NOTICE OF INAUGURAL MEETING OF “FRIENDS OF VICTORIA FALLS"

Dear All.
Victoria Falls is an extraordinary place..... A place where wilderness and the natural world intersect and merge with homes, businesses and hotels. At our doorstep the mighty Zambezi flows out of our national park and cascades into possibly the greatest waterfall on earth. We are enriched, everyday, by what surrounds us. At times a sense of wonder pervades the day that it is possible to live here, amongst all this.
After some bad years, a growing sense of confidence is slowly leading to increasing interest and investment in our town. Ideas, shelved for years, are being put forward and much is beginning to happen. At the same time there is a growing realization, that much of what we know, love and rely on, is vulnerable. Urgent thought, open debate and action by the community is required. Various discussions have yielded a number of points of concern and ideas.
Foremost is the suggestion that an initiative, a support group, be formed to help protect and conserve this special place. This group should be open to all commercial operators, residents, developers, investors, school children..... Basically anyone in the community committed to this area. Such a forum could do much to bring to light, and assist with, issues of concern to the community.
It is a given that such a broad group will not agree on all policies. However, it is felt that wide debate will help to create an exchange of views, transparency and also help to inform the authorities on the level of consensus on certain issues. This could assist enormously in decision making. (For example, a percentage vote for and against certain issues could be relayed from quarterly meetings of the association).
Many of us in this town are commercial operators. We seek new opportunities to utilize what is here to make profitable businesses. At the same time the wild spaces in Victoria Falls are finite and have got to be preserved. Wilderness is an intangible resource, once it is lost or built over, it can never be brought back. This remarkable resource threads its way from the Zambezi National park, through our game corridors, around the Zambezi Drive, around the Big Tree, through the Rainforest and across the breadth of the Falls itself into the gorge beyond.
It is the life blood of our business. It is the very thing which brings people here.
If we lose it, we destroy the one essential element that will sustain our future and that of our children. It is our nation’s heritage and we who live here are the keepers of it. Unrestricted, unplanned and uncoordinated development will threaten this. It is essential that we as a community act soon and act together to preserve what we have here.
An initial meeting will take place to explore and outline, structure and function of the group.
Suggestions have been made that this group be called The Friends of Victoria Falls but this would be open to debate. Obviously, the area of focus includes the park, the town and surrounds.
It is suggested that:-
1. The immediate tragic conflict between people and elephant be explored and constructive solutions be sought.
2. The Municipality Town Planning department should be requested to release to the public, a map of our town, which includes all current and future developments. It should also designate red line areas beyond which no further developments can take place e.g. game corridors, recreational parks, buffer zones.
3. That National Parks be requested to advise the community of all current and proposed leases in the Zambezi National Park. There is growing concern that large segments of the park are being allocated to private operators and the impact that this will have on public access to the river, camp sites etc.
4. That National Parks be asked to clarify and define red line areas e.g. at the Victoria Falls itself, beyond which no development or activity whatsoever, can take place. That clearly defined limits be placed on these areas to preserve pristine views of the Falls from our side.
5. An overall development strategy and environmental impact plan needs to be adhered to in view of all current developments. It is understood that there is a plan from a few years back but it appears not to be in force. That all planning and development must be determined by this plan which should be made known to the public.
6. It is necessary that we as developers or commercial operators, be our own conscience. It is possible that projects that we may be involved in, have been given the go ahead. We need to reassess what we are doing and consider the overall impact of these enterprises. If it is clear that these projects will compromise some natural element of the Falls and its surrounds, it is critical that we reduce in scale or drop entirely, such an idea. Bad publicity from ignoring such issues and proceeding, regardless, must also be considered.
It is understood that Peace Parks have committed to funding an update of the environmental plan for Victoria Falls, if requested by the authorities.
The Green Fund. (See attachment)
Whilst not wishing to reinvent the wheel, elements of what is proposed here already exist in the form of the Green Fund.
Much work has been done over many years, in create a coherent and a well administrated organization of this nature.
It would be open to debate as to whether Friends of Victoria Falls:
1. Falls under the Green Fund
2. Is affiliated to the Green Fund
3. Has no relation to the Green Fund
Issues:
Respondents are asked to forward issues of concern.
Conclusions:
It is felt that the Friends of Victoria Falls will provide a coherent community response to issues of concern.
Input is required as to the formation of this much needed support group for Victoria Falls. It's name, purpose, affiliations and operation is entirely open to debate and suggestion.
In no way should this organization be anti-development or anti-business. Victoria Falls needs growth and the creation of employment opportunities.
It is essential though that a clear and sustainable development plan be forthcoming for the protection of Victoria Falls and it's surrounds.

Thank you for your patience in considering these ideas. A response form is included below.
We hope that you can attend the inaugural meeting on Thursday 16th, 3pm, Ilala Lodge conference room.
Please forward this message to any who may be interested.

Response Form: THE FRIENDS OF VICTORIA FALLS.

Please read the letter below and then complete the response form:
I would like to join, yes/no
I would like attend quarterly meetings, yes/no
I would be happy to assist with volunteer projects (e.g. helping resuscitate park facilities (roads), yes/no
If you would like to be a part of the Friends Of Victoria Falls please would you fill in your contact details below:
Name:
Email Address:
Mobile Number:
Land Line Number:
I suggest the following issues for debate:-........................................
............................................
............................................
Please email response to: friendsofvictoriafalls@yahoo.com



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