uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site  – Buffer Zone Delineation, Process and Implementation

Oscar Mthimkhulu

In 2006, uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (UDP WHS) embarked on buffer delineation process. The purpose of the Buffer Zone was to i) protect the purpose and values of the World Heritage Site, ii) protect important areas of high value for biodiversity and/or to society where these extend beyond the boundary of the World Heritage Site and iii) to assist adjacent and affected communities to secure appropriate and sustainable benefits from the World Heritage Site and Buffer Zone itself.
Formally, there is also a need to distinguish the inscribed World Heritage Property, which is the area that contains the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) as defined in the Operational Guidelines, from the World Heritage buffer zone. It should be noted that a World Heritage buffer zone does not necessarily have to include outstanding universal value, but it should provide additional protection for the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property (103- 06 of the Operational Guidelines). Hence, the UDP WHS Buffer Zone delineation process was based on enhancing the positive and reducing the negative impacts on conservation on neighbouring communities and of neighbouring communities on conservation.
Drawing from the Operational Guidelines, it is believed that buffer zones are a useful tool to address external threats and opportunities.  However, it is unrealistic to hope that buffer zones can address every threat or respond to every opportunity. Whilst dealing with the process, the Park discovered that there is a range of legal instruments and mechanisms required for the implementation of the buffer zone and differing practices. Based on this it became apparent that buffer implementation would need Intergovernmental Relations approach, hence, the establishment of Buffer Technical and Steering Committees.  These two structures facilitate better decision making by serving as a cooperative governance mechanism to review development applications and to provide guidance and recommendations on all land use change and development applications.
In conclusion, the concept of a World Heritage buffer zone should be regarded as a summary term used for a diverse range of buffer zone typologies that are used to provide additional protection to an inscribed World Heritage property, or to support its sustainable use (as defined in Paragraph 119 of the Operational Guidelines).

Presentation Topic

uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site  – Buffer Zone Delineation, Process and Implementation

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