ most spectacular sights and rich in biodiversity, something a dam would irreversibly destroy, while Uranium mining, as seen at many of the former Soviet Union’s mining sites, holds enormous risks of polluting the immediate environment around the mine and water sources all the way from the mine itself to the Indian Ocean.
Said a regular source from Dar es Salaam overnight: ‘Tourism is potentially the most important sustainable economic sector for Tanzania. We can make more money over a longer term, and create more jobs, earn more forex and introduce more investment than mining Uranium in the Selous. The mine might last maybe 25 or 30 years and the environmental damage will be huge. Once the resource has been plundered, I have really no other description, it will be the same like with our gold deposits. The ‘investors’ will move on and leave us with giant holes in the ground and massive destruction. We need to build a green coalition, show government how big the dangers are but we are also dealing with very stubborn people who do not listen very well, who do not absorb lessons learned in other parts of the world and only look at short term profit, benefitting a few who live from one election term to the next. This year we will commemorate 50 years of independence but for wananchi things have only gone from bad to worse. At least Nyerere was honest, wrong in many way in his economic policies but honest and incorruptible, but those politicians of today are plainly ruining our heritage. Today it is the Selous, tomorrow the Tanga Marine National Park, the next day Lake Natron and the list is long and growing. Development must be in harmony with the environment, consider long term effects on our living conditions and must be broadly agreed and not dictated by a clique of dictators.’ Watch this space as the next big environmental battle looms in Tanzania, and how it unfolds, progresses and eventually ends.
RWANDAIR GETS NG737, CEO TALKS OF FUTURE PLANS
(RwandAir’s new bird 9XR-WF taxiing to the parking position)
Regular plane spotters were the first to see the landing lights of RwandAir’s brand new B737-800 emerge from the distant clouds as shortly before 3 p.m. local time the long awaited ‘bird’ came towards the runway of Kigali’s Kanombe International Airport. The assembled crowd of ‘normal’ onlookers, and the invited guests from government, the diplomatic corps, RwandAir staff, travel agents from across the RwandAir network invited for the event and the media were then treated to an added spectacle as the plane did a classic fly past over the runway before ascending again, doing a ‘360’ and the lining up for landing.
Fire engines extended the traditional ‘greeting’, creating an arc of water from both sides over the plane as she turned into the taxiway towards the apron and the sound of Rwanda’s best drummers then echoed across the tarmac in a crescendo as the plane came to a stop.
The airline’s CEO John Mirenge emerged first from the plane, followed by Boeing executives and other RwandAir staff who had gone to Seattle to take delivery of the aircraft and a helicopter was hovering overhead to capture the pictures for the local and international news.
A select group of invited guests was then allowed to inspect the interior of the plane before everyone was heading to the party tent, where champagne was on ice, to be opened just as soon as the obligatory speeches had been delivered. And there was some more news to be told by the CEO, who revealed the airline’s strategy and plans to own and operate 18 planes by the year 2020, which at that time would also include a long haul B787 Dreamliner for intercontinental operations.
(Amadeus’ Regional Manager for Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, Ms, Kainembabazi Sabiti, here seen with Ms. Pearl Hoareau, Managing Director of UTB / American Express Travel Kampala)
Presently the RwandAir fleet comprises 1 Bombardier Dash 8, two Bombardier CRJ200, two B737-500 and now the first of two NG B737-800.
‘Two years ago we were a virtual airline, with two leased planes. Now we are a real airline, with 6 owned and dry leased planes’ said John Mirenge to thunderous applause from his Rwandan compatriots as he went on to explain that this was the start of RwandAir’s future. ‘Two years ago we carried an average of 5.000 passengers per month and today we carry an average of 15.000 passengers a month’ he went on to explain, which was attributed to adding both domestic as well as regional and continental destinations to the RwandAir network.
The airline’s second NG B737-800 is due to arrive during the third week of October and can expect an equally enthusiastic welcome. Both aircraft will be deployed on the routes to Johannesburg, now served four times a week, and to Dubai via Mombasa, which is presently served three times a week with an early option for an increase in frequencies too. The ‘older’ -550’s in the meantime are deployed to West Africa and as demand requires the route to Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, while the CRJ’s are used for the daily flights to Entebbe and the ‘off peak’ operations to Nairobi.
These two B737-500’s on lease from GECAS will remain on the fleet for at least another two years, at which time it is expected that RwandAir will substitute them for, very likely owned, NG’s in line with their strategic plans for expansion. RwandAir – Fly our dream to the heart of Africa.
(CEO John Mirenge in the middle seen here with the Rwandan Minister for Infrastructure the Hon. Albert Nsengiyumva and one of the three captains who piloted the plane from Seattle, via Reykjavik and Istanbul to Kigali)
NEW AIRPORT UNDER REVIEW
Plans for the new international airport outside Kigali in Bugesera are being reviewed, as the latest studies reveal a staggering cost of at least 600 million US Dollars, likely to rise still further considering inflationary trends and cost increases along the way.
The Rwandan Minister for Infrastructure the Hon. Albert Nsengiyumva did concede that this figure had prompted a fresh look at the plans and layout of the new planned airport with the aim of reducing cost and making the new facility affordable.
While Rwanda is undergoing a massive transformation, with significant investments in the road, transport, communications and power infrastructure – only yesterday did national airline RwandAir welcome their first owned and brand new B737-800 towards which government is thought to have given guarantees – the country is also prudent enough to know that this has to be financed, by internal tax revenues, external loans and grants and ‘white elephant’ projects have no place in this environment.
The recent intense warming of relations with Turkey has apparently yielded options here for the Rwandan government as they seem intent to engage the consulting services of a Turkish group, which according to media reports could possibly deliver the project on time at a cost of about 400 million US Dollars.
Again, RwandAir has just signed an extensive cooperation agreement with Turkish Airlines, which resulted in code shared operations covering the network of both airlines, technical cooperation, maintenance and training support, underscoring Turkey’s keen interest to expand its sphere of influence into the African continent, aided by an aggressive rollout of new destinations by THY going hand in hand with diplomatic and trade initiatives.
Decisions, according to a source in Kigali, on the project’s future scope are expected to be taken before the end of 2011 to stay within the envisaged development time frame. Watch this space.
RUBAVU FLIGHTS NOW DAILY FROM KIGALI
In an ongoing effort to make domestic flights in Rwanda more popular has RwandAir now commenced daily flights between Kigali’s Kanombe International Airport and the municipality of Rubavu. Flights were started earlier this year, using the Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft, and demand rose so sharply in recent weeks that RwandAir felt comfortable to go from four times a week to now daily operations.
A return ticket between Kigali and Rubavu sells for Rwandan Francs 60.000, equivalent to about 100 US Dollars in hard currency but an increasing number of travelers actually now connect in Kigali, with RwandAir and other carriers, to fly beyond, sparing them the long and tiring road journey they had to undertake before flights were launched.
Meanwhile is the clock ticking down for the formal handover and delivery / ferry flight of a brand new Boeing 737-800, the first of two purchased outright by RwandAir. The aircraft is presently being readied for the ferry flight and is due to arrive in Kigali on Saturday, 27th of August. A second new generation B737-800 is then due for delivery a few weeks afterwards. Both aircraft are featuring Boeing’s brand new ‘Sky Interior’ design and are equipped with state of the art entertainment systems. On flights from Johannesburg, Libreville, Brazzaville, Kinshasa and Dubai passengers enroute to Kigali will be able to not only enjoy the latest news and films but can also see documentaries about Rwanda’s natural and tourism attractions, thus promoting the destination yet more. Open questions remain over the fate of two leased B737-500 aircraft, under contract from GECAS to RwandAir, once the new ‘birds’ have arrived, but expect to read about that and the arrival and the naming of the aircraft in a few days ‘live’ from Kigali.
South Sudan News
NEW TOURISM MINISTER APPOINTED
President Gen. Salva Mayardit Kiir has last week put final touches on the first post independence cabinet, after first creating 29 ministries before on subsequent days appointing the ministers holding the respective portfolios. Retained in name and function was the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, which oversees the country’s national parks and game reserves and is in charge now of building a viable tourism industry. The newly appointed minister, notably not from the SPLM but a coalition member party, is the Hon. Gabriel Changson while the deputy minister is the Hon. Obuch Ojwok. Permanent Secretary in the ministry remains Dr. Daniel Wani.
South Sudan presently has 6 gazetted national parks and over a dozen game reserves, and conscious of the need to conserve their wildlife as a valuable resource for future safari tourists has banned hunting completely. Most prominent of these parks presently is the Boma National Park from where a migration, second only to the Serengeti / Masai Mara migration of the wildebeest and zebras, emerges annually when as many as 800.000+ white eared kobs, Lechwe and other plains game species emerge in search of pasture. National Geographic highlighted this natural wonder in their series ‘Great Migrations’ which already raised substantial interest amongst adventure tourists but also investors wanting to set up tented safari camps and safari lodges. Watch out for upcoming news on tourism developments in the Republic of South Sudan and the immediate priorities of the sector.
HOTEL SCHOOL GRADUATES MORE STUDENTS
91 students received their diplomas and certificates earlier this week when the ‘Ecole Hoteliere Sir Gaetan Duval’ graduated their latest batch of students, now ready to join or re-join the Mauritius hospitality industry. The minister for education and human resources was the guest of honour at the ceremony held by the hotel training institute, which in recent years has made a name for itself as a centre of vocational and professional training excellence.
Founded way back in 1971 as a collaborative effort between the United Nations Development Programme UNDP, the International Labour Organization ILO, the Mauritius government and the French government, the hotel school has since then produced thousands of graduates many of whom are now forming the backbone of the hospitality industry across the island. The minister was reported to have said in his speech that over 80.000 Mauritius citizens are directly and indirectly employed in the tourism industry, which was expected to grow during 2011 by over 10 percent and was a cornerstone of Mauritius economy.
BEACHES ARE SAFE, GOVERNMENT ASSURES MAURITIANS
The recent grounding of a cargo vessel carrying rice to the Ivory Coast on a reef off the Mauritius shoreline has caused concerns of a potential oil spillage, which could be hugely damaging to the reef’s ecosystem and the beaches of the island. The vessel, following an engine breakdown, had to seek emergency anchorage and then got ‘stuck’ on the reef, prompting widespread fears of an oil or fuel leak. However, government has now assured the public, and the concerned resort operators likely to be affected, that fuel oil is being pumped out of the vessel and that the salvage operation should be completed by Saturday this week. ‘Oil booms’ and other equipment are deployed and at the time the information was given no spill of any sort has been detected. It was however also conceded that the removal of the stranded ship could take up to another month before it can be safely towed into Port Louis’ harbour for repairs. Keeping fingers crossed to keep the pristine beach environment of Mauritius safe.
SHARK HUNT CONTINUES AFTER CATCHING 12 FOOT TIGER SHARK
The efforts to trace and destroy the killer shark responsible for the death of two tourists on the Anse Lazio beach of Praslin are continuing, although news broke over the weekend that a 12 foot tiger shark was caught between the Cousin and Cousine islands. Two South African shark experts from the Kwa-Zulu Shark Institute are in the Seychelles as present to assist local efforts to bait, find and kill the shark, bringing their extensive expertise in shark ‘science’ to the archipelago.
Authorities in the Seychelles have vowed to leave no stone unturned to hunt down the beast and make the beaches once again totally safe, as has been the case for the past 40+ years since the last incident.
Initial indications, after carrying out tests on the caught shark’s stomach, are that it may not be the killer shark, but its capture has nevertheless reassured Seychellois as well as foreign nationals that government is continuing to treat this with the highest priority to ensure the safety of tourists swimming or snorkeling and of fishermen while going after their daily work.
ELECTION DATES SET
The Seychelles will see a general election go underway, following the dissolution of parliament, over the three days of September 29th, 30th and October 01st.
The first day of voting is set aside for individuals who will be deployed on official duty when the general population goes to the polls while the second day will see votes being cast on the outer islands. Day three of the general election is set aside for voting on the main island of Mahe, on Praslin and La Digue as was the case with the Presidential Elections at the end of May this year.
The elections are already being organized by the recently constituted Electoral Commission, which has taken over from the previously sole Electoral Commissioner, meeting a crucial recommendation of observers from the Commonwealth and SADC.
Tourism sources across the archipelago have already gone on record that no disruptions are expected during the forthcoming election campaign, or on election days, as none were experienced during the Presidential Election earlier in the year, and that the maturity of the main party candidates and the electorate was a guarantee of a peaceful and orderly campaign and election process.
The ruling party LEPEP is vying to recapture a 2/3 majority in the national assembly to avoid the often childish ‘blockages’ by opposition members as seen after the successful Presidential Election, when, spurred by three time election loser Wavel they boycotted assembly sittings and obstructed proceedings in support of their party leader’s bruised ego. Watch this space as the campaign goes underway.
AND in closing today, as with most weekly roundup editions, some very interesting readings from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, produced every week by Gill Staden – always very much appreciated:
From UNESCO World Heritage
Mr John Zulu, site manager of Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls National Park and World Heritage site arrived in the U.S. August 5th to spend six weeks immersed in the details of people, park and resource management at Grand Canyon National Park as the latest “U.S. World Heritage Fellow” sponsored by the National Park Service with support from the United Nations Foundation and the National Park Foundation.
Mr Zulu works for the National Heritage Conservation Commission as the site manager for Victoria Falls National Park, Zambia’s only World Heritage site. Located on the Zambezi River, the falls sit astride the Zambia-Zimbabwe border and are designated a transboundary World Heritage site. …
More Electricity, but at what price to the Environment?
In the news this week was the planned hydroelectric scheme on the Kalungwishi River. This scheme has been rumbling for many years and has probably not happened because of its cost which is said to be around US$650million. Now, though, demand from the Copperbelt is pushing the project forwards.
The project will include two power plants – one at Kundabwika Falls (for 151MW) and the other at Kabwelume Falls (for 96MW). They will, of course, come along with huge transmission lines marching to the National Grid in Kasama.
The government ministers from the northern region have been pushing for development in their areas for many years and this development is seen as crucial by them. However, the power is not expected to be used for the local economy or its people; it is for the mines and for export to the Congo. There may, of course, be some spin-off to the local economy. It is expected that 1,200 jobs will be created during the construction phase.
When the project is completed (expected to be 2016), the local people will have lost two National Heritage Sites and will be left with massive power lines criss-crossing their environment overhead as they continue to languish powerless – in both senses …
If we remember a few years ago, the government decided to upgrade roads and facilities to the north of Zambia in order to increase its tourist potential. It is called the Northern Circuit. The waterfalls along the Kalungwishi River have recently been ‘sold’ by the Zambia Tourist Board (ZTB) to the outside world as tourist attractions in their push to market the Northern Circuit. These waterfalls include Kundabwika and Kabweluma Falls. Also marketed by ZTB are Lumangwe Falls, 5 kilometres away from Kabwelume Falls.
Tourism unfortunately is always seen as the ugly sister in Zambia’s push for development; National Heritage coming a close second in the ugly sister stakes. Tourism is a slow process and requires huge effort in protecting the environment. Mining, however, gives the government a quick return and already Zambia has benefitted … financially …
I am on the side of the ugly sisters because I can see that tourism will benefit generations to come. Maybe we will have to think of what we want Zambia to be in 50 years time and not look at instant gratification. Just a thought …
Kundabikwa Falls according to National Heritage: Above the falls the river flows gently through a dambo (marshy valley), but in the last kilometre it has a steeply sloping gorge containing two small waterfalls. The main fall is some twenty-five metres high and, during the flood season, extends to a width of seventy metres. Below the falls the river flows through a small, thickly wooded gorge.
From Zambia Tourism: A revered shrine for local people. There is a traditional custodian appointed by the Chief who looks after the area. Locals believe that ignoring ritual and prayer at the falls brings about bad luck.
Lumangwe, by Stephen Robinson
Lumangwe Falls from Zambia Tourism: These falls are quite magnificent … The Falls are said to be the home of the Great Snake Spirit called Lumangwe. In the olden days, this snake was said to have stretched itself between the Lumangwe and Kabweluma Falls ….
From National Heritage: The (Lumangwe) falls are of some grandeur, being thirty metres high and over a hundred metres in width. They nourish a small rain forest. There is a pleasant sandy beach below the falls … They are a miniature Victoria Falls; the smoke, thunder, rain, etc.
Kabweluma Falls from Zambia Tourism:
Five kms down the Kalungwishi river from the Lumangwe Falls you’ll find this group of three powerful cascades, each spilling into the next. The Kabwelume Falls are a revered shrine for the local people. Many frogs are seen here which locals say they are the earthly forms of snake spirits. The Spirits do not allow the building of houses or any frivolity nearby. Beneath the falls there is a thickly wooded ravine and some ancient paintings adorning nearby rock faces beneath a permanent rainbow.
Kabwelume Falls by Stephen Robinson.
It looks as if it is doom and gloom for our wonderful natural heritage and tourism in this area of the Northern Province.
One assumes there has to be an environmental impact assessment. Let us hope that all sides get the chance to air their views.
However, there may be some light if Zambia considers another strategy for electricity generation. In September ZESCO is attending a workshop in South Africa: Hydropower Africa 2011. At this conference small hydro schemes will be looked at. Here is a comment from Nicolaas Loretz, project director of Hydropower Africa:
Small scale hydro power systems can be installed in small rivers or streams with little or no discernible environmental effects. Most small and micro scale hydro power systems make no use of a dam or major water diversions. Despite the growing demand for power in the region, Sub Saharan Africa’s small hydro potential still remains largely untapped due to a number of reasons, such as the lack of funding and high grid interconnection costs. …
Small, mini and macro hydropower will be addressed in two separate tracks and the emphasis will be on investment prospects for hydro generation projects and how to attract private investment for these projects – particularly in Africa.
In-depth discussions will feature case studies on operation and maintenance best practices and a practical workshop on how to develop small hydropower projects.
For us in Livingstone we see the effects of diverting water from the Victoria Falls for power generation. For much of the year it does not matter, but by November we have no water coming over the falls on the Zambian side; ZESCO eats the lot and our tourists are very disappointed.
I hear too that Batoka Dam is still on the drawing board but it is more and more being thought that big dams are not a way forward for power generation either. When the Kariba Dam was built thousands of Tonga people lost their livelihoods and still, to this day, complain. Recently we experienced an earth tremor in Kariba, some saying that it was the weight of all the water in the dam which may have caused it.
Go to Lochinvar and see the state of the park which has been ruined by the lack of seasonal flooding because of Itezhi-Tezhi dam upstream.
Were ZESCO to consider alternatives like small-scale hydro schemes, or solar, we may be able to save our environment and still have electricity. Could we have our cake and eat it too? Yes, we can, but only if we think of Zambia’s future.