20 July 2005

St Lucia Wetland Park is a 'fantastic' heritage site

Wrapping up a busy 29th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Committee meeting in Durban, members headed north to the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park on Monday for a two-day field trip around South Africa's first World Heritage Site.

Scanning the horizon: Members of Unesco's World Heritage Committee gaze upon the southern Greater St Lucia Wetland Park from a viewing spot. Photo: Chris Jenkins, The MercuryThey came, they saw and, by all accounts, they seemed mighty impressed.

Hosted by the Wetland Park Authority, delegates took a launch trip from the St Lucia Estuary to view the animal and bird life from the water, before venturing deeper into the park along the Eastern Shores to Cape Vidal.

They were not disappointed. They were taken by the beauty of Africa's biggest estuary, in an area saved from dune mining 11 years ago and listed as a World Heritage Site five years ago.

Speaking at the top of the dune ridge at Mission Rocks, overlooking Catalina Bay, Dr Mechtild Rössler, chief of the World Heritage Centre's Europe and North America Unit, said, "This is really a fantastic place."

The Park Authority, she said, had come a long way in changing the Wetland Park into an even better place.

"We were all happy when the site was inscribed (as a World Heritage Site) - but they had to do a lot."

Rössler said she saw community involvement in the 260 000ha park as being "the crucial issue" - how the people could benefit from the park, rather than being excluded from its boundaries.

"Here, the programmes for rehabilitation include the local communities, and I think this is a big step forward. In other parts of the world, we can learn from it," Rössler told The Mercury.

Rössler, who flies back to Paris today, said it had been "a great event for us all" to have the St Lucia Wetland Park listed in December 1999.

"There had been big issues to address, such as (dune) mining. (Things) have come a long way since then, and I am very pleased about it."

Delegates were briefed on rehabilitation efforts, including the costly and difficult task of clearing alien vegetation, the restocking of wildlife and the challenges facing the Park Authority.

Source: www.iol.co.za


Post a Comment

<< Home