1.         Okavango Delta (Botswana) (N 1432)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2014

Criteria  (vii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1432/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2012-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1432/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Factors identified at the time of inscription of the property:

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1432/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 25 November 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1432/documents and includes a number of supplementary documents. Progress on a number of issues addressed by the Committee at the time of inscription is reported, including:

The State Party report also draws attention to a number of challenges related to resource constraints and ineffective institutional structures. Potential threats to the long-term conservation of the property are identified including a possible scheme to augment water supplies to central Namibia through inter-basin transfer from the Okavango River or groundwater exploration, and the possible development of a large irrigation scheme in Angola’s portion of the Okavango watershed.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The State Party has made commendable progress on a number of important issues, most notably the termination of all mineral prospecting licenses within the property and most licenses within the buffer zone, with negotiations ongoing to terminate the remaining nine concessions. However, there remains some concern about mineral prospecting and mining operations outside the buffer zone, especially in the vicinity of the panhandle area as these activities could potentially result in pollution of the Okavango’s waters and have a severe impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Although efforts are being made to establish wildlife monitoring protocols, the continuing absence of adequate baseline data on key wildlife species is delaying the ability to monitor long-term trends that directly affect the property’s OUV. The immediate priority should be to undertake a replicable aerial survey, to establish reliable baseline population estimates for key species across the entire property and to ensure that such surveys are repeated regularly according to the January 2012 seminar recommendations. An ambitious ground-based monitoring programme is envisaged for the complex of concession blocks, but it is not clear how this will be managed and resourced in the long term.

The State Party’s intention to conduct a thorough EIA to inform decisions on the future management of veterinary cordon fences is noted.

Since 2014, local communities have lost the rights to control management of their lands as tourism concessions are now being negotiated and signed with tour operators directly by the Department of Lands. This new arrangement enables government agencies to re-distribute the benefits of tourism more equitably, but dis-empowers communities. A number of programmes are implemented to support livelihoods of the communities, and consultations have been initiated with indigenous peoples, local communities and other stakeholders resolving to undertake necessary further research on incorporating cultural values into management of the property, the efforts of which are strongly encouraged.

While acknowledging measures undertaken, invasive alien plants continue to threaten the ecological integrity of the property, and continued vigilance is required to monitor their spread and ensure the effectiveness of the control measures.

The Okavango Delta Management Plan (2008-2017) provides a management framework for the area, but it pre-dates the property’s inscription on the World Heritage List. Many of its prescriptions have not been implemented, and the institutional arrangements for its implementation have proved ineffective. The review process now underway could provide an opportunity to explore options for integrated management of the site under both Ramsar and World Heritage designations and should focus on development of a more appropriate institutional structure as a recognised entity, geared towards the requirements of managing the World Heritage property with a dedicated core staff and budget to ensure proper stakeholder coordination.

Concern is noted over potential impacts on the property arising from: a) Namibia’s water augmentation plans for which a feasibility study is underway; and b) Angola’s possible irrigation scheme, which is to be confirmed. Close liaison with these States Parties through the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) is critical to ensure any developments in the Okavango watershed do not adversely affect the property’s OUV, and the State Party of Botswana’s intentions to keep the Committee informed of any intended developments are noted.

Decision Adopted: 40 COM 7B.78

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 8B.5, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Commends the progress made by the State Party in terminating mineral prospecting licenses in the property, and requests the State Party to conclude negotiations with remaining licensees to terminate all prospecting activities within the property’s buffer zone, and to continue monitoring and managing prospecting licenses and mining operations outside the buffer zone so as to avoid any adverse impacts on the property;
  4. Reiterates its position that mineral exploration or exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, which is supported by the International Council of Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Position Statement of not undertaking such activities within World Heritage properties;
  5. Welcoming the progress made in developing wildlife monitoring protocols, also requests the State Party to integrate these protocols in the systematic wildlife monitoring programme, which should include replicable aerial surveys across the entire property to establish population baselines for key species and to track long-term trends;
  6. Notes the measures taken to address management effectiveness, governance as well as access, rights and benefits, and reiterates its requests to the State Party to:
    1. Continue efforts to rationalize veterinary cordon fencing, including through the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA),
    2. Expand and strengthen programmes, which accommodate traditional resource use for livelihoods, user access rights, cultural rights and access to opportunities to participate in the tourism sector, in keeping with the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV),
    3. Continue efforts to address a range of other protection and management issues including governance, stakeholder empowerment, management planning, management capacity and control of alien invasive species;
  7. Further requests the State Party to submit the revised management plan for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, prior to its approval, and calls on the international community to provide technical and financial support in its development and implementation;
  8. Notes with concern the potential impacts of water resource management in Angola and Namibia on the property, and requests furthermore the States Parties of Botswana, Angola and Namibia to liaise closely to ensure that any proposed major developments within the Okavango watershed which may adversely impact the OUV of the property are subject to EIAs in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment; these EIAs should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN for review prior to taking any decisions that would be difficult to reverse;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.