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SOS Rhino : In the News : National Parks, governor headed for clash

National Parks, governor headed for clash


Staff Reporter
3/27/03 11:18:42 AM (GMT +2)
Financial Gazette, South Africa

A TEAM of wildlife and agricultural experts has been dispatched to Hurungwe Safari Area to assess whether the Mashonaland West wildlife sanctuary will be affected by a government irrigation project that is supposed to grow winter crops to alleviate food shortages, it was learnt this week.

Environmentalists said the team comprised officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Authority, the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) and the Agricultural Rural Extension Services (AREX).

The environmental experts, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Financial Gazette that the team had established that the sanctuary, located in the lower Zambezi valley, was a National Parks managed area.

They said the team would compile a report that would outline the potential impact on the safari area of the Nuanetsi irrigation project, under which the government has contracted a Chinese company to develop 100 000 hectares of land.

Environmentalists say the Hurungwe Safari Area could be ploughed through under the irrigation project, which would affect the wildlife within the sanctuary.

The safari area is a sanctuary for cheetahs, leopards, elephants and black rhino, among other wildlife.
Sources said a report by the ARDA-National Parks-AREX team could be submitted to the Environmental Ministry in the next few days.

“A team comprising ARDA, National Parks officers and AREX was sent to the area and their conclusion is that this ploughing should not happen,” one source said.

“After the investigations, it has now been established that this programme is going to affect the Hurungwe Safari Area and a report will be submitted to the minister of environment sometime this week.”

Environment and Tourism Minister Francis Nhema this week confirmed that a team of investigators had been sent to the Hurungwe Safari Area, but said no firm decision had been taken on the matter.

“A team of investigators was sent to the area to see if indeed part of the National Parks was affected by the food initiative,” he told the Financial Gazette.

“They have prepared a report, but I have not seen it as yet. I will be getting it any time and then we will make a firm decision.”

However, Mashonaland West Governor Peter Chanetsa said the findings of the investigators would have no impact on the irrigation project.

He said: “We will continue to plough, what do you want us to do? The reason for this programme is irrigation, and it would save us a lot money on the import bill because money that was supposed to be used to import maize would be used for something else, like the importation of cooking oil.”

The government says the Nuanetsi irrigation project will alleviate food insecurity in Zimbabwe, where close to eight million people are in need of emergency food aid because of shortages resulting from drought and a controversial land reform programme.

Low agricultural output has forced the government to import food to avert starvation, a programme that has been hampered by the country’s severe foreign currency shortages.

Meanwhile, Chanetsa said sugar cane producers had operated for several years close to the Hurungwe Safari Area without affecting the sanctuary.

“Other companies who used to irrigate their sugar-cane, how were they surviving?” he said.

“There is a lot of water in that area from the Zambezi, so we will continue with our plans,” Chanetsa added.

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