Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Tourist camps face demolition in Okavango Delta

A number of tourism establishments, such as camps built with mortar bricks in the Okavango Delta, are facing demolition following the Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP) recommendations.

Some camps have since been demolished, amid fears that their licences would be revoked for failure to adhere to the recommendations, after the ODMP recommended that such structures were an eyesore in the Delta.

The Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Portia Segomelo, confirmed that the ODMP, which is tasked with the responsibility to develop a comprehensive conservation and sustainable use of the inland, came up with such guidelines.

Segomelo noted that the ODMP recommended that the temporary structures for accommodation facilities should be erected rather than the mortar bricks.

She said that, currently, they are a few camps built of mortar bricks that have not been demolished.

“The guidelines and recommendations were put in place to safeguard the ecosystem. It is important that if they are any such structures they should not affect the status of the delta,” added.
Segomelo further stated that a number of tourists camps have been demolished in the Delta, adding that there was a need to get rid of the mortar bricks structures to keep the status of the wilderness.

The Director of the Department of Tourism, Arabang Kanego, also stated that she was aware that most of the owners were respecting the ODMP recommendations.

Kanego also confirmed that Okuti Camp, owned by a private company, Ker and Downery, in the Moremi Game Reserve, was demolished following the recommendations.

Kanego explained that the owners of the private camp have since rehabilitated the area and that the company has since been given the go ahead to build a temporary structure after it complied with the recommendations.

Kanego, however, indicated that the Tawana Land Board and the Department of Wildlife have been advised to adhere to recommendations when allocating plots for tourism development.

She said that Tawana Land Board is currently using the recommendations when allocating land for tourism developments outside the protected areas, such as game reserve.

Kanego also noted that the Department of Wildlife is also enforcing such recommendations whenever allocating leases for tourism developments in the protected and wildlife management areas.

She said that she and her ministry were hopeful that some of the owners of tourism establishments made out of mortar bricks would also adhere to recommendations.

Kanego, however, pointed out that Tsaro Lodge in Khwai Village will be the only tourism establishment in the Delta that will not be demolished, adding that the lodge, which is owned by a community trust, will not be destroyed since Khwai Village was declared a village.

Okavango Research Institute’s Professor Joseph Mbaiwa was happy that a number of camps were complying with the recommendations to ensure that the buildings do not conflict with the environment aspect.

He said that any new project in the delta will have to follow the recommendations.
Mbaiwa was happy that companies have shown commitment in complying with the recommendations, stating that it was a good move “because the area is a sensitive area”.

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