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Coast-to-coast parks plan for 2010 tourisis

27 September 2006

TRAVELLING from coast to coast in national and transfrontier parks is what visitors to South Africa for the 2010 soccer World Cup can look forward to.

This tourist plan was announced by environmental affairs and tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk at the 75th anniversary celebrations of the former Kalahari Gemsbok Park in the Northern Cape.

The minister said while 2010 was not an "end-all and be-all" target date for government, it was an important milestone when tens of thousands of tourists were expected to descend on the country

"We aim to, by then, have a coast-to-coast transfrontier park model on the table. "On the West Coast, we have the West Coast national park, which we are working very hard to make an international product. From there, people must be able to visit the Ai Ai/Richtersveld national park, they must be able to come to the Kgalagadi (transfrontier park), then be able to go up to the Great Limpopo (transfrontier) park of which the Kruger national park forms part, and then they must be able to continue to the East Coast through the Lebombo park of which St Lucia is part. This will be a unique product."

But, says his spokesman Riaan Aucamp, this does not mean that all national and trans-frontier parks in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were to be linked to form one, continuous protected area.

"They are not to be completely linked. The minister was talking about a development corridor. This is only a route that tourists will be able to follow," said Aucamp, pointing out it would also include the newly-proclaimed Limpopo/Sashe transfrontier park and the still-to-be-proclaimed Maluti/Drakensberg transfrontier park.

Celebrating the milestone reached by the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, now known as the Kgalagadi transfrontier park, Van Schalkwyk pointed out government had spent R214 million since 1994 to purchase 380 OOOha of land to enlarge national parks and make them more financially viable.

Over the next three years government would spend R175m buying additional land. "This week a senior delegation visited the Eastern Cape to talk to the people about finalising plans for a national park to be established there," he said. This is believed to be the new Pondoland national park.

Government would, in the next three years, invest R395m in infrastructure in the parks. But the money would have to be used in such a way that it created jobs for communities living adjacent or close to national parks, and developed the skills of those communities. All attempts should be made to ensure that it did not end up in the hands of large corporations.

Accommodation in parks would also be upgraded so visitors could enjoy modern facilities.

Sunday Argus - 24 September 2006Eleanor Momberg