Developments are in the wind at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape, South Africa. If you love that place as much as I do, you need to know about them so you can have your say and make your voice heard in the public participation process currently under way.
For me, the fact that the notice manages to get the name of the park wrong, as well as the spelling of both Gharagab and Craig Lockhart, doesn’t bode well. But let’s leave that aside and focus on the big issues.
First let me say that I've visited the park more than 25 times over the past 20 years and I'm not against development at any cost. In fact, I love the wilderness camps at Kielie Krankie and Grootkolk, so I can't exactly claim all recent developments have been bad!
However, I have seen over the years how this arid park struggles with roads, water, sanitation and maintenance in general, so I have to ask: if maintenance of existing facilities is already problematic, how will this be managed if even more facilities and more tourists have to be catered for?
One obvious concern is the roads. Currently it's argued that the sand roads are graded once a month and dragged once a week, but my experience and that of other regular KTP visitors doesn't bear that out. There have been long periods during which Nossob, for instance, hasn't seen a single grader, although the road north to Polentswa and south to Dikbaardskolk does seem to be dragged fairly regularly – unless, of course, weather and tractor problems prevent that from happening!
But it has to be stressed that there is only the one road to travel on along the Nossob River; you either go North or South of Nossob, that's it. (To the west, there's also only one road along the Auob River.)
Animal sightings are likely to be affected because in the busy season a possible 20 extra vehicles are going to be staying at Nossob and at least another 3 at Gharagab (not to mention those already passing through to Botswana via Nossob).
Similarly, on the Auob River side, we're looking at a minimum of another 10 vehicles on roads already under stress since the building of Urikaruus, Kielie Krankie, the Kalahari Tented Camp and the new thatched chalets at Mata Mata, not to mention through-traffic from Bitterpan, and through-traffic between Twee Rivieren and Mata Mata since the reopening of the Namibian border.
If people are leaving Kruger National Park and going elsewhere due to the traffic and congestion, imagine how much worse it could be at KTP with more traffic but a very limited road infrastructure.
There’s a certain type of person who comes to the KTP; if it becomes overdeveloped, I'm concerned that the park might be targeting a completely different tourist, far less sensitive to the fragility of the semi-desert ecosystem of KTP than those who currently visit. This may add an extra environmental burden.
There are also environmental concerns about water, which is already in short supply and of seriously dubious quality. Where is all the water for some 60 or more people going to come from? And that's working on just two people per chalet or campsite, whereas we all know that up to six people are allowed to share a campsite. (Note that I’m using very conservative figures: if we work on six people and two cars per campsite, the new developments could mean as many as 56 extra cars and 158 people in the park daily!)
Particularly worrying is that around two-thirds of these extra visitors will be at Nossob alone, and already people who visit in peak season know that sewage has to be pumped daily, toilets don't flush properly, drains push up and there's a constant stench of sewage around the camp.
Finally, where and how will all the extra rubbish that another 60–158 people generate be dumped/disposed of? As far as I know, the current system relies on landfills.
See the full Environmental Impact Assessment Public Participation Notice here.
If you want to contribute to the public participation process, make sure that you use the
NEAS Reference: DEAT/EIA/0000532/2011 and send your comments before March 15 to:
Pieter De Lange
PO Box 177, Woodlands, 0072
Tel (012) 991 5399
Fax 086 588 4242
Cell 082 571 5396
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