The Zimbabwe National Commission of UNESCO, has advised its parent organisation in Paris, the World Heritage Centre, that a mining proposal to explore the Ruckomechi and Chewore rivers in the Mana Pools-Sapi-Chewore World Heritage Site for heavy mineral sands "will not be allowed".
The Commission, which is responsible for overseeing matters of relevance to the country's World Heritage properties, strongly "discourages mining or mineral exploration in the World Heritage property and its immediate environs".
It states that such a project "negatively impacts on the Outstanding Universal Values of the World Heritage Site" and that mining activities would "jeopardise all conservation initiatives within the Park".
The threat of mining exploration in the Mana-Sapi-Chewore World Heritage Site was brought to the attention of UNESCO by The Zambezi Society, a non-profit organisation working to protect the wildlife and wilderness areas of the Zambezi River. (See Mining Threat in Mana Pools causes Outrage)
Zimbabwe's UNESCO commission then undertook a site visit to Mana Pools with a group of government stakeholders . This was followed by high level detailed consultations with technical and legal advisors in the public and private sectors.
The advice to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre is as a result of these investigations.
If the mining project proponents (Habbard Investments) ignore the recommendations of UNESCO, Zimbabwe could be faced with a situation where UNESCO threatens to withdraw World Heritage Site status for the Mana Pools-Sapi-Chewore area and places the property on the "Sites in Danger" list.
Vine Camp Lodge development
The UNESCO team also undertook a site inspection of the controversial new 24-bed Mana Pools Safari Lodge being constructed by ECIS Investments at Vine Camp in Mana Pools. In its report to the World Heritage Centre on this matter, the UNESCO Commission acknowledges that the original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the development was flawed and insists on a revision, which demands wider public consultation and the incorporation of new requirements regarding waste management, human and vehicular traffic and energy use. The revised EIA will be submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre once completed.
Meanwhile, the tent-under thatch lodge has been under construction during most of 2012.