Protecting Walvis Bay’s natural and human environment

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Walvis Bay lagoon www.tala.com.na

The Walvis Bay Local Agenda 21 Project (WB LA21), a three-year project concerned with both the environment and the development of Walvis Bay, is now close to its halfway mark. The project began in May 2001, and is funded by the Danish government and the Municipality of Walvis Bay. It is housed at the Municipality, and is spearheaded by the Municipality’s new three-person Environmental Management Section. Other officials in the Municipality are involved in the project work with local stakeholders from the community and industry, as well as with national and regional government. The Danish engineering and planning company COWI-AS and its partners on the project, including DHI Water and Environment and the Danish Municipality of Hillerod, provide technical assistance.

The project is aimed at achieving a workable balance between managing and protecting Walvis Bay’s natural and human environment and promoting the harbour town’s economic and social development. Such a balance needs to be struck to assure that the citizens of Walvis Bay continue to benefit from their environment for generations to come – the real challenge and measure of sustainable development.

The project team, stakeholders and many participants in the town are thus concerned about the environment as well as development, at the same time and not separately. The concern to protect fragile and precious desert and marine ecosystems is matched with similar concerns to conserve water and energy, and to ensure that town residents have decent livelihoods, services and sanitation, and are living in a healthy fashion.

Accordingly, the overall goal with WB LA21 in the three-year period is to successfully develop policies and action plans for the environmental management of the Walvis Bay area in line with the Local Agenda 21 approach for local people to work together towards the sustainable development of their areas. To demonstrate that these policies and plans can work, they are being brought to life simultaneously with a series of practical activities that actively involve citizens of Walvis Bay and their many institutions.

Focus areas of WB LA21

The project has four focus areas:

• Developing an integrated environmental policy (the directions to take in managing the natural and urban environment) and strategy (how this is to be achieved with practical activities) in collaboration with the Muni-cipality and citizens of Walvis Bay;

• Studying the Walvis Bay Coastal Area (the Lagoon, Pelican Point and the Bay) in order to develop a management plan to ensure that this area is conserved and developed in such a way that it benefits all local citizens;

• Setting up sources of funding at the Municipality of Walvis Bay to ensure that the local environment is protected, managed and improved in the future; and

• Working with local citizens and businesses, and institutions such as schools and community groups, on small-scale LA21 projects. These will create awareness of the mutual responsibility to protect and manage the environment – and provide experience in doing so.

Current status of the project

The following progress has been made with WB LA21:

A draft integrated environmental policy has been work-shopped by the Municipality, and presented to Walvis Bay residents at a well-attended Com-munity Information Session in July 2002. The policy – which is focused on eight key sectors of environmental management, in-cluding the coastal area – acts as an overarching framework. It incorporates general policy directions inspired by LA21 principles, tools that will facilitate implementation, and a strategy for implementation in the medium term. It will be submitted to the Walvis Bay Council for adoption during September.

Many of the project’s most visible activities have focused on the Coastal Area Study. The first phase of the study – collecting data to understand the current situation – was completed in early 2002. Much equipment was installed to measure the conditions in the coastal area. Wind speeds were recorded at the Pelican Point lighthouse, and water levels measured at four locations in the bay and the lagoon, as were currents and waves off Pelican Point and inside the bay. The coastal area was mapped with the assistance of Namibian land surveyors. The project team also mapped the seabed in the coastal area, focusing on the lagoon, and collected water and seabed samples to assess the ecology of the coastal area and the impacts of polluting substances.

The data collected at that time have been used in the past months to develop a computer model that illustrates current conditions in the bay. This model will be used to assess the natural and human causes of the silting up of the Walvis Bay Lagoon, which threatens its abundant bird life, as well as the consequences of a possible breaching of Pelican Point, and the impact of the sources that pollute the bay’s water.

The initial results of the study will be presented to Walvis Bay stakeholders in August 2002. A second round of modelling will then determine the potential consequences of a number of scenarios that can affect conditions in the bay. These scenarios are to be selected by local stakeholders themselves, with the assistance of the consultant team. The modelling process will provide the technical knowledge to enable the development of a Coastal Area Management Plan early in 2003. This action plan will be aimed at ensuring that the major issues – siltation, pollution and breaching – are addressed properly by collectively allocating the requisite responsibilities and resources to all the interested parties. In this way, the coastal area – the lagoon and bay – will hopefully become a real long-term asset for all of Walvis Bay’s citizens.

The Municipality’s tariff system has been assessed and redesigned to create ways to save scarce resources such as water and energy and to fund environmental management ac-tivities. This work has been incorporated in the Municipali-ty’s recently passed 2002/2003 budget. In particular, while domestic water tariff increases were kept to a minimum, a three-tariff sliding scale was introduced for industry to encourage water savings. A proposal for an Environmental Fund to finance environmental management ac-tivities has also been tabled. It is anticipated that tariff revenues will contribute to the fund, which is to be finalised later in the year.

In line with the policy process, and framed by the environmental policy, several small- to medium-scale LA21 environmental projects have been designed by the project team and are now being moved into implementation. These projects are aimed at actively involving the citizens of Walvis Bay to raise awareness, conserve resources, improve the condition of the environment and environmental health, and build skills and experience in environmental management. These projects involve:

• Municipal staff encouraging the use of a small fleet of bicycles donated by project partner, Hillerod Municipality, and the recycling of paper in municipal offices and facilities;

• Residents in the town for the installation of water-saving equipment in houses and institutions;

• Staff and users of Kuisebmond’s municipal Multipurpose Centre, with the creation of a Green Corner as an information centre on the environment and its management, and the concurrent development of a vegetable garden;

• Staff and learners at Walvis Bay’s schools to develop a locally-relevant environmental education curriculum, and an eco-classroom for learners to experience their natural environment;

• Recreation and tourism companies and associations (angling, quad-biking, paragliding, etc) and conservation authorities in the sensitive coastal plain and dune-belt area between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund to develop a workable management plan for the area; and

• The workforce and management of fish-processing factories in a training-in-cleaner-production initiative, directed to a large degree at reducing water usage in the production process, thus saving money for companies and minimising the flow of effluent into the bay.

Other projects – recycling facilities, the design of better sanitation facilities for shack dwellers, guidelines for environmentally aware development, and an air-quality study and initiative – are also on the agenda for WB LA21.

This article appeared in the 2002 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.

 

 

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