The Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls

Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe find common strategies to conserve an iconic site in the history of tourism

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls, also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders”), stand out in people’s minds as one of the most spectacular waterfalls on Earth. For over 100 years, tourists have flocked into the area, located between Zambia and Zimbabwe, to admire the eight zigzagging gorges where endangered and migratory birds come to breed.

The local economy has benefited from the sources of income that tourism brings with it. But high development pressures have jeopardized the conservation of the natural site. Infrastructural development, urban encroachment, noise and pollution all constitute threats to its exceptional values.

Before it became a World Heritage site, there was no platform for a coordinated management approach to deal with such problems. But in 1989, its exceptional natural beauty and outstanding geological and geomorphologic processes were recognized as outstanding universal values.

After the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List, the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe were compelled to develop management strategies to deal with the challenges.

They soon agreed on action, including finding appropriate locations for balloon and helicopter landing sites and a waste dump, and removing the Lantana camara invasive species. Implementation of resolutions is continuing. All urban developments within the buffer zone are monitored for compliance with national legislation of respective countries.

On several occasions, the World Heritage Centre also appealed to the relevant authorities on unsanctioned developments taking place on the property. In 2010, it asked for an environmental impact assessment in relation to the construction of a restaurant, bar and merchandise centre in the core zone. The venture was eventually stopped.

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