THE ZAMBIA Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) announced recently that it will offer Tourism Concession Agreements (TCAs) of between 15,000 to 45,000 hectares of land in national parks to property developers. “We want big hotels and lodges in national parks,” the Director-General of ZAWA, Dr Lewis Saiwana was reported as saying.
Now this reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh tracking what he thought was a Woozle. You will recall Pooh telling Piglet that he was tracking something.
“Tracking what?” said Piglet, coming closer.
“That’s just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?”
“What do you think you’ll answer?”
“I shall have to wait until I catch up with it,” said Winnie-the-Pooh
The Woozle Authority is beleaguered, bankrupt and woozeless. Have they not forgotten their defeat at the battle of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, their 18 hole golf course and 350 chalets crushed by the elephantine boots of public opinion? Why do we need big hotels and lodges in national parks? Is this not all about making money for ZAWA and nothing about conservation? ZAWA, as people have now come to learn, is a statutory body, one described in a recent consultants report as having little experience or competence and with business analysis skills which need to be outsourced. Yet it is developing business plans for these proposed concessions, which appear mirrored on those of the Kruger National Park in South Africa. And what of that scheme to make money in the heart of darkness?
In August of 2007, in South Africa’s National Assembly, the Democratic Alliance’s Mr G. R. Morgan asked the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism a number of questions on the 11 Kruger National Park concessions handed out to developers; one of these was as follows: ‘Whether, in the case of each private concession, the fees collected by SANParks in the last reporting year outweighed the monetary value of the environmental impacts of the concession; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details?’
The answer he got was a woozle: ‘All private concession areas were zoned following stringent environmental guidelines that are meticulously managed by SANParks. Tourism activities in conservation areas will always have an environmental impact, regardless of whether the tourism activity is managed by a Private Operator or by the state. SANParks has indicated that they do not have a model to calculate on an annual basis the extent of what the member is asking and to the best of their knowledge such a model does not exist.’
Pooh could not have put it better.
South Africa, with a scientific establishment of note, is in darkness, its developers spewing out EIAs for get-rich schemes which are rarely monitored or costed - just have a look at the February 2008 issue of Noseweek magazine for a number of examples. The admission by SANParks that it has not got a clue how to monitor and cost the environmental degradation of a tourism development is staggering. How then would little old Zambia monitor and control the many concessions to be handed out in our 19 national parks? The Environmental Council of Zambia cannot keep up with the pollution spewing out of the mines, let alone a plague of large hotels.
When I helped Lewis Saiwana five years ago with the guidelines for the partnerships so very necessary to protect our national parks and usher in appropriate development, our shared vision was of partnerships with the private sector and NGOs which would impact little on the parks’ ecology, and that would have a maximum beneficial impact on the bushfolk who live outside the parks. Clearly, mammonist ZAWA, its Board and parent Ministry of Tourism, have lost the track. It’s all about divergence: which way did the Woozle go?