Unless stakeholders take urgent action, the biodiversity of Campo Ma’an National Park faces risks of extinction. The Government of Cameroon created Campo Ma’an National Park in 1999 as compensation for the negative impacts on the environment and biodiversity of the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline Project. The Park is rich in wildlife and flora. Wildlife census carried out by WWF and partners in 2014 showed a stable population of gorillas, chimps and elephants. With a gorilla habituation process ongoing, Campo Ma’an exudes potentials for eco-tourism boom in the near future.
However, an array of big infrastructure projects, extractives and agro-industries are threatening the existence of the Park. They include the Kribi deep sea and industrial port complex, the Memve’ele Hydropower Dam, the Mount Mammelles iron ore exploration project, the HEVECAM and SOCAPALM rubber and oil palm plantations respectively and the construction of a railway terminal to transport iron ore from Mbalam to the Kribi seaport.
“These projects will attract huge influx of people who will have to be fed, therefore the risk of poaching. Already there are over 30000 people working in the plantation of HEVECAM and SOCAPALM,” says Benjamin Sock, Conservator for Campo Ma’an National Park. “Make no mistake, this Park is under threats. With the coming of the Kribi Seaport, many roads and paths have been opened making it difficult for the 48 eco-guards to carry out effective surveillance activities,” he says.
Some of the listed projects have carried out environmental and social impact assessment studies and have designed their environmental management plans in conformity with the law in force to mitigate the effects of their activities, including on the biodiversity of Campo Ma’an and people living in the area. WWF recently commissioned a study to evaluate the impact assessments and environmental management plans of these projects. “We wanted know how effective the environmental and social impact assessments and environmental management plans of these companies and projects can sustainably protect the integrity of Campo Ma’an National Park,” says Durrel Halleson, WWF Business and Industries Policy Coordinator. “We also sought to identify gaps, related especially to the cumulative impacts of these projects on the park and population of great apes (chimp and gorilla),” Halleson adds.
According to results of the WWF study, the environmental impact assessments and the environmental management plans that extractive and agro-industries and infrastructure projects carried out in the area “do not sufficiently guarantee the protection of Campo Ma’an National Park and great apes population.” This is mainly because the plans do not take into consideration the cumulative impact of all development activities in the area. The study proposed a regional strategic environmental assessment as a tool particularly because it would make it possible to determine the carrying capacity of the Park and its great apes population.
Prof. Dieudonne Bitondo, an expert in environmental impact assessment and the Executive Secretary of the Cameroon Association of Environmental Impact Experts (ACAMEE) says the protection of Campo Ma’an and its great apes population should be the fundamental condition for the development of any projects in the area. According to Prof. Bitondo, the different projects are doing a lot but because of lack of synergy, their impacts are not felt. He also adds that the Park offers a huge opportunity for these different projects in terms of compensation for their impacts.
In 2006, 70% of the population had access to safe drinking water and the coverage in urban centres is 88%, significantly better than the 47% in rural areas. However, rapid urbanization has rendered existing infrastructure inadequate with periurban dwellers also lacking access to safe drinking water.