Eastern Cape Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Mcebisi Jonas has approved the declaration of the Lambasi Nature Reserve in the Mhlontlo Local Municipality and three others across the province in addition to one protected area.
Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) CEO Luxolo Rubushe has given notice of the intention to declare the four areas as nature reserves and one as a protected area in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act of 2003.
The intention to declare the reserves was published in the provincial gazette of December 13, providing 60 days for people to make representations or submit objections to the proposals.
Jonas says that proclamation of the Lambasi Nature Reserve, measuring some 8 810 hectares, with management being assigned to the Lambasi Community Property Association, will provide a significant supplement to the income of the people of the area.
The Lambasi Reserve will include the Tsitsa, Tina River Valley and Mzoboshe Horseshoe that are special features of the Tsitsa Falls Valley.
Currently, the MEC points out, the Mhlontlo Community is dependent on remittances such as welfare payments, subsistence agricultural production and income from the migrant labour system.
Jonas says some of the key benefits accruing from the initiative have a specific focus on the tourism sector including hiking trails, mountain climbing, ecotourism, cultural tourism and game viewing.
“We have yet to fully explore and exploit the ecotourism potential of our pristine areas in the province and we see this as a giant step towards achieving that goal.”
Jonas points out that the Eastern Cape is a predominantly rural province with a relatively low level of economic activity, adding that environmental management is the “catalyst” that can provide empowerment opportunities that will in turn “propel economic development”.
He says the involvement of the local communities in the planning of the nature reserve has ensured local ownership and has “paved the way for the declaration of the area as a reserve which will have huge potential to change the economic landscape with tourism as the key driver”.
The protected area in the Jansenville region and will be known as the Noorsveld Protected Environment with management of the reserve assigned to the Noorsveld Protected Environment Landowners Association.
One of the three proposed private nature reserves is in Nelson Mandela Bay and forms part of the Royalston development that consists of 310 residential properties in five villages, a hotel, frail care centre, wildlife and education centre, dog walking park and wedding and conference centre.
Some 717 hectares of the Royalston development will be nature reserve.
A second proposed nature reserve is in the Uniondale area that will be known as the Kromme Riviers Hoogtenature Reserve. The reserve covers approximately 442 hectares.
The fourth, the Baviaanskloof Hartland Nature Reserve, is in the Willowmore district in the extreme west of the province, with authority for managing the reserve to be handed to the still to be constituted Baviaanskloof Hartland Landowners Association.