The World Bank Group and iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority have signed an agreement worth USD9m, approximately 66 million rand, to begin a conservation initiative that is expected to fuel economic growth in the country’s east coast. According to the CEO of the Wetland Park Authority, Andrew Zaloumis, the initiative will transform the park from a local tourist attraction into a major asset to the country: ‘Our goal in the next five years is to meaningfully increase the flow of fresh water into Lake St. Lucia and reposition the park from being an underdeveloped tourist attraction to a major territorial asset that will play an important role in the region’s economic growth initiative’.
The project also aims to directly ameliorate the standard of living in the KwaZulu-Natal region, in which the project is based. KwaZulu-Natal is among the poorest areas of the country. Project leader Paola Agostini, World Bank economist in the Africa region says, ‘It is essential that the benefits must reach local people so that their energies can be mobilized for environmental protection.’
The project is reported to mark the beginning of a series of similar initiatives to restore wetland habitats of global significance.