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The Southern African country of Namibia has been high on Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI’s) business and biodiversity agenda since early 2011. Both Pippa Howard and Dave Wright of FFI’s Business and Biodiversity team have posted blogs where they laud the dramatic beauty and high level of biodiversity of the Namib desert’s varying landscapes, as well as outlining some of the challenges facing the long term sustainability of the Central Namib in the light of short-term developments such as uranium mining.
All those that have visited this part of the world have developed their own special affinity with the place and everyone agrees that the sustainable development of this ancient and unique desert is essential.
In April 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, through its Strengthening Protected Areas Network programme commissioned FFI to undertake a Landscape Level Assessment (LLA) of key biodiversity vulnerability and land-use within the uranium province in the Central Namib in collaboration with international and local specialists.
The LLA initiative arose out of a seminal piece of work that was completed in 2010 – the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Central Namib Uranium Rush. This assessment highlights the multitude of positive and negative impacts associated with different development scenarios. It also provides a number of recommendations in the form of a strategic environmental management plan which, if implemented, will address the key gaps as is necessary to support sustainable and responsible development of uranium mining in the Central Namib, for the benefit of all its inhabitants.
This includes the need for a landscape assessment of biodiversity in the Erongo region and the identification of biodiversity priority areas in the landscape.
The LLA is employing a systematic conservation planning approach to develop a decision support tool that will:
The LLA is producing a series of maps and data sets that will help us to better understand the impacts of uranium mining and other developments for the environment and identify where conservation priorities and other land uses may be found within the landscape.
The planning tool is being complemented by an economic valuation of different land uses and natural assets in terms of direct use values.
One of the uranium mine managers once said to me: “The problem with the environment is that is such a hard sale.”
When decision makers are faced with a choice between short-term development initiatives (like mines or heavy industry) versus longer-term sustainable livelihoods or conservation of priority biodiversity areas, we need to have persuasive arguments underpinned by verifiable data.
We believe that the outputs from this assessment, coupled with the work of the Namibian Coastal Management Initiative (NACOMA), will give biodiversity a stronger position in the debate and make a meaningful contribution towards the sustainable management of the Central Namib landscape for the benefit of both people and biodiversity.
It is hoped that the tool will not only help identify sites of high ecological and/or socio-cultural value that should be designated as ‘no-go’ areas for development today and in the future, but also contribute to more sustainable land-use planning and prioritisation of developments and help give biodiversity conservation a stronger mandate in sustainable development discussions.
An article in The Namibian on 17 November 2011, explains that the Minister of Environment, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, has begun serious preparations to bid for the opportunity to become the destination of 600 top-class tour operators from around the world to showcase the country and its environment.
She believes that Namibia has an excellent chance of leading the bidders because of the country’s unrivalled efforts to link conservation and tourism. We hope that the LLA will help to support this initiative moving forward.
When decision makers are faced with a choice between short-term development initiatives versus longer-term sustainable livelihoods or conservation of priority biodiversity areas, we need to have persuasive arguments underpinned by verifiable data.
Technical Advisor, Business & Biodiversity