THE proclamation of the Dorob National Park along the coast – extending from the Ugab River in the north to Sandwich Harbour in the south – on December 1 led to stricter law enforcement over the festive season.
The proclamation has given the Ministry of Environment and Tourism the power to enforce laws pertaining to environmental conservation along the coast.
For years now the Ministry, with the assistance of the Namibia Coastal Conservation Management Project (Nacoma), had been fighting a losing battle against illegal off-road driving at the coast.
Prior to the proclamation of the park, there had been rules and regulations, but they could not be properly enforced.
“In the past people wanted the ministry to have teeth to protect the environment from quad bikes and littering and all kinds of destructive activities. Now there are those that are suddenly unhappy about the ministry being able to enforce the laws,” Nacoma coordinator Rod Braby told The Namibian.
There are many who feel that the new park is restricting their freedom of movement.
The Namibian heard from several sources of people who were threatened, fined or expelled from areas previously open to the public because they did not have a permit for the park.
In some cases people walking their dogs, or riding horses, in the Swakop River were requested to “leave the park” or face the consequences.
In other incidents, anglers were told to go home because they were allegedly not allowed to stay “in the park” after sundown.
Boniface Sichombe, the ministry’s acting head in Erongo, acknowledged that law enforcement was better this year than iin previous years, but he would not elaborate. He also could not say how many fines were issued.
“I cannot say much. We first have to get all the information from all the officers in the field and then send a report to our director. This should take place by next week,” he said.
But according to Norbert Sadlowski, “One of the joys of living at the coast has always been that we have the freedom of the desert right on our doorstep. When the hustle and the bustle of the town becomes too much, you can just take a step, or a drive, and find yourself enjoying the desert as it has been for centuries. Suddenly now we wake up to find that our desert is no longer available to us.”
Some people complained that “human freedom” was being restricted because of the “wellbeing of a bird” – the Damara Tern.
Others said only a few tour operators were given the right to move within the park, while the majority of local people could not enjoy this benefit.
“What people must realise is that two thirds of the dune belt is given to people to do as they wish. The other one third is protected. Now people are complaining about the one third and not seeing the two thirds they are able to move in,” a local operator commented.
“Prior to the proclamation, the public never had such a large area to move in.”
Although over-zealous implementation of park rules were seen as spoiling some people’s holidays, many others said they enjoyed their holidays more because of the better law enforcement.