Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa

South Africa
Factors affecting the property in 2017*
  • Ground water pollution
  • Mining
  • Surface water pollution
  • Water (rain/water table)
  • Other Threats:

    Acid mine drainage; Climate change and severe weather events

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Ground water pollution 
  • Mining
  • Surface water pollution
  • Climate change and severe weather events
  • Acid mine drainage 
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2017
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2017**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

On 1 December 2016, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/915/documents. Progress on addressing water pollution, acid mine drainage and management is reported in response to requests made by the Committee at its 39th session in 2015, as follows:

  • Water Management Monitoring: The monitoring programme, which has been in existence for four years, collects data from 17 boreholes in the south-west part of the property on a quarterly basis. Across the rest of the property it is collected from eight springs and from surface and groundwater samples. This monitoring has shown that the main problem lies in the south-west of the property;
  • Second phase of Western basin works: As was indicated in the previous reports, the current mine treatment work is inadequate during summer rains. A second phase for these works for the East, Central and West Rand Mining Basin will increase capacity and provide a longer term solution. This phase was approved in principle in May 2016;
  • Programme for mitigating risks to fossil sites in the south-western part of the property: The State Party confirms that water resources are severely compromised in this part of the property by poor quality allogenic water from the outflow of the waste treatment works that infiltrates the karst aquifer. Damage to the fossil sites continues to be the focus of water monitoring. The State Party considers that threats to some fossil sites are low, particularly those in dolomite compartments, although the threats to the Sterkfontein and Bolt’s Farm sites remain high. Climate change increases the risk of higher rainfall leading to a rising water table that could adversely impact on fossils;
  • Management framework, including external factors: The State Party clarified that the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is the main management authority for water management at the component site. It works through two government offices for Gauteng and North-West Provinces. The water resource monitoring programme is managed by the Cradle of Humankind Management Authority. Responsibility for water management upstream of the property rests with the State through an inter-ministerial task team and an inter-ministerial committee. In addition, a Catchment Management Forum coordinates stakeholder interests.

On 1 June 2016, in response to a letter sent by the World Heritage Centre on 12 December 2015, the State Party reported progress in its engagement with stakeholders, including private property owners within the property.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2017

The water monitoring programme is beneficial in so far as it has helped identify the major problems within the property. However, precise technical details have not been provided by the State Party regarding what is being monitored and water quality targets, as requested by the Committee.

There remains considerable concern about the high pollution levels in the vicinity of the fossil remains and the associated high risk to these sites. This situation is not expected to improve until the second phase of the Western Basin treatment work project is completed and operational so that no polluted effluent flows to these areas. Meanwhile a detailed risk prevention strategy needs to be developed in response to the potential threats.

The approval in principle of this second phase in May 2016 is a major step forward. However, no details have been provided on the design specifications for the project or on an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which were requested by the Committee, in order to assess the scope and outputs of the proposed scheme.

The State Party has indicated that no designs or detailed specifications can be provided until the Professional Service Provider (PSP) has been appointed by April 2017. The PSP has been asked to undertake the EIA, which is expected to be completed by June 2017 although it is unclear how this EIA can be undertaken if the specifications have not yet been agreed upon. It is therefore suggested that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to submit the design specifications and the EIA to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, as soon as they are available and by 1 December 2017 at the latest, and before the parameters of the project have been determined and a construction contract awarded, in order that the review can inform the project.

Furthermore, it is recommended that the Committee take note that details on water management of the property have been provided, and reiterate its request to the State Party to provide technical details on water quality targets as well as further information on the overall management framework for the property, including an update on its engagement with stakeholders.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2017
41 COM 7B.72
Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa (South Africa) (C 915bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.44, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Notes that the water monitoring programme has been effective in confirming that the main areas of high water pollution are located in the south west part of the property, but expresses concern that the polluted effluent from the current water treatment plant continues to present a high risk to fossil sites;
  4. Also notes the arrangements for water management within the property, and reiterates its request to the State Party to provide more detailed information on:
    1. Water quality targets,
    2. The overall management framework of the property, including an update on the State Party’s engagement with stakeholders;
  5. Requests the State Party to prepare a risk prevention strategy for the vulnerable fossil sites and submit it to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Welcomes the approval in principle given in May 2016 for the development of the second phase of the Western Basin treatment work project, which will improve the quality of water effluent, thus reducing the threat to the fossil remains, and also reiterates its request to the State Party to submit the design specifications for the project and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, as soon as they are available, and by 1 December 2017 at the latest, and before the parameters of the project have been determined and a construction contract awarded, in order that the review can inform the project;
  7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, a progress report, and by 1 December 2018, 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 43rd session in 2019.
Draft Decision: 41 COM 7B.72

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.44, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Notes that the water monitoring programme has been effective in confirming that the main areas of high water pollution are located in the south west part of the property, but expresses concern that the polluted effluent from the current water treatment plant continues to present a high risk to fossil sites;
  4. Also notes the arrangements for water management within the property, and reiterates its request to the State Party to provide more detailed information on:
    1. Water quality targets,
    2. The overall management framework of the property, including an update on the State Party’s engagement with stakeholders;
  5. Requests the State Party to prepare a risk prevention strategy for the vulnerable fossil sites and submit it to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Welcomes the approval in principle given in May 2016 for the development of the second phase of the Western Basin treatment work project, which will improve the quality of water effluent, thus reducing the threat to the fossil remains, and also reiterates its request to the State Party to submit the design specifications for the project and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, as soon as they are available, and by 1 December 2017 at the latest, and before the parameters of the project have been determined and a construction contract awarded, in order that the review can inform the project;
  7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, a progress report, and by 1 December 2018, 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 43rd session in 2019.
Report year: 2017
South Africa
Date of Inscription: 1999
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 41COM (2017)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


top