'Victoria Falls Live Project' proposes 'Charity Concert' from Livingstone Island on edge of the World Heritage Wonder - Concerns over Impacts - Sacred Site
19th December 2023
The Zambian government has announced its support for an event promoted as a 'ground-breaking charity concert for nature' to be staged at the
Concerns have been expressed, however, over the impact of the proposed event on the fragile environment of the Falls, which is also a sacred cultural site and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Digital visualisation of the Victoria Falls Live Project
Details of the Victoria Falls Live Project were released in media statement from Diamond TV Zambia on social media on Friday 15th December.
"The concert will
feature renowned Zambian, African, and international artists, all coming
together to perform and celebrate the beauty and importance of the surrounding
nature. A unique musical collaboration between Zambian singer-songwriters James
Sakala, Wezi, and Italian composer Giovanni Agusta is set to open the concert.
More artists and acts are being confirmed and will be announced early next
The project involves using
Digital visualisation of the Victoria Falls Live Project
A promotional feature released online by Diamond TV Zambia
includes an endorsement by President Hakainde Hichilema and interviews with Tommy
Lexen, Managing Director of Immersive International and Italian composer Giovanni
Agusta Director of Agusta Productions. The two men are also jointly named as Directors
of Victoria Falls Project Live Ltd (incorporated in the
Zambian Minister of Tourism, Rodney Sikumba, claimed the project is a climate focussed charity concert with a call on saving the planet.
"This concept for
a climate-focused charity concert has come at the right time. We are excited to
invite the world to see our incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site, the
The grand claims of raising awareness of climate change, and involvement of WWF Zambia, appear to be attempts to give thin veneer of 'green' credibility to the event, which appears in every other aspect to be totally incompatible with such a sensitive site.
WWF Zambia have confirmed their involvement in the project on social media, claiming that the Victoria Falls Live Project will be solely a virtual event.
While there may not be crowds viewing the event, there will still be significant disturbance within the fragile area of the Victoria Falls 'rainforest,' supposedly protected within National Parks on both sides of the river.
Nocturnal noise and light pollution from the event are likely to create significant disturbance to local wildlife.
A spokesperson for Keep Victoria Falls Wild, a campaigning
group raising awareness of tourism development pressures and their impacts at
the Falls, commented: "The
Details of the proposed event are vague, although it appears there will only be limited benefits for the local tourism sector with the event being promoted as a virtual event to be broadcast to a 'global audience.'
While WWF Zambia are supposedly the charity benefactors of the event, they have limited involvement with the local community or conservation initiatives. Local Livingstone residents have been left wondering who will benefit from the event.
On his first visit Livingstone recorded that three islands at the lip of the Falls were used by the three local Leya chiefs for offerings to the ‘Barimo,’ but identifies only one of these sites - now known as Livingstone Island, recording the following in his 'Missionary Travels' on his first arrival and sight of the Falls from this island on its very edge in 1855.
“At three spots near these Falls, one of them the island in the middle, on which we were, three Batoka chiefs offered up prayers and sacrifices to the Barimo. They chose their places of prayer within the sound of the roar of the cataract, and in sight of the bright bows in the cloud...
“The play of colors of the double iris on the cloud, seen by them elsewhere only as the rainbow, may have led them to the idea that this was the abode of Deity. Some of the Makololo... looked upon the same sign with awe. When seen in the heavens it is named 'motse oa barimo' - the pestle of the gods.
“Here they could approach the emblem, and see it stand steadily above the blustering uproar below - a type of Him who sits supreme - alone unchangeable, though ruling over all changing things. But, not aware of His true character, they had no admiration of the beautiful and good in their bosoms. They did not imitate His benevolence, for they were a bloody, imperious crew, and Sebituane performed a noble service in the expulsion from their fastnesses of these cruel 'Lords of the Isles' [Sekute and the other Leya chiefs]
“Having feasted my
eyes long on the beautiful sight, I returned to my friends at Kalai, and saying
to Sekeletu that he had nothing else worth showing in his country, his
curiosity was excited to visit it the next day." (Livingstone, 1857,
World Heritage Site in Danger?
The construction of the Zambian Mosi-oa-Tunya Resort, developed on the edge of the World Heritage Site (and in a recognised wildlife movement corridor favoured by Livingstone's local elephant herd) caused widespread negative reaction and resulted in a site visit by UNESCO representatives in February 2022 to assess the negative impacts of the development and combined impacts of tourism development pressures across the site, the report raising serious concerns over the future viability of the World Heritage Site:
"The mission also observed that the property is facing increasing threats from individual and cumulative infrastructure developments, whose footprints are inside the property, its buffer zone or in its wider setting... If the proposed and future developments proceed without the appropriate level of consideration for the environment in which the property is located and for which it is inscribed, as well the cumulative impacts from the different individual developments, the OUV [Outstanding Universal Values] could be considered to be in danger in the near future."
Since the visit a wave of further development proposals have emerged on the Zimbabwean side of the river, including the construction of the Baines Restaurant on the Zimbabwean side of the river, immediately above the Falls (opened in mid-2023).
Livingstone island is leased as a tourism concession to Tongabezi Safaris, operators of Tongabezi Lodge. who operate tours to the island and opportunity to swim in the pools on the very lip of the Falls, the 'Devil's Pool.' The lodge is currently managed by Green Safaris.
Keep Victoria Falls Wild is a campaigning group raising awareness of tourism development pressures and their impacts at the Falls. Visit www.keepvictoriafallswild.com for more information.
Keep Victoria Falls Wild (August 2023) 2023 State of Development Final Report (pdf, 7.2mb, opens in a new window)
World Heritage Committee (2023) Final Joint Mission Report Mosi-oa-Tunya, Victoria Falls (Zambia/ Zimbabwe) 9-13 February 2022 (pdf, 3.3 mb, opens in a new window)