Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa (South Africa) (C 915bis)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1999
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/915/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/915/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Ground water pollution
- Surface water pollution
- Water (rain/water table)
- Climate change and severe weather events
- Acid mine drainage
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/915/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 30 November 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/915/documents/, and reports specifically on the state of conservation of the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs – a component of the serial property – and on progress made in addressing previous Committee decisions as follows:
- An Integrated Management Plan (IMP) is being developed, which has included stakeholder consultations;
- The institutional relationship between the Management Authority of the Sterkfontein Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component and the local municipality has been strengthened through a commitment to enter into a formalized agreement;
- The climate change outlook for the property has not changed since the State Party’s 2015 report on the state of conservation;
- A “Vulnerable Fossil Site Risk Prevention Strategy for the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa (Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component)” has been developed and is annexed to the report;
- Two extensive surface water and ground water resources monitoring reports were annexed, together covering the period April 2017 to September 2018. The State Party reports a continuous improvement in ground and surface water quality over the reporting period, due to the Short Term Solution (STS) to manage acid mine drainage. However, the water quality management efforts have failed to address the high sulphate levels in the water, and bacteriological contamination from municipal waste treatment works remains very high. Water quality targets have not yet been set, as this requires a longer-term vigorous engagement process and will need to be aligned with the planned Long Term Solution (LTS);
- A service provider to develop the LTS, which includes the second phase of the Western Basin water treatment plan, will be appointed by September 2019 at the latest. Background work for the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project has commenced.
In response to the December 2017 and February 2018 State Party progress reports on the state of conservation of the property, ICOMOS provided a Technical Review in September 2018.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
- The State Party has reported on the state of conservation of one component of the property, the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component, which has been the focus of previous Committee decisions due to the issue of acid mine drainage. The two other components, the Makapan Valley and Taung Skull Fossil sites, are not considered.
The State Party has undergone great efforts to address the acid mine drainage in the property and, through implementation of the temporary STS, has been able to reduce acidity of both ground and surface water. Implementation of a permanent LTS is taking longer than anticipated, now running almost two years behind the original targets. However, the State Party has continued to implement the STS, and commits in its report to continue doing so until the LTS is operational. The State Party has committed to submitting, as soon as they are available, design specifications and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the second phase of the Western Basin Treatment Works (LTS) for review by the Advisory Bodies. The STS water treatment plant does not have enough capacity to absorb the volumes required to address the wet summer rainfall period, according to the State Party’s own reporting. It remains urgent to implement a permanent and appropriate LTS.
The State Party has submitted a well-structured Risk Prevention Strategy, focused on the issue of acid mine drainage for the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component of the property. The Risk Prevention Strategy sufficiently illustrates that acid mine drainage does not pose a significant continuous threat to many of the fossil attributes. It includes appropriate monitoring and emergency response mechanisms. The monitoring and possible interventions strategies included in the Risk Prevention Strategy should be translated into the final IMP.
The intended service level agreement between the Management Authority and local municipal authority is welcomed and is one way of addressing the high level of bacteriological contamination in the surface and ground water, which has its origin in the municipal wastewater treatment works. This poses a potential health threat to staff, visitors and researchers and needs to be addressed.
The requested setting of water quality targets has proven to be more complicated, as these are aligned with other legal and administrative processes and steered by the National Department of Water and Sanitation. Continued engagement of the Management Authority with this department is desirable to reach agreement on water quality targets for this component of the property.
Like the Risk Prevention Strategy, the IMP under development will apparently address only the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component. Either the Strategy and the Plan should both be extended to include the other two components, or additional but aligned IMPs need to be developed for these components as well. The IMP should contain a clear property management framework identifying each agency’s roles and responsibilities as well as the reporting structure for the entire property. It should also include a stakeholder consultation report, including issues raised by the consultees regarding the IMP(s) and how these were addressed. The risk assessment should also be extended to address risks other than those related to surface and ground water. Furthermore, in view of the property’s sensitivity to the surface and groundwater quality of the wider setting, the State Party should continue to inform the Committee on major projects, including mining licenses issued adjacent or in the vicinity of all components of the property, both inside and outside the various buffer zones, in conformity of the Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.
The State Party is actively engaging with the issue of acid mine drainage, and even though implementing the LTS is taking longer than anticipated, progress is being made.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.111
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.72, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Acknowledges the continuous engagement of the State Party with addressing the issue of acid mine drainage at the property;
- Welcomes the submission of the Vulnerable Fossil Site Risk Prevention Strategy for the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component of the property;
- Also welcomes the State Party’s commitment to continue executing the Short Term Solution (STS) to the acid mine drainage until such a time as the Long Term Solution (LTS) has been approved and is operational, as well as the State Party’s commitment to submit the design specification and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the second phase of the Western Basin Treatment Works (Long Term Solution) for review by the Advisory Bodies before implementation;
- Requests the State Party to:
- Extend the Risk Prevention Strategy to include other risks to vulnerable fossil deposits in the entire property beyond those posed by acid water drainage,
- Address the other two components of this serial property not included in the submitted Risk Assessment in an extended Risk Prevention Strategy,
- Submit this extended Risk Prevention Strategy for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, once completed;
- Also requests the State Party to finalize the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) under preparation in conformity with recommendations of the Advisory Bodies and the World Heritage Centre, and submit it to the World Heritage Centre for review as soon as possible;
- Further requests the State Party to:
- Continue its engagement with water quality targets for the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component of the property to be able to provide these as informants to the design specification and the EIA for the second phase of the Western Basin Treatment Works (Long Term Solution),
- Clarify the effects and risks, if any, of the bacteriological pollution from the municipal wastewater effluent on the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs component of the property, and, if necessary, report on how the pollution will be controlled;
- Requests furthermore the State Party, in view of the property’s sensitivity to the surface and groundwater quality of the wider setting, to inform the Committee on all major projects, including mining licenses issued adjacent or in the vicinity of all components of the property, in conformity with the Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, 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 45th session in 2021.