Issues

 Victoria Falls Enviro Watch (VFEW) has been involved in all of, but not limited to, the following issues. Some of them are ongoing and some have been completed.

  • Abseil Operation
    • Date: 6/6/18
    • Issue: A permanent structure was built inside the Victoria Falls National park, close to Danger Point, to host a new abseiling operation. Building in the RED ZONE of this World Heritage site and National Park is not allowed and sets a dangerous precedent for future developments. It is a very obvious and unsightly structure.
    • Action Taken: VFEW is not necessarily opposed to the abseil activity, as it could potentially be a good product, without having an adverse effect on the environment. What it is opposed to, is the development of a structure within the red zone of this world heritage site.
    • VFEW met with Abseil owners, Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA). The abseil owners insisted that they had all the relevant paperwork and approvals. VFEW obtained confirmation from EMA that they approved the operation, without the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be done. But this approval and condition was only for the activity and not for a structure to be built. It remains unclear from ZPWMA's, certainly at a local level, as to who permitted the structure to be built. After obtaining intervention from World Heritage, efforts are underway by owners and parks to disguise the structure, to fit in more with the environment.

  • Tree Chopping on Gibson Road
    • Date: 10/12/18
    • Issue: Residents reported that council were chopping a mature acacia tree down on the corner of Gibson Road opposite the backpacker's lodge.
    • Action Taken: VFEW contacted the Town Clerk (Ronnie Dube) immediately, to establish the reasoning behind this action.  It appeared that the root system of the tree was causing problems with the drainage system in the area. However, the tree was not chopped down and instead the offending roots were removed.

  • Zambezi Drive Rock Pool
    • Date: 19/12/18
    • Issue: Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) opened up a new activity whereby residents of Victoria Falls were, for a small fee, being allowed to swim in the Zambezi river, in a rock pool just above the Falls. On the weekends, especially, huge crowds gathered. VFEW's main concern was that an enormous amount of litter was being left behind, which has an obvious impact on the environment. It was also seen as being potentially dangerous, due to crocodiles in the river. It was also unsightly for tourists to the Falls, as the masses of people were very clearly visible from the viewpoints inside the rainforest.
    • Action Taken: VFEW did some research on the pool and monitored the activity over the weekends. They then met with the area manager of ZPWMA and raised these concerns. ZPWMA had erected a huge billboard with the rules of the pool, which included - no littering and no drinking or eating in the river. These rules were clearly not being adhered to, so VFEW suggested that ZPWMA put more rangers on duty to police the area. They agreed and did put more rangers on duty but the effect was minimal. VFEW kept applying pressure to the ZPWMA manager to deal with the fact that the rules were being continually broken. The season fortunately ended due to rising water levels of the Zambezi and the pool was closed and has not been re-opened in the following year. It would appear that ZPWMA realised that it was not such a good idea.

  • Quad Bike Operation
    • Date: 15/1/19
    • Issue: A new quad bike activity/operation was started, based out of Shoestrings lodge in Victoria Falls. About 12 quad bikes (ATV's) were purchased. The route taken by the quad bikes goes through part of the residential area and then into bush and wildlife corridors just beyond the town limits. Residents complained to VFEW about the noise and also the potential danger of these bikes travelling through a wilderness area, inhabited by elephants, lion and buffalo. Another resident observed the quad bikes doing doughnuts in the bush, thereby creating erosion concerns and also scaring off any wildlife in the area.
    • Action Taken:  VFEW did not feel that this new activity should be stopped but that it was clearly being operated in the wrong area, as it was having a big impact on the wildlife and the environment. VFEW felt that it would be better if the operation was moved to Monde rural area, just 10 km out of town and away from a wildlife area. This would not only create a better product but at the same time protect the environment and be less dangerous for the clients on these trips. VFEW held multiple meetings held with ATV manager, relaying these concerns and proposing new routes away from the major wildlife corridors around town. One Trustee from VFEW even went out with the manager on the bikes to show him the new proposed routes and how these routes would actually enhance his business. The ATV manager confirmed that they had obtained permission from town council, but that no EIA was carried out. Clearly, council did not even consider the threat to the wildlife, environment or the people. The ATV manager agreed in principle to no longer run the tours on the old routes and would look at relocating to the proposed new site. It would appear that the ATV operation decided to close down, as they are not running any of the routes.

  • Zambezi Park Plan
    • Date: 1/2/19
    • Issue: Several lodges have been built in the Zambezi National park (ZNP) over the last few years. The building of these new lodges is beneficial to the park in many ways, but most importantly in the fact that they reduce the amount of poaching, due to more presence in the park. However, there is a limit as to how many lodges the Park can handle, before there is an adverse effect, due to over-tourism. VFEW feels that there is a desperate need for a Zambezi Park plan to understand and deal with this issue. To compile such a plan, there needs to be a professional in-depth study done on the ZNP, which analyses the impact on the environment of more lodges.
    • Action Taken: VFEW met with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) area manager to relay the proposal of the Park Plan. Area manager was very much in favour of the idea. VFEW then engaged with Ian Games to do a situation analysis of ZNP, which would outline the reasoning behind such a plan and propose a way forward. Ian has done this analysis and submitted it to ZPWMA head office in Harare with copies have been sent to the local ZPWMA office. VFEW offered to fund the Park Plan. Follow-ups have been made by Ian but as yet there has been no response back from ZPWMA. VFEW will continue to push for this proposal

  • Environmental Parliamentary Committee
    • Date: 7/2/19
    • Issue: The Parliamentary committee from Harare travelled to Vic Falls and meet with VFEW, to discuss growth around Vic Falls and its impact on the environment. Costs covered by VFEW.
    • Action Taken: In the 1 day meeting held with the Parliamentary Committee, VFEW Highlighted the urgent need for a Town and Park plan to have controlled and sustainable development in around Vic Falls. The committee members were extremely responsive, in agreement and willing to support such a motion once VFEW has presented it to parliament. This meeting was aired on ZBC news.

  • Rocks Falling into the Gorge
    • Date: 14/2/19
    • Issue: Letter attained from the Rafting Association noting their concerns of rocks being dislodged and falling from the abseil operation and hitting rafters who are walking to their rafts in the gorge below.
    • Action Taken: Shared concerns with the area manager from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and added this to the earlier complaints about the construction of the abseil building.

  • Introducing VFEW to the Community
    • Date: 27/2/19
    • Issue: Community presentation, held at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge conference room, to Vic Falls residents and stakeholders, introducing VFEW's goals, mission and initiatives.
    • Action Taken / Result: Highly successful meeting, with large attendance from the community. Attained signups from the community for action teams.

  • Lantana in the Victoria Falls National Park
    • Date: 4/3/19
    • Issue: Local Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority office (ZPWMA) asked VFEW to help expedite the removal of lantana (an invasive species) in the Victoria Falls National Park, which is becoming unmanageable and is even a threat to Victoria Falls' world heritage status.
    • Action Taken: Greenline Africa already have a lantana control plan in place, so VFEW met with Greenline to understand their current program and see if it could be expedited. Greenline was holding a lantana Day in July so VFEW didn't want to interfere with that.
    • VFEW also approached the Nakavango Volunteer program to see if they were willing to assist, as they have had a 90% success rate of removing lantana on the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve. Nakavango were very keen as long as the volunteers did not have to pay entrance fees to get into the VFNP on the days when they were removing the lantana. Meeting held with Nakavango and ZPWMA. ZPWMA agreed to allow volunteers into the Rainforest Free of charge to clear lantana. Nakavango agreed to clear once a week. This has since broken down because of disagreements between Greenline and Nakavango. VFEW needs to intervene and get this back up and running.

  • Settling Ponds Flowing Into Masuwe River
    • Date: 11/3/19
    • Issue: Local Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority office ZPWMA asked VFEW to research the outflow from the settling ponds at the sewerage plant, which are flowing into the dry Masuwe River and potentially impacting wildlife and the environment. 
    • Action Taken: VFEW met and consulted with Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT), Masuwe Lodge and local environmentalists regarding the problem. VFEW visited the site and documented the issue and reported back to ZPWMA that this has become evident this year because of the low rainfall in the area and that the Masuwe has not flowed this year. In normal years with higher rainfall, the Masuwe flows and the effluent is diluted and washed away, still not an ideal solution. Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust has initiated a program to create a wetland that would dilute and properly deal with the outflow, so VFEW left the matter with them to deal with.

  • Tree Cutting
    • Date: 14/3/19
    • Issue: Trees being cut down along the Kazungula Road.
    • Action Taken: Raised concern and questions to Forestry and ZimParks.

  • MOU Victoria Falls Municipality
    • Date: 15/3/19
    • Issue: VFEW wishes to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Victoria Falls Municipality (VFM) to create a better understanding and relationship with each other. This would assist both parties in dealing better with issues regarding town planning going forward.
    • Action Taken: VFEW met with the town clerk who was agreeable to the idea and asked VFEW to prepare a draft agreement. VFEW prepared the draft agreement and submitted it to Town Council but have not received a response. VFEW have enquired with the town clerk on numerous occasions as to the progress of the MOU. The answer is always that it is with their lawyers, perhaps an MOU is not in their best interests? 

  • House of Chinhara
    • Date: 20/3/19
    • Issue: Billboards displaying proposed developments by the House of Chinara were placed on the vacant stand opposite the police station and also by the Big Tree on Zambezi Drive. The stand in town is of no concern but the stand by the big tree is currently designated as National Park land and is certainly a vital game corridor. A hotel on this stretch of river would raise a great deal of concern.
    • Action Taken: VFEW did some initial research on the House of Chinara. There were reports that HoC was partnering with the Marriott Hotel group to develop hotels on these stands. VFEW contacted Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Town Council, at a local level, both of which claimed to know nothing of the developments. The sign by big tree was taken down the next day. VFEW met with Mr Ndlovu from EMA Hwange, who also knew nothing of it until VFEW pointed it out to them. Developments of this nature should go through his Hwange office. After investigation, he found that this EIA had been processed by the Harare office. This is inconsistent with the correct procedure, which raises concerns as to the legality of this development. VFEW has requested to see the EIA, a copy of which is now at the Hwange Office. There have been no further reports on this development and nothing is happening at the proposed site.

  • Crocodile Farm
    • Date: 8/5/19
    • Issue: The Crocodile Farm, which is currently situated at the end of Park way close to the Zambezi National Park entrance gate is moving to a new site somewhere on the gorges downstream of the Victoria Falls. The issues raised was if an EIA had been done on the proposed new site.
    • Action Taken: Initial research shows all proper EIAs and procedures have been followed.

  • Kazungula Road
    • Date: 10/5/19
    • Issue: The Kazungula Road, from Victoria Falls to the Kazungula border, runs through the Zambezi National Park. This is an essential wildlife corridor, between Chobe, Botswana and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. There are countless incidents, mostly at night, where wildlife is injured or killed by vehicles travelling to fast. As this road passes through a National Park, VFEW is working closely with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development for stronger restrictions on the traffic passing through. There is an 80km per hour limit on this stretch of road but there a next to no speed signs indicating that.
    • Action Taken: VFEW sent letters to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development requesting closure of the Kazungula Road from 6pm to 6am. This request was rejected due to COMESA trade agreements. However, the ministry did send a team to Vic Falls to meet with VFEW and inspect the road. They agreed that there was no signage and this was the first stage to be actioned. They gave VFEW permission in writing to proceed with the installation of 80 km/h signs, 10 km apart. The ministry had no funding so VFEW agreed to raise the funds. Clearing the road to have wide verges is also a critical factor and has been completed to a certain extent. VFEW also met with Greg Rasmussen from Painted Dog Research Trust to collaborate, as he has also been working to address these fatalities. VFEW and PDRT agreed to collaborate, to get this done. Greg from PDRT purchased 14 x 80 km sign (7 each way) and has since installed these, which is a great success. VFEW also met with Mike Danes to design special messaging signs to get the strong message across that you are entering a wildlife park and to drive with special care. Mike has done a brilliant job of designing 5 signs. VFEW has a sponsored day lined up for the end of January 2020 to raise the funds needed for these special signs and to also get the community involved to raise awareness. VFEW will continue to push for the closure of the road between 6 pm and 6 am as this is the ultimate solution.

  • Mist Hotel
    • Date: 2/9/19
    • Issue: Mist Hotel Development planned along Wild Horizons fence line in rural Monde area. 
    • Action Taken: VFEW met with Michael Montana from Environmental Guardians that is doing the EIA for this development. VFEW learned more about the measures they were taking to minimize the environmental impact and felt assured that this EIA was being done properly. VFEW stressed the importance also of uplifting the community with running water, etc…

  • Zambezi Cruise Boats
    • Date: 2/9/19
    • Issue: Concern regarding the sewage from the cruise boats on the Zambezi dumping directly into the river.
    • Action Taken: Greenline Africa Trust assured VFEW that they are working on this issue along with Pure Africa to create a River Charter document to address river issues caused by cruise boats.

 

 

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