Namibia was the first country in the world to include the protection of the environment in its constitution.
Article 95 states: The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting … policies aimed at … maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilisation of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.
The IUCN prescribes that at least 10% of a country’s surface area be set aside for conservation purposes.
Namibia has exceeded this recommendation in that approximately 40 % of the country’s surface area is protected, either as a national park, game reserve, or other form of state protected area.
These parks and conservation areas are managed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and represent most of the main vegetation zones in Namibia, from the dune seas of the Namib and the dwarf scrub savannah of Etosha to the species–rich flood plains of Kavango and the Eastern Caprivi. Including private and communal conservation areas, the broader conservation network covers about 41% of the country.
The protection of rare and endangered species was boosted in 1972, when the Waterberg Plateau Park was proclaimed a sanctuary and breeding ground for animals such as white rhino, eland, buffalo, roan and sable antelope and tsessebe. Protection of the black rhino in the western arid regions gained momentum in the early eighties. Today Namibia is one of the few countries in Africa with growing populations of the highly endangered black rhino, within as well as outside national parks.
Namibia’s coast is one of the country’s most important assets.
Marine resources are heavily utilised and the first Marine Protected Area was established in 2009, stretching 400 km along the coast and 30 km offshore, incorporating 10 islands.
This will soon be expanded to the entire coastline (excluding towns), for proclamation as the Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park.
Once proclaimed, this park will be the eighth largest in the world and the largest in Africa.
Namibia is party to a number of international environmental treaties, demonstrating the country’s commitment to environmental conservation at home and in the global context. Namibia accedes to treaties dealing with issues such as biodiversity, climate change, desertification, the ozone layer, trade in endangered species and the protection of wetlands.
The Environmental Management Act of 2007 is a yardstick to evaluate the environmental consequences of development plans, programmes and projects in Namibia. The Act provides, amongst others, the first comprehensive framework for environmental-impact assessment procedures in Namibia, and is an essential step towards sustainable development.
In the private sector several NGOs assist Government in conservation and development. These include the Namibia Nature Foundation, Save the Rhino Trust, Cheetah Conserva-tion Fund, AfriCat Foundation, and the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations, an association comprising 15 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the University of Namibia (UNAM).
A number of game ranches and lodges focus especially on the conservation of certain species of wildlife on their farms. The largest private conservation area in Namibia is the Namib-Rand Game Reserve, an area of 180 000 ha situated south of Sesriem-. Others are the Gondwana Cañon Park in the south, the Huab Private Nature Reserve in the north-west, and AfriCat North in the north.
A total of 161 private game reserves are registered with the MET. Because Namibia’s fragile environment is one of the country’s most significant and vulnerable assets, the focus in current and future tourism projects is on the development of high-quality tourism with low numbers of visitors. Ecotourism, which entails taking small groups of people on nature-oriented tours into wilderness areas without harming the environment, is on the increase. Developments with a minimal impact on the environment are becoming increasingly popular and sought after by tourists.