Development and land use conflicts on the Ash River, South Africa: Energy provision versus adventure tourism
White river rafting is a big segment of the international hard adventure tourism industry. In South Africa, rafting, canoeing and kayaking companies operate across all nine provinces, despite the shortage of rivers conducive to these activities. South Africa’s best river for white water rafting and slalom canoeing, is the Ash River, as it is not rain dependent, has many good rapids, is malaria free and the water is potable. Many of South Africa’s slalom canoeists, as well as international ones, travel to train and compete on this river. There are two white water rafting operators along the Ash River, both run by typical lifestyle entrepreneurs, who have dedicated considerable time, talent and capital resources to developing the rafting industry on the Ash. It is estimated that river rafting generates R1.6 million p.a. directly for the local economy and the businesses are jointly valued at R7 million. Overall, white river rafting in Clarens is a significant part of the local economy, draws in both domestic and international tourists, generates jobs and spin-off industries. However, a proposed mini-HEP station threatens to destroy the rapids and end all white river rafting and slalom canoeing tourism in the area. This paper outlines the case for and against the mini-HEP, as well as the final decision on the matter by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Keywords: White water rafting, hydro-electric power, economic benefits, land use conflict, South Africa.
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