The UNESCO World Heritage Committee convened for a week in June for their annual meeting to review nominations for the prestigious preservation award. In order to be eligible, each site must meet criteria that has “universal value to humanity.” While it sounds like a terribly subjective process, 10 crucial points have been outlined and each nominee must meet at least one point to be considered. The beauty of the World Heritage Convention is that it recognizes the importance of natural and cultural preservation in one diverse, yet harmonious way. Natural creations and man-made wonders are equally eligible, and we were thrilled to learn that on June 22, 2014, the Okavango Delta in Botswana was voted to be inscribed as the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site!
Cheers! Or in Tswana… Pholo e ntle!
So what does it mean to be inscribed anyway?
On the most simple level it will be on the distinguished list to be protected for many future generations to come. On a larger level, and what it means for Botswana, is that it will raise the awareness among citizens and governments for preservation, which often leads to increased financial assistance and global recognition. Certainly this recognition will present the opportunity for a more robust eco-tourism development opportunity, so now more than ever we will say, “Go… before it gets discovered!”
What makes the Okavango Delta worthy of inscription?
This delta in northwest Botswana comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the river Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods. It is an exceptional example of the interaction between climatic, hydrological and biological processes. The Okavango delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.
– WHC.UNESCO.ORG news release
Lovers of Botswana are thrilled about this, but now what?
Becoming a World Heritage site is the beginning of a long and committed path. The Okavango Wilderness Project is dedicated to doing everything they/we can to preserve Africa’s last-remaining wetland wilderness. In all of its beauty, it’s a harsh landscape and the seasonal dependence on water for so many species is a particularly vulnerable one. Look for the Okavango Wilderness Project’s full-length feature film, Okavango, about an incredible expedition across the 1,000-mile long Okavango Delta.