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Zimparks campsites project faces resistance

BY CHIEDZA KOWO ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has come under pressure from a Victoria Falls-based wildlife rights campaign group to immediately stop the construction of top-end leisure facilities in concessions reserved for public campsites. The concession lies at the heart of the Zambezi National Park, which encompasses wildlife rich estates upstream of the mighty Victoria Falls. Together with the nearby Victoria Falls National Park, the two forests cover about 56 000 hectares. They are some of southern Africa’s most protected and attractive wildlife estates that generate millions in foreign currency for Zimbabwe, and trigger an outcry once authorities attempt to disturb them. The attractiveness of the vast forests is derived from the presence of a variety of wild animals including the Big Five, which are part of 75 species roaming the area, the Zimbabwean stretch of the world-acclaimed Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park. It makes the concession a big attraction for authorities to lease out and raise foreign currency. But conflicts arise when these leases are grabbed by rich corporations and powerful individuals to develop them and attract foreign currency paying international tourists and hunters. NewsDay heard yesterday that along with the legal action, a campaign dubbed Save Siansimba has been launched to force ZimParks to stop the changes it is effecting. In a statement released at the weekend, Save Siansimba said ZimParks wanted to upgrade several of the campsites in the next six months to pave way for big investors. The campaign claimed that ZimParks could not claim to be short of funds when it generated about US$8,5 million annually from the Victoria Falls Rainforest alone. “While the case is yet to be heard in Zimbabwe’s courts, (ZimParks) has chosen to disregard the case brought against them and continue to allocate pristine wilderness to private developers,” the campaign said. “Not only is this a violation of the public’s rights, but these camps will also increase human and vehicle traffic into these wild areas considerably. And whilst some human presence has proved to stop anti-poaching and increase the number of wild animals in the area, too many of them will soon have an adverse effect. National Parks claims they are leasing land as a solution to economic hardships but many argue that this is short-termism which was unsustainable and irreversible,” said Save Siansimba. ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said he could not comment since the matter was before the courts.  Follow us on Twitter @NewsDayZimbabwe

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