Namib Sand Sea
Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world that includes extensive dune fields influenced by fog. Covering an area of over three million hectares and a buffer zone of 899,500 hectares, the site is composed of two dune systems, an ancient semi-consolidated one overlain by a younger active one. The desert dunes are formed by the transportation of materials thousands of kilometres from the hinterland, that are carried by river, ocean current and wind. It features gravel plains, coastal flats, rocky hills, inselbergs within the sand sea, a coastal lagoon and ephemeral rivers, resulting in a landscape of exceptional beauty. Fog is the primary source of water in the site, accounting for a unique environment in which endemic invertebrates, reptiles and mammals adapt to an ever-changing variety of microhabitats and ecological niches.
2020 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
World’s only coastal desert with extensive dune fields influenced by fog
Massive dunes made of sand transported from afar
Diversity of dune formations and natural beauty
Plant and animal adaptations to desert conditions
Rare and endemic species
The new NNP headquarters to be built at Sesriem, including the stationing of a number of wardens and rangers will strengthen law-enforcement efforts (IUCN Consultation, 2020). Tourist control measures will be enforced on a high level, and during peak seasons other NNP staff members from Zais and Ganab stations will be called in for reinforcement. The current risks posed are manageable e.g. dune climbing which is naturally rehabilitated by wind. There are only four dunes allowed by MEFT for tourist utilization, Dune 45, Big Daddy, Big Mamma and Sossusvlei, Dune 40 will be added in future to relief stress from Dune 45. New visitor information sign boards has been erected at Sesriem entrance gate. MEFT experiences financial constraints but the property is well managed with available limited funds and staff member capacity has been improved (MEFT,2020).
There are discussions under way to limit the number of visitors to Sossusvlei through the introduction of a daily quota. Stricter measures will also be introduced such as: preventing permits of non-complying 4x4 tour operators to be renewed; active 4x4 tour operators who are not adherent to their permit conditions to be banned from operating within the site and the entire Namib Naukluft National Park. An online booking system for sightseeing will also be introduced to improve visitor access and to aid monitoring.
The property predominantly consists of sand dunes and only the coastline is viable for fishing, however fishing within the property is prohibited. The other waterbody found within the property is Sandwich Harbour Ramsar Site, where no fishing is taking place. No aquatic resources are harvested at the property. There remains heaps of mussel shells along the coastline, which clearly indicate that the coastline was utilized by ancient Beach Dwellers (MEFT, 2020). The number of households per settlement varies greatly: each settlement may have between five to 25 residents in up to 15 households (Mortimer, D.J. et al, 2016). The literature review revealed that the Topnaar population living in the Kuiseb valley has fluctuated over the years, which is in part due to the high degree of mobility between Walvis Bay and the settlements along the river (Mortimer, D.J. et al, 2016, Werner, 2003). Also, some people might be registered at a settlement in order to receive drought relief or to keep livestock there while they are residing most of the time in Walvis Bay (Dieckmann, U. et al, 2013). The latest communication from the Office of the Prime Minister indicates that the current estimated number of Topnaar households living along the Lower Kuiseb River is 135, with up to five members per household (IUCN Consultation, 2020).
The property is surrounded by a buffer zone of variable width along its northern, eastern and southern boundaries. This buffer zone (8 995 km2) lies entirely within the Namib-Naukluft Park, and its eastern and southern boundaries extend to the boundary of the park. Furthermore, the eastern boundary of the park borders on large-scale private land-holdings that are increasingly given over to tourism, game-ranching and other land-uses that enhance the ecological viability of the wider landscape. These private properties serve effectively as a useful ‘outer buffer zone’ (although this is not formally recognised or supported by legislation) (IUCN, 2013).
Whilst the Nature Conservation Ordinance provides for the conservation of nature and establishment of game parks and nature reserves, a number of other bodies of legislation are relevant to management of the property including the Environment Management Act (2007), Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act (1992), Namibian Tourism Board Act (2000), National Heritage Act (2004), and Water Resources Management Bill (2004). Whilst none of the existing legislation have specific mandate that provides the level of protection required to guarantee the future integrity of the property, particularly in respect of mining, tourism and community rights, a Tourism Development Plan was commissioned and a National Policy on Protected Areas' Neighbours and Resident Communities and the recent formation of the Community Park Management Collaborative Committee (DNNTC) has addressed threats from tourism, indigenous peoples' concerns and biodiversity conservation. Although some activities that would be incompatible with World Heritage status are currently being undertaken in other parts of the Namib-Naukluft Park, including uranium mining and large-scale water extraction, the State Party has cancelled the two EPLs that are currently running and has guaranteed that no similar activities will occur inside the boundaries of the site in future (IUCN Consultation, 2020). That being the case there is still need to promulgate laws or policies that regulate mining, water abstraction and sustainable resource use in protected areas including the World Heritage property leading to (a) the permanent cessation of all mineral prospecting and mining, (b) sustainable water extraction and (c) the recognition of indigenous community rights and their accommodation within the management of the property. There is no law in Namibia that prohibits prospecting and mining within World Heritage properties, so the legal protection needs to be strengthening by incorporating this into the legal framework.
The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism do train their staff members on park management but tourism sector section is not wholly covered. Park staff are not involved in guiding activities but do implement the park management plan and enforce Nature Conservation Ordinance, 4 of 1975. In 2016, a law enforcement Training School was built at Waterberg Plateau Park, Namibia to cater for training needs for MEFT staff members as well as other ministries and private organizations that have interest in wildlife protection, particularly keystone species e.g. Rhinos. The school is also available for other training needs for MEFT staff members.
Visitor interpretation facilities were established at Sesriem and Sossusvlei, information on NSS is available at Sesriem at the Namib Wildlife Resorts, a plaque about the NSS World Heritage Site has been placed to the entry of the site, banners about the site are on the walls of the Headquarters of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and are also made available at tourism and public events (State Party of Namibia, 2015). Outdoor information boards have been developed by Gobabeb for appropriate deployment at frequently visited locations (IUCN Consultation, 2020). A Tourism Development Plan for Namib-Naukluft Park was commissioned to enhance the identification, allocation, management and monitoring of tourism concessions (State Party of Namibia, 2015), but did not adequately explore options for optimising use but rather recommended diversification which would have further challenged adequate management. Despite the improvement in visitor facilities and management of tourism concessions there is need to monitor the impacts from tourism and introducing appropriate mitigation measures. Additional resources are needed to enhance management and enforce existing controls. The property is heavily understaffed so there is a need to address this issue in the face of increasing tourism.
Although statistical information is lacking tourism at NSS particularly at Sesriem and Sossusvlei has shown a tremendous exponential growth (NSS Word Heritage nomination dossier 2012). In support of the influx of tourists a network of approximately 60 tourism lodges on private land outside the property were developed (IUCN 2013).
For the purpose of management, conservation, monitoring ecological and tourism activities, and outreach programmes, 28 staff were assigned to NSS. In tandem with the increase in tourists, tourism infrastructure including 60 lodges on private land was developed (Namibia, 2012). Although information on the number of jobs created through tourism activities is not available, tourism creates jobs at local, regional and national levels.
|№||Organization||Brief description of Active Projects||Website|
|1||Gobabeb Research and Training Centre||Numerous initiatives concerned with fundamental research on desert species, ecological monitoring, weather and climate change, etc.|
|2||Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Directorate of Parks and Wildlife||Re-introduction of extirpated large mammal species, e.g. giraffe, blue wildebeest, etc.|
|3||Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Directorate of Parks and Wildlife||Tracking migrations and movements of large herbivores and carnivores, e.g. satellite tracking of cheetah and the near-endemic Hartmann’s zebra; camera traps at waterpoints, seasonal strip counts, etc.|
|4||Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Directorate of Scientific Services||Annual counting and ringing at vulture breeding sites|
|5||Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Directorate of Scientific Services||Semiannual monitoring of migratory birds at Sandwich Harbour and nearby Walvis Bay Lagoon (Ramsar site)|
|6||Gobabeb Research and Training Centre||Monitoring of livestock resource utilisation, movement and environmental impacts|
|7||Gobabeb Research and Training Centre||Programme to raise tourism operator awareness of sensitive areas and processes to reduce footprint in NSS|
|8||Gobabeb Research and Training Centre, MET Directorate of Parks and Wildlife,||Multidisciplinary analysis of grazing impact around artificial waterpoints (piosphere)|
|9||Gobabeb- Namib Research Institute||Namib Sand Sea awareness programmes, information products and outreach|
|10||Gobabeb- Namib Research Institute||Bespoke and multidisciplinary training for tour guides, NSS management staff and emergent Namibian researchers on aspects related to the management and protection of the attributes of the NSS|
Dieckmann, U., Odendaal, W., Tarr, J. & Schreij, A. (2013). Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change in Africa: Report on case studies of Namibia's Topnaar and Hai||om communities. Land, Environment and Development Project Legal Assistance Centre. [online] Legal Assistance Centre. Available at: https://www.eldis.org/document/A65157 [Accessed 24 November 2020].
IUCN Consultation. (2013). IUCN Confidential Consultation- Namib Sand Sea, Namibia.
IUCN Consultation. (2020). IUCN Confidential Consultation- Namib Sand Sea, Namibia.
IUCN. (2013). World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation, Namib Sand Sea (Namibia). In: IUCN World Heritage Evaluations 2013, IUCN Evaluations of nominations of natural and mixed properties to the World Heritage List. WHC/13/37.COM. [online] Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/?cid=31&l=en&id_site=1430&am… [Accessed 24 November 2020].
Jamasmie, C. (2015). Chinese firm close to start mining uranium in Namibia. [online] 21 February, mining.com. Available at: https://www.mining.com/chinese-firm-close-to-start-mining-u… [Accessed 24 November 2020].
MEFT (Ministry for Environment, Forestry & Tourism). (2020). Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), Namib Naukluft Park Integrated Management Plan. Under development and unpublished.
Mining Review Africa. (2009). Positioned in a World class Namibian uranium resource. [online] 6 May, Mining Review Africa. Available at: https://www.miningreview.com/top-stories/positioned-in-a-wo…. [Accessed 24 November 2020].
Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. (2016). Utuseb ADC Farming Area Drought Monitoring Report 25 April 2016.
Ministry of Environment and Tourism (2013a) Management Plan for Namib Sand Sea World Heritage site 2013-2018. Republic of Namibia. Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Directorate of Regional Services and Parks Management. .
Ministry of Environment and Tourism. (2013b). National Policy on Protected Areas' Neighbours and Resident Communities. [online] Available at: http://the-eis.com/elibrary/sites/default/files/downloads/l… [Accessed 24 November 2020.
Ministry of Environment and Tourism. (2013c). Tourism development plan: Namib Naukluft Park 2013/2014 - 2017/2018. Republic of Namibia. Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Directorate of Regional Service and Parks Management.
Ministry of Environment and Tourism. (2013d). Management Plan: Namib Naukluft Park, September 2013. Republic of Namibia, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Directorate of Regional Services and Park Management.
Mortimer, D. J., Trivino, G. C., Gagnon, J. A., & Iwanicki, S. W. (2016). Creating Tourism Employment Opportunities for the Topnaar in the Namib Sand Sea. [online] Available at: https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/iqp-all/895 [Accessed 24 November 2020].
State Party of Namibia (2015). Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of the Namib Sand Sea (Namibia).
State Party of Namibia. (2013). Nomination of Namib Sand Sea as a World Heritage Site. Windhoek, Namiba: Namibia National Committee for World Heritage, Namibia National Commission for UNESCO, Ministry of Education.
World Heritage Committee. (2013). Decision 37 COM 8B.8, Namib Sand Sea. In: Report of decisions of the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee (Phnom Penh, 2013). [online] Paris, France: UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5124 [Accessed 24 November 2020].