iSimangaliso gets R66m boost

THE World Bank and iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority have signed a $9million (about R66million) US grant agreement for launching conservation activities in the famed iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

The grant is financed by the Global Environment Facility.

iSimangaliso is a world heritage site on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

It was established in November 2000, when 16 pieces of land covering 332000ha or 9percent of South Africa's coastline, were consolidated into a single protected area.

Ruth Kagia, World Bank country director for South Africa, said this was the biggest amount of money they have ever given to any country in the Souther African Development Community.

Mavuso Msimang, chairperson of the iSimangaliso board, said in managing the park it was important to maintain a balance between conservation and development.

The Wetland Park also announced the investment of R125million into its tourism product and a tertiary education programme for neighbouring youths.

iSimangaliso chief executive Andrew Zeloumis said the grant would enable them to broaden their entrepreneurship programme, which supports 80 local entrepreneurs and roll-out skills development programmes for new landowners.

"We will also finance tertiary studies in conservation, tourism and development for the youth and assist with development of solutions to the hydrological problem related to the diversion of the Umfolozi River from the Lake St Lucia system," he said.