Mapunguwbe at risk of losing its World Heritage status

The Mapunguwbe cultural landscape, which extends across approximately 28,000 hectares of northern South Africa, between the Zimbabwean and Botswana borders, is currently at risk of losing its World Heritage Status.  The international protection of this rich cultural landscape, which introduce us to the first indigenous kingdom of Southern Africa, thought to be between the years 900 and 1,300 AD, is being threatened by continued open cast coal mining within the heritage area.  UNESCO reported from Russia, that the cultural and heritage status of this area is being threatened by the mining operations by Coal of Africa.  Visual, environmental, archaeological and paleontological impacts of high significance are associated with the open cast mining operations.

Although the area is formally owned by the South African National Parks, government has further plans for additional mining activities in the Mapungubwe area.  Yet, UNESCO warned that it is a cultural area of international significance.  UNESCO have reported mining decades for many decades, specifically associated with open cast mining.  In terms of South African legislation, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is formally protected under the National Environmental Management Act (Act No. 107 of 1998, as amended) and the National Heritage Resources Act (Act No. 25 of 1999).  The South African government is required to identify a buffer zone, and to develop an Integrated Management Plan for the buffer zone, to ensure effective environmental and cultural protection and management of the site.  Yet, UNESCO’s latest report confirmed that a buffer zone is still lacking.  The disagreement between the required management of a world heritage site and the actual activities and degradation recorded, is obliging UNESCO to consider retracting the official world heritage status of the area.  It is expected that UNESCO will formally announce their decision about Mapungubwe’s status within the next week.

Sources: Die Burger, UNESCO: World Heritage Sites, photos: some rights reserved by Harcourts SA and kibuyu via flickr .

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Filed under Environmental news: South Africa & Africa

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