Government has with immediate effect halted the campaign to have the Barotse Plains listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in order to allow for further consultations among stakeholders.
Tourism Minister Rodney Sikumba says Government would like the nation to know that studies and consultations to have the Barotse Plains listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site began in 2007 when permission to do was sought and granted by the Barotse Royal Establishment. Consultations have been on-going since then.
He said in the last two years, the campaign to sensitise the public was intensified through radio, television and community meetings across the plains.
This was coupled with a fund-raising campaign in Lusaka and Livingstone to save Makono Village from the corrosive action of the Zambezi River which traverses the Barotse Plains.
The Minister said Makono village has great traditional significance to the Kingship of the Litunga in Western Province and must be protected and preserved at all cost.
He said the Ministry through the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) and the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) had until now spearheaded a campaign dubbed, “From Barotse to the World” aimed at bringing international recognition to the unique landscape, culture and traditions of the Barotse Plains.
“Such a recognition will be essential to attract tourists from all over the world to the benefit of the local people and the country’s economy through tourism,” he said.
Hon. Sikumba said Government would like to assure the nation that listing the Barotse Plains as a UNESCO World Heritage Site has nothing to do with the sale of land in the Barotse Plains, or the dispossession of the people of their heritage in any form.
He said countries around the world compete to have their unique places, sites, buildings or cultures listed as a world heritage for humanity in order that such places, sites , buildings and cultures enjoy the protection and preservation by the global community through enhanced heritage and tourism status.
Zambia became a party to the World Heritage Convention in 1984 and had the Victoria Falls declared a World Heritage site in 1989. The Makishi and Gule wa Mkulu (the Nyau dance) also enjoy the World Heritage status under the World Cultural Intangible Heritage Convention.
Government would, therefore, like to encourage all stakeholders who feel left out in the consultations to use his period to engage the BRE and the National Heritage Conservation Commission to discuss their fears and concerns.
Government will not proceed to submit the nomination of the Barotse Plains as a UNESCO World Heritage Site next year until all concerns are addressed.