Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls (Zambia,Zimbabwe) (N 509)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1989
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/509/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 93,485
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/509/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: USD 50,000 in 2015 through the UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism programme (Flanders Funds-in-Trust)
Previous monitoring missions
November 2006: joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Air pollution
- Housing (uncontrolled urban development driven by population increase)
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Invasive/alien species
- Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
- Management systems/ management plan
- Solid waste
- Surface water pollution
- Water (extraction)
- Water infrastructure (Project to construct a dam across the gorge) (issue resolved)
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/509/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017
On 28 November 2016, the States Parties of Zambia and Zimbabwe submitted a joint report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/509/documents/ and presents progress achieved in addressing previous Committee decisions as follows:
- Proposals for a tethered balloon, cableway or other tall structure in the vicinity of the property will not be permitted should they have a negative visual impact on the property;
- A summary of the environmental and tourism monitoring results is submitted;
- The State Party of Zambia has further reduced water abstraction from the property by strengthening automated monitoring of the water level, increasing the duration of power plant closure for maintenance and enhancing alternative power generation source, i.e. opening the 300 MW Maamba Coal Plant in mid-2016;
- The States Parties have not been informed of any intentions by the State Party of Botswana to abstract 495 million cubic meters of water per annum from the Zambezi River for irrigation;
- The development of a sustainable financing/business plan is in progress with 50% completed to date;
- As part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme, a sustainable tourism strategy for the property is currently being finalized;
- The draft revised Joint Integrated Management Plan (JIMP) 2016-2021 is submitted;
- Lantana camara distribution in the property has been mapped, and 70% of the invaded area has been cleared;
- Ongoing monitoring of water flow of Zambezi River upstream of the fall indicate a decline over the last two years;
- The State Party of Zambia informs of proposed constructions of a Ferris wheel within the high ecological sensitive zone of the Eastern Cataract and of a hotel in the development zone of the property.
The World Heritage Centre sent two letters (dated 23 November 2016 and 25 January 2017) to the States Parties to request information on the proposed hotel and recreational facilities in Livingstone, use of the Cataract Island for tourism, and the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Scheme on the Zambezi River. On 27 April 2017, the State Party of Zambia responded to these letters, as follows:
- Confirmation of its intention to partner with private investors to construct an international hotel and recreational facilities in the property in Livingstone (Zambia). The project has not commenced and will be subject to an ESIA;
- An ESIA for the proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme is being undertaken, and will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre upon completion. The States Parties of Zambia and Zimbabwe have agreed to restrict the height of the dam to 181m in respect of optimal power generation without impacting on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The Scoping Report of the ESIA dated October 2015 is submitted with the letter.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The proposed construction of a Ferris wheel within the high ecologically sensitive zone of the Eastern Cataract as well as the proposed hotel and recreational facilities in the property are of great concern due to their potential significant impacts on the OUV of the property, especially under criterion (vii). The draft JIMP prescribes permitted and prohibited activities and facilities within specific zones, and a Ferris wheel would clearly be incompatible. Regrettably, no response was received from the States Parties regarding the utilization of Cataract Island for tourism. For all of these projects, it is recommended that the Committee request the States Parties to clarify their exact locations and to undertake rigorous ESIAs, including specific assessment of impacts on OUV in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and to ensure that no decision is taken that may be difficult to reverse and before these ESIAs have been provided to the World Heritage Centre for consideration by IUCN, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. In view of the proposed tourism developments, it is also recommended that the Committee request the States Parties to complete the sustainable tourism strategy currently underway, as well as the sustainable financing/business plan previously requested by the Committee.
The State Party of Zambia’s decision to further reduce water abstraction from the Zambezi River is appreciated. The draft scoping report for the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric project proposes to build the dam wall 50 km downstream of Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, and to include the construction of new transmission lines, power houses, access roads and new permanent villages. The ESIA that is being undertaken should include an assessment of the impacts of the project specifically on the OUV of the property, caused directly by the dam and all associated infrastructures, in line with IUCN’s Advice Note.
No further information is available on any intentions of the State Party of Botswana to abstract 495 million cubic meters per annum of water from the Zambezi River, as reported in the 2010 feasibility study available on the Republic of Botswana’s Department of Water Affairs’ website. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), as requested by the Committee (Decision 38 COM 7B.96), would be required in case this project were to proceed.
The initiative by the States Parties, following the recording of a drop in average water flow of Zambezi River over the last two years, to determine the cause of the decline by analyzing river flow and rainfall data, as well as upstream activities that could impact water flow, is welcomed. Its findings should inform the management of the property and should also consider the short and long-term impacts of climate change.
The States Parties’ continued effort and progress made to date to control the highly aggressive invasive species Lantana camara are welcomed. Recalling that the 2006 World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission also identified the presence of another highly invasive species, water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), it is recommended that the Committee request the States Parties to provide an update on the efforts to control its spread.
Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.22
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.96, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
- Appreciates the submission of the Joint Integrated Management Plan (JIMP) for the period 2016 to 2021, and efforts to develop a sustainable tourism strategy for the property, and requests the States Parties to finalize this strategy as soon as possible in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
- Also appreciates the decision taken by the State Party of Zambia to further reduce water abstraction from the Zambezi River, but also requests the States Parties of Zambia and Zimbabwe to ensure that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Scheme includes a specific assessment of the impacts of the dam and all of its associated infrastructures, on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and to submit it to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Noting with significant concern that construction of a Ferris wheel is proposed within a high ecologically sensitive zone of the Eastern Cataract inside the property, which would be incompatible with the permitted infrastructural development as prescribed in the JIMP, and which will likely have a significant detrimental impact on the OUV of the property, urges the States Parties to not permit the project;
- Also noting with concern the State Party of Zambia’s intention to partner with private investors to construct a hotel and recreational facilities inside the property, further requests the States Parties to clarify the exact locations of all developments and the plans to utilize Cataract Island for tourism, and to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN, an ESIA for each of these projects, including a specific assessment of the impacts on OUV, in line with IUCN’s Advice Note, before taking any decision that may be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Notes that the development of the sustainable financing/business plan is in progress and reiterates its request to the States Parties to expedite its completion, taking into consideration mechanisms for financing management operations;
- Acknowledging that the States Parties recorded a drop in Zambezi River water flow over the last two years and, noting that the States Parties will be assessing the cause of the decline by analysing water flow data, rainfall data and upstream activities, requests furthermore the States Parties to utilize the findings to inform the management of the property, also taking into consideration the added impact expected from climate change;
- Welcomes the continued efforts by the States Parties to control the highly invasive alien weed, Lantana camara, which has been cleared from 70% of the property, and requests moreover the States Parties to continue their efforts to control this species, and to provide an update on the status of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) inside the property;
- Finally requests the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, a joint 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 43rd session in 2019.