The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has warned that Victoria Falls risks losing World Heritage Status after the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe plan to develop a golf course, lodges, and a hydroelectric dam nearby.
Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water in the world, measuring 1.7 kilometers in length and is 100 meters deep on average. The popular tourist destination designated as a world heritage site since 1989 is located in Southern Africa on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Zimbabwe announced plans to make Victoria Falls gain city status by building more infrastructure. More than one hundred million dollars' worth of hotels and lodges have already been built as of now. On the other side of the Zambezi river, Zambia is currently building a 300-bed hotel complex.
Both Zimbabwe and Zambia plan to build two hydroelectric power plants in the Batoka gorge worth $4 billion. The two plants will be built on each side of the Zambezi river, generating 1200 MW. The Zimbabwean government has also designated a territory just a few kilometers from Victoria Falls where a new city will be constructed called Batoka City, with substations and transport infrastructure.
The construction of facilities such as golf courses and lodges will disturb the ecosystem in the area. The development will obstruct well-known animal routes and corridors which allows big game like elephants to traverse between safe habitats without being bothered by people.
UNESCO officials who recently toured the site for five days criticized the inconsistency in the usage of specific boundaries and buffer zones with reference to plans by authorities in Lusaka and Harare. The team also criticized a perceived lack of full transparency surrounding projects on both sides of the Zambezi river, which they claim feeds local corruption rumors. Following their tour, the team declared that the Falls' unique status may be deemed to be under threat in the near future.
About UNESCO World Heritage Sites
A World Heritage Site is a place or landmark that is legally protected by the World Heritage Convention of 1972. The Convention promotes the preservation of cultural monuments and environmental conservation. World Heritage sites are divided into two groups: natural and cultural.
The world heritage site list is one of the prestigious website in the tourism industry and it encourages travel and strengthens the economy of the host nation. Zimbabwe has five locations listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The five sites are the Great Zimbabwe National Monument (1986), Khami Ruins National Monument (1986), Matobo Hills (2003), Victoria Falls (1989) and the Mana Pools National Park.
If UNESCO believes a site is not being effectively administered and preserved, it has the authority to delist it from its list of World Heritage Sites. Placing the location on the so-called UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger can serve as a beginning point. The site will be completely removed from the World Heritage List if rehabilitation efforts are unsuccessful by the host nation.
There have already been sites delisted, for example, the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman became the first World Heritage Site to be delisted in 2007 and the Liverpool Maritime Merchantile City in Liverpool was removed due to overdevelopment, including the building of the new Everton Football Club stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.
The government and other institutions in Zimbabwe are required by section 16 of the country's constitution to protect and promote the country's cultural heritage. Victoria Falls must be kept safe and stop being commercialized. Both Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe will suffer the consequences if Victoria Falls is to be delisted by UNESCO.