29 June 2005

Three new world heritage sites on the cards for South Africa

Three new sites in South Africa may become United Nations world heritage sites.

They are the Vredefort Dome in the Free State, the Taung Skull fossil site in North West and the Makapans Valley in Limpopo.

The nominations were unveiled in Johannesburg on Tuesday by Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan at a briefing on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting to be held in Durban next week.

"The prestige of having world heritage sites in a country raises awareness of heritage and conservation," said Jordan.

"The ultimate goal of having the sites recognised is to enhance the quality of collective existence and preserve them for future generations."

He said each site was chosen because it had something to offer.

The Vredefort Dome was formed by a meteorite hitting the earth - thought to be the biggest meteorite strike yet known - and is regarded as valuable for scientific research.

Taung is where an early Hominid skull was discovered.

The Makapans Valley was home to some of the earliest settlements in South Africa that range in age as far back as three million years.

South Africa is already home to six world heritage sites and hopes are high that the new three nominations will be approved by the world heritage committee, said Jordan.

To prevent these sites from being de-listed as world heritage sites, an African World Heritage Fund will be set up to maintain and preserve them.

These sites include Robben Island, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, the Cradle of Humankind at Sterkfontein near Krugersdorp, Drakensberg Park, Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in Limpopo and the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas.

"Robben Island is one such site that was in danger of being de-listed because the WHC inspectors found it was not well preserved," said Jordan.

"This fund will ensure that this site and others are well preserved and will not be de-listed."

Contributions towards the fund will come from the public and private sector, as well as other governments and international organisations, said Jordan.

There are over 788 world heritage sites situated in 134 countries, with 63 sites in Africa.

"South Africa's six existing sites and the nomination of three others does not only bring prestige to the country, but impacts on other significant factors like economic development, tourism and sustainable development," said this year's chairman of the WHC, Themba Wakashe.

He said all national sites would be branded, linking the sites together as opposed to being seen in isolation.

"By clustering them the opportunities for retail and tourism can be enhanced. It is hoped that the branding will have positive effects on the individual sites as well as on the communities around them," Wakashe said.

"Our African Heritage" was chosen as the logo to be used on all heritage sites.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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