This delta in north-west 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. © UNESCO
2020 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
Africa’s most extensive inland delta without an outlet to the sea, lying within a desert environment
Annual cycle of flooding
An outstanding example of the complexity, inter-dependence and interplay of climatic, geo-morphological, hydrological, and biological processes
Rich diversity of species across many taxa, with significant populations of African mega-fauna
Habitat for important populations of rare and endangered species
Landscape of exceptional and rare beauty
Amongst the various land-use and development plans that cover the World Heritage site the 2008 Okavango Delta Management Plan is most relevant, and is used as the de facto management framework through which the OUV of the property is maintained. However, the focus of this plan is the RAMSAR-designated wetland of international importance, a much bigger area than that covered by the World Heritage site and pre-dates the sites inscription under the World Heritage Convention (State Party of Botswana, 2020). Therefore the need to develop a revised management plan for the site that incorporates the requirements of world heritage status and addresses the current reality in the site is well recognised (State Party of Botswana, 2020; IUCN Consultation, 2020). Such a plan is still yet to be formulated, due to delays in the tender process, however is at the scoping phase of development having drafted an inception report (State Party of Botswana, 2020).
It must be recognized that the property’s Outstanding Universal Value will only be maintained if the inflowing river and its tributaries in Angola and Namibia are kept in a natural state without abstraction of water, building of dams and/or the development of agricultural irrigation schemes. Therefore, effective trans-boundary cooperation among Botswana, Angola and Namibia on management of the shared Cubango-Okavango River Basin is critical for the conservation of the Okavango Delta World Heritage property. To this end, the States Parties of Angola, Botswana and Namibia have engaged in discussions to assess the feasibility of potential trans-boundary extension of the Okavango Delta World Heritage property (IUCN Consultation, 2020). To date, an Action Plan to take forward this trans-boundary initiative has been adopted and approval of Terms of Reference for the engagement of a consultant to do a Feasibility study for the project has been approved by the newly established Steering Committee (IUCN Consultation, 2020).
Furthermore, it should be recognized that much of the mega-fauna migrates to areas beyond the boundaries of the property and is consequently vulnerable to hunting and/or any change of status in the buffer zone and beyond. The modified boundary provides for the inclusion of most of an important elephant migration corridor along the ‘Selinda Spillway’ to the north of the delta, and provides important connectivity with Chobe National Park along about 60km of common boundary. However, the "Caprivi Border Fence" between Botswana and Namibia, in the north and northwest of the property continues to be of concern.
Whilst positive changes have been made by the State Party to remove extractives licences from within the property and its buffer zone, the possible exploration for petroleum and metal immediately adjacent to the buffer zone has the potential to impact on the OUV. An extension the legal framework at the basin scale to ensure any extractives project beyond the buffer zone to ensure an assessment of impacts on the OUV would help strengthen the protection of the property.
- Developed protocols for wildlife monitoring in the Okavango Delta through the support of SAREP, including a web-based portal for analyzing the data.
- Relinquished all the prospecting licenses in the property and the cancellation of all petroleum and metals prospecting licenses in the buffer zone.
- - Continued and expanded implementation of livelihoods programmes in the Delta.
- Progress has been made in consulting the indigenous peoples on cultural heritage related issues.
- Addressing the governance, stakeholder and coordination issues for the effective management of the property.
- Continued with control and monitoring of invasive alien species within the property.
- Collaboration between the States Parties of Botswana, Angola and Namibia through the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) to ensure any proposed major development within the Okavango watershed is subject to an EIA and the development of a basin-wide Environmental Monitoring Framework.
- Reviewing the feasibility of a transboundary extension of the property to include key areas of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin in cooperation with the other riparian states.
- Aerial wildlife surveys carried out in 2019 to update species inventories of large mammals and provide baseline ecological data for future monitoring efforts.
Some outstanding actions still remain however, such as: finalising the Management Plan for the property; undertaking an EIA for the veterinary cordon fences; revising the EIA for the Mohembo bridge; and submitting the aerial wildlife survey results.
The private concessions in some of the Wildlife Management Areas are economically driven entities which seem to be very successful (IUCN, 2013). The income is partly used to maintain and develop the concession sites according to the approved management plans, while land royalties are paid to government, thereby supporting (indirectly) government’s capacity to regulate and manage the property. The site continues to benefit from the GEF, whose Small Grants Programme has administered arond $5 million since 1992 in Botswana, of which a significant portion has been invested in projects in the site given that the Delta is perhaps the nations hub for conservation and natural resource management CBO and NGOs (IUCN Consultation, 2020).
|№||Organization||Brief description of Active Projects||Website|
|1||TOCaDI (Trust for Okavango Cultural and Development Initiatives)||Support for community development|
|2||SAREP (Southern Africa Regional Programme for the Environment||Management and strategic panning support|
|3||Okavango Research Institute||Research and Monitoring|
|4||Birdlife Botswana||Monitoring bird life|
|5||Kalahari Conservation Society||No data|
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