Why the Okavango Delta must be a World Heritage site

 pic supplied by ryuichi ishida(JICA) one of the designers of the Okavango Delta dossier
Since early 2011, the Government of Botswana as a state party to the UNESCO 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural heritage is working towards the listing of the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site.  Botswana ratified the UNESCO 1972 Convention on November 23rd 1998 and thus committed to ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations, its cultural and natural heritage considered to be of outstanding universal value to humanity.

World Heritage is an idea that was proposed by the United States in 1965 to preserve the world’s superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry. The idea was then presented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to the 1972 United Nations conference on Human Environment in Stockholm and formally adopted on 16th November, 1972 as the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
A World Heritage Site is a place such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex or city that is listed by UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance, :http;//whc.unesco.org/en).  Currently, Botswana has one World Heritage Site; Tsodilo Hills which is a cultural site.
Why list the Okavango Delta?
The listing of the Okavango Delta was initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) in fulfillment of Botswana’s obligations to the UNESCO 1972 Convention.  The listing process is coordinated by MEWT and implemented in partnership with relevant stakeholders. Botswana believes that since: 
(i). A World Heritage Site should be exceptional. The Okavango Delta measuring over 16000 km, is the largest inland delta in the world in a desert environment. There is no other delta with the same setting and or form. 

(ii).The scope of the convention is global with respect to the significance of the properties to be protected. In a comparison of seven globally important wetlands, of which six are located in the tropics and sub tropics, the Okavango Delta has the highest number of reptiles and bird species, second highest number of plant and mammal species and third highest number of fish species (Junk et al, 2006). In addition the Okavango river and the delta are among  a few of the world’s river systems that are still technically  ‘wild’- meaning  that to date there are no dams or human  structures that impede its natural functioning. 

(iii) The value of a property makes it outstanding and universal. The Okavango  Delta supports over 120 000 people by providing fresh water, food,  building materials, medicinal plants as well as employment through  a viable tourism industry.

Does the Okavango Delta satisfy the UNESCO Criteria for listing as a World Heritage Site?
In terms of satisfying the natural heritage criteria for listing sites, the Okavango Delta satisfies three out of the four natural heritage criteria stipulated in the operational guidelines of the World Heritage Convention as it contains areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. It is an outstanding example of ecological and hydrological processes since it supports an outstanding variety of forms of life including 150 species of mammals, over 500 species of birds, 90 species of fish as well as plants, reptiles, invertebrates and amphibians.It supports globally threatened and endangered species including wild dogs, cheetahs, lions as well as sitatunga antelopes. 
By Botswana National Museum and Monuments

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