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.
2017 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 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).
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 and Tourism and are also made available at tourism and public events (Namibia, 2015). A Tourism Development Plan for Namib-Naukluft Park was commissioned to enhance the identification, allocation, management and monitoring of tourism concessions (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 still in its infancy stage, a participatory management arrangement with indigenous people and improved information and guidance of visitors will go a long way in regulating sustainable resource utilisation, improving neighbourhood relations and conservation of biodiversity
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/ individuals||Project duration||Brief description of Active Projects|
|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)|
|№||Site need title||Brief description of potential site needs||Support needed for following years|
|1||Development of a Waste Management Plan||The increase in waste and unsanitary practices at tourism hotspots does not impact on the attributes of the property, but has an effect on visitor appreciation and experience. Attempts to ensure visits to the property remains affordable by Namibians, and the burgeoning costs of basic infrastructure to manage exponential increases in visitors, has the effect that the current waste disposal and sanitation system is inadequate. This requires the development of a waste disposal and sanitation strategy by professionals, including costing, training and monitoring for successfully implementing a suitable Waste Management Plan.||
|2||Improvement of technological infrastructure to support management and monitoring||The vast area of the NSS only has 28 staff deployed at the NSS have to carry out management, conservation, monitoring of ecological and tourism activities, revenue collection and outreach programmes, which limits the capacity for law enforcement patrols. Specific requirements for crime scene investigation and prosecution of illegal activities furthermore restricts the ability of staff to effectively enforce regulations, e.g. respect for airspace and flying height restrictions. Reliable statistics on incidents of poaching, traffic and off-road violations, illegal entry and camping, waste disposal and sanitation, etc. cannot be obtained when regular patrolling of such a vast area is restricted. Effective technological roll-out and remote sensing will assist in improved monitoring and effective law enforcement.||
|3||Develop Tourism Statistics and Intelligence||Tourism has shown a tremendous exponential growth, fuelling a robust private sector tourism industry with more than 60 lodges on private land. Impacts from this growth include off-road driving, noise pollution from low-flying sight-seeing aircraft, litter and sanitation problems, unauthorised camping, overcrowding and spiralling costs. The 28 staff deployed at the NSS have to carry out management, conservation, monitoring of ecological and tourism activities, revenue collection and outreach programmes. Currently the tourism statistics and management incidents are not centralised, which restricts the ability to develop strategies for addressing specific issues.||
|4||Develop Tourism Development Plan||report was commissioned towards developing a Tourism Development Plan to obtain input from stakeholders for improved management of tourism related impacts. The Gobabeb Research Centre furthermore did specific investigations into sanitation, waste management and water utilisation related to tourism. Tourism impacts are being experienced in some areas of NSS and these include off-road driving, noise pollution from low-flying sight-seeing aircraft, litter and sanitation problems, unauthorised camping, overcrowding and disturbance of critical wildlife habitat (e.g notably a vulture breeding colony (IUCN 2013). The demands of tourism are growing rapidly and present levels of management input (financial and staffing) are barely adequate to address these demands, which the report that was commissioned failed to address. Although interpretation and education facilities have been improved there is need to investigate and commission a Tourism Development Plan in order to establish carrying capacities and affordable access for Namibians, further improve interpretation and education facilities at Sesriem, improve provision of relevant information materials to increase visitor appreciation, improve waste disposal procedures, better regulation of aerial flying heights and introducing no fly zones and improve training and registration of guides.||
|5||Develop specific NSS strategy to implement the national Protected Area, Neighbours and Resident Community Policy||The rights of local communities residing in nature reserve and game park were not legally recognized prior to the establishment of the Protected Area, Neighbours and Resident Community Policy (IUCN 2013). The local community concerns are lack of formal recognition of ancestral rights to land and resources. In particular the local community want preferential access to the benefits of tourism, recognition and promotion of community culture and unfettered access to cultural sites (IUCN 2013). Recognizing local community concerns and engaging such communities in, sustainable utilization and conservation of biodiversity is the sole intention of the national Protected Area, Neighbours and Resident Community Policy. The development of a specific strategy and action plan for implementation of the policy at the NSS property is therefore recommended. The indigenous residents are already allowed free and unfettered movement around their homesteads; are allowed to sustainably harvest natural resources; have no restrictions on traditional cultural practices; and were allocated a preferential tourism concession. Specific targeted development products were implemented to allow preferential benefits to the local community from tourism, increase income from traditional resource harvesting, and recognize elements of traditional culture n terms of the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage. Distrust between local residents and towards their legally recognized traditional authority, as well as unsustainable exploitation of community privileges, needs to be resolved (Legal Assistance Centre, 2013).||
IUCN (2013) World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation, Namib Sand Sea (Namibia). Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. .
Jamasmie, C. (2015) Media article: Chinese firm close to start mining uranium in Namibia. [Electronic] In: mining.com. .
Legal Assistance Centre (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. .
Mining Review Africa (2009) Positioned in a World class Namibian uranium resource. [Electronic] In: Mining Review Africa, 6 May 2009. .
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. .
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. .
Namibia (2012) Namib Sand Sea World Heritage nomination dossier. State Party of Namibia.
Namibia (2015) Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of Namib Sand Sea.
Namibia (2016) Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of Namib Sand Sea.
World Heritage Committee (2013) Decision 37 COM 8B.8, Namib Sand Sea. .