Introduction to the Namib Sand Sea and its nomination as a World Heritage Site
The Namib Sand Sea represents a well-conserved, key facet of the long but narrow coastal Namib Desert of western southern Africa. It offers a stunning landscape derived from a combination of geological, geomorphic and climatological processes in which a unique biota has evolved to take advantage of fog as a moisture source and wind-blown sand and detritus as life support media.
As the iconic heart of the Namib Desert, the Namib Sand Sea has been identified for nomination as a World Heritage Site based on all four natural criteria. Although the entire Namib Desert, extending over 2,000 km from South Africa through Namibia to south-western Angola, exemplifies elements of the natural criteria worthy of inscription, their integrity and management are not all as well developed as that of the Namib Sand Sea. As the management situation evolves, it is intended that serial additions to the Namib Sand Sea will be considered for inclusion as part of the World Heritage Site.
The contiguous Namib Sand Sea itself is more extensive than the area currently proposed for inclusion in the site. The identified site is considered to be essentially pristine dune-scapes, entirely encompassed within the Namib-‐Naukluft Park under the management of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The southern extremity of the Namib-Naukluft Park and the Namib Sand Sea were excluded from the proposed Property based on the presence of active Exclusive Prospecting Licences, the fossil aquifer which supplies water to the town of Lüderitz and the intention to leave some of the area available for potentially destructive adventure dune tourism. Establishing the western border at the high-tide line ensures that a single institution (Ministry of Environment and Tourism) is responsible for management of the Property. The northern, eastern and southern borders have been identified to provide for a variable sized buffer area within the Namib-Naukluft Park.
Moreover, the Namib also has a documented history of long human occupation from earliest man as exemplified by early palaeolithic stone tools scattered along natural travel routes in the desert to vestiges of ancestors of modern Namibians that have lived in this extreme environment. These remnants include shell middens at Sandwich Harbour and Sylvia Hill, stone circles and hunting blinds mainly along dry watercourses, and stone-capped graves at Sylvia Hill. Today some Namibians still live along the Kuiseb River valley on the northern boundary of the Namib Sand Sea and retain elements of their cultural heritage that is worthy of inscription as a cultural landscape, e.g. on the basis of their !nara harvesting and use of the landscape. Unfortunately there is currently no management system in place that would allow that landscape to be considered for inscription.
The nomination for the Namib Sand Sea put forth in this dossier is considered to be a pristine dune-scape, well managed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, that exemplifies all four natural criteria ensuring its worthiness as a World Heritage Site. Future serial extensions will be considered as the conservation and management situation of the greater Namib Desert evolves.
© Republic of Namibia, January 2012.
Namibia National Committee for World Heritage
Namibia National Commission for UNESCO, Ministry of Education Private Bag 13186, Windhoek, Namibia.
Namib Sand Sea World Heritage Nomination. Seely, Mary (Editor). 2012. Namibia National Committee for World Heritage. Windhoek.