UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has warned that plans by the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia for the development of a golf course, lodges and a hydroelectric dam near the Victoria Falls will put the tourist destination at risk of losing the world heritage site status it was granted in 1989. 

According to report that was compiled by the UNESCO officials who visited Victoria falls five day ago, cites the “inconsistency in the use of precise boundaries and buffer zones” with regard to plans by authorities in Lusaka and Harare which infringes on UNESCO’s description of the importance of the site’s buffer zones which state: “The transboundary property extends over 6860 ha, which is considered relatively intact and adequately sized to maintain the diverse natural processes … Making it an Important Bird Area, lava flows, ancient stone artefacts and tools for hunter-gatherers. 

The UNESCO officials also called for the development of a 300-bed hotel complex on the Zambian side to be stopped. The officials also revealed an apparent lack of full transparency regarding projects on both sides of the Zambezi river which allegedly fuel local rumours of corruption.  

The UNESCO report comes after the Zimbabwean government had announced plans to intensify efforts to lure investors by developing infrastructure with the end goal of achieving city status. To date, multiple hotels and lodges worth more than U.S.$100 million have already been constructed. 

The  Zimbabwean government also identified land outside Victoria Falls where a new city will be built as part of the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric project. The U.S.$4 billion hydropower project in the gorges along Zambezi River will be where two 1,200MW power plants on either side of the river, a substation, transmission as well as a new settlement and road infrastructure, will be built as part of what is intended to become Bakota City. 

Following the conclusion of their visit, the UNESCO delegation stated that the Falls’ special status “could be considered to be in danger in the near future”.   

 

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