'Profit-driven' SANParks worries Wessa
Skukuza - Underfunding from national government has resulted in South African National Parks (SANParks) being profit- instead of conservation-driven, warns the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa).
The organisation made the accusation in response to proposals to build a 240-bed hotel at the Kruger National Park's Malelane gate.
"SANParks cannot be like any other business because it is an organisation that the government should be supporting," said Wessa spokesperson Chris Galliers.
He said SANParks was the only conservation agency in the world that generated 85% of its funding from tourism while government contributed only 15%.
“This is a considerable achievement, but it is also a concern, because it means that the government only contributes 15 % of funding required for SANParks' efforts of conserving our natural heritage,” said Galliers.
He said government funding had also been steadily declining in the past decade and that the commercialisation of protected areas to make them financially self-sufficient placed unrealistic demands on their management.
“It seems that this is becoming a convenient way for government to abdicate its responsibility of securing the country’s natural heritage to its citizens,” Galliers.
Wessa has suggested that international role players also comment in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) relating to the proposed Kruger hotel project as SANParks was referencing international best practice guidelines in the proposed project.
On Friday, spokesperson for water and environment affairs Albi Modise denied there was a decline in funding for SANParks.
He said funding increased from R139m in 2005/2006 to R216.4m for 2011/2012.
SANParks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli stressed that government's contribution of 15% to SANParks income was international norm.
“Yes, it is true. We are generating most of our income through tourism operations. This does not only apply to SANParks, but it is common practice in other parts of the world,” he said.