© Koos van der Lende
© Koos van der Lende
Border in two-country park soon to be open

16 September 2005

Border crossing by ferry will be soon available south of Rosh Pinah at Sendelingsdrift on the Orange.

Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park in southern Namibia and north-western South Africa will soon be a cross-border park in practice as well. Experts from both countries met at Caon Village on 12 and 13 May 2005 to discuss steps for making the park more accessible to tourism. Concrete talks are currently being held about opening the border crossing at Sendelingsdrift on the Gariep/Orange River to establish a direct link between the parks. Both countries confirmed the joint conservation area in an agreement in August 2003.

The meeting concluded that more data is needed on geology, climate, plants and animals, but also on the population and land utilisation. "We extended the research area to include the entire lower course of the Gariep/Orange", Dr Fanuel Demas, Deputy Director of the Planning Department in Namibia's Ministry for Environment and Tourism, explained. Thus a 30-km-strip both north and south of the river, from its mouth right up to Augrabis Falls near Upington, is now included. At the meeting Demas was joined by 17 others, among them representatives of both countries' Ministry for the Environment and Tourism, national parks, the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), the Biodiversity Monitoring Transect Analysis (BIOTA) and experts in geology, soil, water and fisheries as well as delegates from local communities.

The Gariep Transfrontier Study Group was formed for collecting data. It answers to the Joint Management Board of both countries which in turn reports to the office of PPF Project Co-ordinator Peet van der Walt in Pretoria. A large part of the financing may possibly be secured through the BIOTA Project. Sponsored by the German Ministry for Education and Science and supported by South Africa (Directorate for Science & Technology and the National Research Foundation) and Namibia (Ministries for Environment and Tourism as well as Agriculture) it has been compiling extensive data on the biodiversity in southern Africa for years. "This initiative would fit in perfectly with BIOTA's phase III, which is about putting findings into action", BIOTA Chairman Prof. Norbert Jrgens said. Decisions about possible subsidies are expected shortly.

Data on the land bordering the Gariep River's lower course is intended for zoning: sections may be set aside for possible mining activities; some parts might be put under special protection due to the diversity or occurrence of unique plants and animals; others may be ideally suited for tourism. The interests of local communities are also important. The border crossing point at Sendelingsdrift south of Rosh Pinah holds a pivotal position for tourism. There is a simple ferry which may only be used by special permission since Namibia's independence in 1990. This is about to change. "We are looking into registering and insuring the ferry", Fanual Demas announced. "The mining companies Scorpion Zinc, Rosh Pinah and Namdeb have offered to finance a building with offices for border officials and nature conservation staff."

The border crossing point would shorten the connection between the Namibian and the South African part of Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park by about 300 km. Since currently the border has to be crossed at Noordoewer, the distance from Ai-Ais to Sendelingsdrift via Steinkopf, Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay is around 450 km, whereas it is only about 160 km from the Namibian side. But the ferry could also open a totally new route from Cape Town along the West Coast and across Richtersveld into southern Namibia.

Two parks of the Gondwana Desert Collection are particularly suited as a starting point or destination on the Namibian side: Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park near Aus (120 km north of Rosh Pinah and about 150 km from Sendelingsdrift)

For more information, visit

Gondwana Desert Collection - 14 May 2005Sven Kanzler

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