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Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls

Zambia, Zimbabwe
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Air pollution
  • Drought
  • Housing
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Solid waste
  • Surface water pollution
  • Water (extraction)
  • Water infrastructure
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Air pollution
  • Drought
  • 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 (related to existing hydropower production)
  • Water infrastructure (project to construct a dam downstream of the property)
  • Water infrastructure (Project to construct a dam across the gorge) (issue resolved)
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2021

Total amount granted: USD 50,000 in 2015 through the UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism programme (Flanders Funds-in-Trust)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 5 (from 2001-2007)
Total amount approved : 93,485 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

November 2006: joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission 

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 22 March 2021, the States Parties submitted a state of conservation report available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/509/documents/, providing the following updates:

  • All proposals that are clearly incompatible with the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property have been abandoned, including the cable car proposal within the property;
  • The construction of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort Hotel within the buffer zone of the property in Zambia has commenced. The 300-bed capacity resort, located adjacent to the Maramba River, was scaled down and will not include a golf course as initially planned;
  • Measures are being taken to minimize the impacts of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES) on the OUV of the property and the immediate environment, through collection of baseline ecological studies and modifications to the project design. The draft Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was opened for stakeholder consultation until 25 January 2021 and the final report, expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2021, will subsequently be submitted to the World Heritage Centre;
  • Documents and maps concerning the property boundary clarification have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre;
  • The finalization of the Sustainable Financing and Business Plan and the Sustainable Tourism Strategy are still pending, and the World Heritage Centre is invited to provide technical guidance;
  • The Zambia-Zimbabwe Joint Site Management Committee (JSMC) undertook site patrols to assess existing and proposed tourism infrastructures and found no evidence of serious damage to the OUV of the property;
  • JSMC held meetings to address among others the perceived negative impacts that are associated with tourism development pressure and to draft the Terms of Reference for the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which will be funded by the African World Heritage Fund;
  • Other activities undertaken in relation to the management of the property include: fauna and flora surveys; use of mechanical and chemical methods to control the spread of invasive alien species such as Lantana camara; creation of 20 km of firebreaks in and around the property;
  • Several capacity building activities contributed to strengthening the technical capacities of the management team;
  • Additional infrastructure development proposals inside the property include: lodges and conference centres, jetties, a glass viewing deck, offices, and a border post;
  • Additional development proposals in the buffer zone include: several camp sites and lodges, hospital, conference facility, upgrading of a golf course, and the relocation of a helipad;
  • Additional developments outside of the buffer zone include: a lodge on an island upstream of the property within Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park for which an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was undertaken but construction not yet commenced; construction of a hotel immediately adjacent to the Zambezi River, a proposal for the relocation of the Elephant Hotel Hills helipad and upgrade the existing Elephant Hills golf course.

On 25 September 2019, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party of Zambia regarding unusually early and long dry period that was reported to be affecting the water flow of the falls. On 22 November 2019, the World Heritage Centre further requested the State Party to provide comments regarding the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort Project and recalling the Committee Decision 43 COM 7B.34 urging the State Party to abandon the proposal. On 24 June 2020, the World Heritage Centre also requested comments from the State Party concerning the sale of land for construction of a Ferris wheel within the property. No specific response has been received from the States Parties in relation to the Ferris wheel proposal at the time writing.

The joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission could not be invited due to the COVID-19 restrictions but on 16 March 2021, the States Parties invited the mission to the property for October 2021.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The property continues to face considerable development pressure, particularly from a number of tourism infrastructure proposals, and their potential cumulative impacts raise increasingly high concerns. The Committee, in its Decision 41 COM 7B.22, had specifically urged the States Parties to not permit the construction of a Ferris wheel within the property due to the likely significant detrimental impact on the OUV of the property. Furthermore, in its Decision 43 COM 7B.34, the Committee urged the States Parties to abandon the development of a resort in the buffer zone, and any other proposals which are clearly incompatible with the conservation of the property’s OUV. While the States Parties’ decision to not proceed with the cable car project is appreciated, it is of utmost concern that the construction of the tourism resort in the buffer zone has commenced, be it in a scaled down version without the proposed golf course, and multiple additional development proposals exist inside and around the property, some of which have already been approved.

In the absence of assurance that the potential impact of each project individually and cumulatively, has been comprehensively assessed in relation to the protection of the property’s OUV and that there will be no negative impacts on the OUV, it is recommended that the Committee urgently request the States Parties to halt further activities until further consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN has taken place, and the potential impacts assessed in relation to the OUV. The SEA will be a vital tool to take a strategic view across the landscape and further details of this SEA should be provided to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN. The States Parties are strongly encouraged to seek early inputs and technical guidance from IUCN.

Until such comprehensive assessments have taken place, especially at the cumulative scale, and recalling the Committee’s request to the States Parties to abandon any project that is incompatible with the OUV of the property, a decision to proceed with any large infrastructure projects within the property and its buffer zone would be of the utmost concern, and would likely lead to the property meeting the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines

The ESIA for the BGHES has still not been provided to the World Heritage Centre for review. According to online material on the project available from the consultant’s website (https://www.erm.com/contentassets/6bdbb76b347f4e9fb9b9c14054806210/presentations/esia-disclosure-webinar-presentation-2dec20.pdf), the reservoir of BGHES will extend into the property boundaries, and major negative impacts are anticipated through the loss of critical habitat for biodiversity and disruption to environmental flows. It is also recalled that in 1994 the Committee (Decision 18 COM IX) commended the States Parties for dropping the proposal to build the BGHES due to its likely impact on the OUV of the property. It is therefore of concern that the project is being reconsidered. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the project should not proceed if it will encroach on the property or if it may have any negative impacts on the OUV of the property, including its conditions of integrity. It is also recommended that the Committee urge the States Parties to submit the ESIA to the World Heritage Centre, and ensure no decision on the project is taken until IUCN has reviewed the ESIA. Should the project proceed without following such due process, this would also likely mean that the property would meet the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.   

Positive actions are noted in other areas of management of the property, including the joint patrols and monitoring, and continuing their efforts to control the invasive alien plant species. The Sustainable Financing and Business Plan and the Sustainable Tourism Strategy should be finalized as a matter of priority, taking the IUCN’s recommendations into consideration, and its implementation started as soon as possible.

In 2017, the Committee requested the States Parties to utilize the findings from an analysis of water flow, rainfall and upstream activity data in order to inform management, and to also incorporate the factor of climate change. Taking into consideration the abnormally early and long dry season experienced in 2019, it is recommended that the Committee request the States Parties to provide a summary of the key findings of the analysis and the measures being taken to ensure water abstraction from the Zambezi River is restricted in the face of climate change and to ensure a permanent flow in the property.

It is recalled that in the previous state of conservation report, the States Parties proposed to reduce the property’s boundaries without a clear justification. The States Parties re-submitted the map of the property and it was agreed between the World Heritage Centre, IUCN and the States Parties that it remains relevant for the upcoming mission to make recommendations to the Committee on this matter as previously recommended (Decision 43 COM 7B.34). 

The States Parties’ invitation for the mission to the property is appreciated. Taking note that the threats to the OUV of the property have continued to grow since the mission was initially requested in 2019, and that some infrastructure developments have proceeded in contrary to the Committee Decisions, the mission should be requested to assess how these recent developments impact on the OUV.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.177
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls (Zambia, Zimbabwe) (N 509)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 18 COM IX, 41 COM 7B.22 and 43 COM 7B.34, adopted respectively in its 18th (Phuket, 1994), 41st (Baku, 2019) and 43rd (Krakow, 2017) sessions,
  3. Welcomes the further progress of the two States Parties in strengthening the joint management of the transboundary property, including the organisation of joint patrols and monitoring, and the continued efforts to control the invasive alien plant species;
  4. Notes its utmost concern over the increasing tourism infrastructure development pressure within and around the property, including the start of the construction of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort Hotel within the buffer zone of the property, contrary to its request to abandon the proposal, urges the States Parties to halt further activities until further consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN has taken place, all relevant Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre and reviewed by IUCN, and the potential impacts of the infrastructure developments on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property have been adequately assessed;
  5. Notes with concern the likely negative impacts of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES) on the OUV, also urges the State Party to not proceed if the proposal will encroach on the property or has the potential to impact on the OUV, and reiterates its request to the States Parties to submit the completed ESIA to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN before making any decisions on the project;
  6. Requests the States Parties to provide details of the planned Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), including its scope, to the World Heritage Centre, and strongly encourages the States Parties to seek early inputs and technical guidance from IUCN in undertaking the SEA;
  7. Also requests the States Parties to provide a summary of the key findings of the analysis undertaken earlier on the water flow, rainfall and upstream activity data in order to inform management, and the measures subsequently taken to ensure water abstraction from the Zambezi River continues to be adapted in the face of climate change;
  8. Takes note that the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission could not take place due to the COVID-19 restrictions but that the States Parties have invited the mission, and further requests that the mission takes place as soon as possible in order to assess the potential threat posed to the property’s OUV by the growing tourism development pressure in and around the property, the potential impacts of BGHES, to review the regulations to control this pressure and to make recommendations to the Committee on the proposed boundary modification;
  9. Requests furthermorethe State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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.
44 COM 7B.177
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls (Zambia, Zimbabwe) (N 509)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 18 COM IX, 41 COM 7B.22 and 43 COM 7B.34, adopted respectively in its 18th (Phuket, 1994), 41st (Baku, 2019) and 43rd (Krakow, 2017) sessions,
  3. Welcomes the further progress of the two States Parties in strengthening the joint management of the transboundary property, including the organisation of joint patrols and monitoring, and the continued efforts to control the invasive alien plant species;
  4. Notes its utmost concern over the increasing tourism infrastructure development pressure within and around the property, including the start of the construction of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort Hotel within the buffer zone of the property, contrary to its request to abandon the proposal, urges the States Parties to halt further activities until further consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN has taken place, all relevant Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre and reviewed by IUCN, and the potential impacts of the infrastructure developments on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property have been adequately assessed;
  5. Notes with concern the likely negative impacts of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES) on the OUV, also urges the State Party to not proceed if the proposal will encroach on the property or has the potential to impact on the OUV, and reiterates its request to the States Parties to submit the completed ESIA to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN before making any decisions on the project;
  6. Requests the States Parties to provide details of the planned Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), including its scope, to the World Heritage Centre, and strongly encourages the States Parties to seek early inputs and technical guidance from IUCN in undertaking the SEA;
  7. Also requests the States Parties to provide a summary of the key findings of the analysis undertaken earlier on the water flow, rainfall and upstream activity data in order to inform management, and the measures subsequently taken to ensure water abstraction from the Zambezi River continues to be adapted in the face of climate change;
  8. Takes note that the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission could not take place due to the COVID-19 restrictions but that the States Parties have invited the mission, and further requests that the mission takes place as soon as possible in order to assess the potential threat posed to the property’s OUV by the growing tourism development pressure in and around the property, the potential impacts of BGHES, to review the regulations to control this pressure and to make recommendations to the Committee on the proposed boundary modification;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.177

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 18 COM IX, 41 COM 7B.22 and 43 COM 7B.34, adopted respectively in its 18th (Phuket, 1994), 41st (Baku, 2019) and 43rd (Krakow, 2017) sessions,
  3. Welcomes the further progress of the two States Parties in strengthening the joint management of the transboundary property, including the organisation of joint patrols and monitoring, and the continued efforts to control the invasive alien plant species;
  4. Notes its utmost concern over the increasing tourism infrastructure development pressure within and around the property, including the start of the construction of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort Hotel within the buffer zone of the property, contrary to its request to abandon the proposal, urges the States Parties to halt further activities until further consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN has taken place, all relevant Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre and reviewed by IUCN, and the potential impacts of the infrastructure developments on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property have been adequately assessed;
  5. Notes with concern the likely negative impacts of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES) on the OUV, also urges the State Party to not proceed if the proposal will encroach on the property or has the potential to impact on the OUV, and reiterates its request to the States Parties to submit the completed ESIA to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN before making any decisions on the project;
  6. Requests the States Parties to provide details of the planned Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), including its scope, to the World Heritage Centre, and strongly encourages the States Parties to seek early inputs and technical guidance from IUCN in undertaking the SEA;
  7. Also requests the States Parties to provide a summary of the key findings of the analysis undertaken earlier on the water flow, rainfall and upstream activity data in order to inform management, and the measures subsequently taken to ensure water abstraction from the Zambezi River continues to be adapted in the face of climate change;
  8. Takes note that the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission could not take place due to the COVID-19 restrictions but that the States Parties have invited the mission, and further requests that the mission takes place as soon as possible in order to assess the potential threat posed to the property’s OUV by the growing tourism development pressure in and around the property, the potential impacts of BGHES, to review the regulations to control this pressure and to make recommendations to the Committee on the proposed boundary modification;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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 46th session in 2023.
Report year: 2021
Zambia Zimbabwe
Date of Inscription: 1989
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2021) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
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.


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