Save Victoria Falls from over-development - click to visit site -

Saturday 30 September 2023

New hotels for Victoria Falls to boost realisation of US$5 billion tourism economy

THE prime tourism city of Victoria Falls is witnessing massive infrastructure development, a major boost to the country’s tourism sector, which aims to achieve US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025.

Under the Second Republic, the city continues to attract increased investments in new facilities.

The tourism industry is one of the key foreign currency earners in the country and employs thousands of people along the value chain.

Tourism players have described the developments as a sign of growing investor confidence in the country in response to comprehensive economic reforms being implemented by President Mnangagwa.

In 2020, the President launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy anchored on Zimbabwe’s vision to be a prime international tourist destination based on the judicious and sustainable exploitation of the unique assets of nature, culture, heritage, and the built environment.

The strategy is informed by the Government’s Vision 2030 to become an upper middle-income economy characterised by increased investment, and decent jobs.

The high growth target of this strategy seeks to achieve a US$5 billion tourism economy and Victoria Falls is a strategic destination whose operations have a huge bearing on the attainment of that target.

The city and its environs is the gateway into Zimbabwe and developments, especially in the tourism sector, help build a positive image of the country as well as position Victoria Falls as a world-class destination.

The Chronicle news crew yesterday observed several structures, at various stages of completion, being built. A majority of the projects are being implemented by locals from different sectors of the economy who have decided to venture into tourism.

There is a three-storey hotel under construction, which is located in the central business district and it is at roof level. A top lawyer from Harare is implementing the facility, which is set to have a shopping complex and three separate structures each with three floors.

Along Reynard Road in the city’s low-density suburb, a massive US$1,8 million 36-roomed hotel is taking shape with the apartments having already been roofed. The project is being implemented by a local businessman and farmer Mr Knowledge Dzimbanhete.

There are several lodges concentrated along Old Kazungula Road where construction work is underway. One facility with more than 10 rooms is almost complete including another with several apartments and it is already for opening.

The ongoing developments dovetail Government plans to transform Victoria Falls into a conferencing capital, with a multi-purpose convention centre, top-notch facilities such as five-star hotels, a medical centre, a university, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces camp, and sporting facilities among others.

The growth taking place in Victoria Falls is within the framework of the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga Special Economic Zone, which seeks to integrate the broader tourism economy with agriculture and mining as well as the rich natural environment to promote eco-tourism activities.

In an interview, Mr Dzimbanhete, said he hopes to open the hotel next year.

“This has been about perseverance and confidence. We are bringing in a 38-roomed hotel which should be open in April next year. Upon completion, about US$1,8 million would have been invested into facility,” he said.

President Mnangagwa conferred city status to Victoria Falls in December 2019, making it the youngest city in the country and a fertile ground for investment.

Plans are underway to build Masue City, which will have a convention and conference centre, five-star hotels, medical facilities and shopping malls to make Victoria Falls a conference capital.

In 2020 the Second Republic established the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange, the only United States dollar-denominated bourse in the region as part of efforts to implement the SEZ and the counter has since attracted 14 listings in its first three years.

Government wants to transform Victoria Falls into a little Vegas with state-of the art facilities and infrastructure that is commensurate with a city.

This includes establishing firms outside the tourism sector, with state-of-the-art medical facilities also coming in to promote medical tourism.

Several hotels including Palm River Hotel, Mbano Manor Hotel, Zambezi Boutique, Nkosi, Guest Lodge, Mpala Jena and others were built during the first five years of the Second Republic.

Government has also been upgrading transport infrastructure to facilitate travel either by road or air into Victoria Falls where a number of airlines are also angling on flying into the destination.

Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe president Mr Wengayi Nhau welcomed the new developments, saying they speak to sustainable tourism, job creation, foreign currency earning and increase in room stock.

“When there is no confidence in a destination there is no need for people to put the amount of investment we are seeing. This shows confidence and interest in Victoria Falls and as a tourism sector, we applaud the positive developments that we are seeing,” he said.

“However, we want to balance with sustainability and make sure the developments are sustainable in all areas of environment, inclusiveness, involvement of community, diversity in terms of more people getting involved in tourism and job creation.”

Mr Nhau said there is a huge a room deficit in Victoria Falls hence the new developments will help address the challenges. – @ncubeleon

Source: New hotels for Victoria Falls to boost realisation of US$5 billion tourism economy (29/09/23)

Wednesday 27 September 2023

World Heritage Committee Dilutes Reaction to Batoka Gorge HydroElectric Scheme

Keep Victoria Falls Wild, 27th September 2023

South Africa successfully propose amendments diluting Committee decision

- Committee diverted from recommendations of Reactive Monitoring Mission

The World Heritage Committee at its 45th Conference Session, held at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over 10th-25th September 2023, turned its attention to issues affecting the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site (VFWHS) in a discussion held on 13th September (available to view on the UNESCO World Heritage website here (1:52:10 to 2:33:25)). 

Members of the Committee discussed the draft decision text prepared by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN (UNESCO, July 2023) and amendments to the text which were proposed by the South African delegation (UNESCO, August 2023). Both South Africa and Zambia are currently members of the Committee.

The Committee’s concerns mainly focussed on the proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (BGHES), jointly proposed by the State Parties of Zambia and Zimbabwe, and potential impacts of the project on the Outstanding Universal Values (OUV) of the VFWHS, which includes a section of the gorges extending some 12 km downstream as well as the Falls themselves and a section the river extending some 15 km upstream.

Map showing flooding of the Batoka Gorge from the proposed 
Hydro-Electric Scheme (click for larger view)

Before the Committee debated the proposed amendments, the World Heritage Centre Secretariat presented an opening statement highlighting direct threats to the Site from the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES).

“On the issue of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme which is referred in paragraph 4 - we would like to note that following review of the documentations from the State Parties, the WHC and IUCN have assessed that the reservoir area of the electric scheme will extend approximately 10.75 km into the property at full supply level which at deepest point will increase the water level in the property by around 43 m. During the dry season it is reported that the reservoir level  will be lowered, which will reduced the flooded area by 5 km. This means that during the dry season still 5.75 km of the gorge inside the property will remain with the higher water level.

“The project will therefore alter the unique gorge ecosystem and water flow and could potentially impact on the ecological values of the property as defined in its statement of OUV.

“The World Heritage Centre therefore considers that the property should not proceed as currently proposed but should be further revised together with the Environmental Impact Assessment to assess alternative project designs that would avoid these impacts on the property and include a comprehensive ecological assessment of the gorge ecosystem.”

In their statement on their proposed amendments the representative for South Africa informed the Committee:

“The State Party of Zambia has taken utmost care to avoid any possible impacts on the OUV through the selection of an alternative that has no likelihood of undermining the integrity of the site. The chosen alternative clearly shows the tail of the backflow of the reservoir waters will only be located in gorges, with a potential water level rise of only 25% maximum, and as such no flooding of the gorges. And therefore no negative impact on the attributes of the OUV.”

The statement appears to contradict itself by saying the backflow will include the gorges (within the WHS) but that there will be “no flooding of the gorges,” and the claimed “potential water level rise of only 25% maximum” appears to make limited sense without further context. 

The representative from Zimbabwe also encouraged the Committee to support the project.

"The establishment of the BGHES will contribute to the partial fulfilment of the national obligations under the Paris agreement following the UN... COP decision to encourage third parties to promote clean energy production whilst reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuels that are exacerbating climate change and have negative and significant implications on the hydrology of the Zambezi river.

"At present the average of 50 percent of our populations both in Zambia and Zimbabwe lack access to electricity, and ...the investment in clean energy is necessary, and in joint efforts...  our governments remain committed to religiously implement recommendations of the E S I A prepared for this project.

"Given these submissions, Chair, together with Zambia we pledge to continue preserving the integrity of the property whilst ensuring that livelihoods surrounding communities are enhanced through sustainably designed programmes and ensuring that the ecosystems inhabited are preserved to protect the OUV of the property."

The Committee then discussed and considered the various amendments, with the Japanese delegates, in particular, raising concerns over the shift of emphasis away from the request for a comprehensive ecological assessment of the project’s impact on gorge ecosystem environment, instead placing the emphasis on a geomorphological and/or geological assessment.

Google satellite image of the Batoka Gorge (click for larger view)

A detailed ecological study of the gorge ecosystems is essential if the impacts of this development are to be understood. For example the fish communities of the middle Zambezi River system reflect not only the fast-flowing rapids of the gorge system but also a complex regional geomorphological history of major river course changes and river captures, with the Victoria Falls acting as a geographical barrier to the movement of fish and resulting in geographically isolated fish communities downstream of the Falls. Geomorphological evidence has resulted in several theories on the time-scales in the evolution of the Falls and gorge system and the study of comparative fish faunas and species clines has helped refine these theories (Kramer and Van der Bank, 2011). There is still potentially much more that can be learned from the study of the unique fish communities of the Batoka Gorge before they are lost under the waters of the BGHES.

It should be noted that the gorge systems of the middle Zambezi downstream are already significantly affected by the Kariba Dam, and that the BGHES will not only affect the natural river-flow above the dam, but also downstream, effectively modifying the remaining natural sections of the gorge environments. An alternative location, in the Devil’s Gorge, downstream from the Batoka Gorge and above Kariba, would at least leave the Batoka Gorge as a last natural example of the once extensive gorge ecosystems.

Despite the issues raised in the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission report, opening statements from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN and concerns raised by the Japanese delegation, the Committee adopted the amendments suggested by South Africa. The amendments removed a specific request “to assess alternative project designs that will not impact the OUV.”

The amendments effectively remove all the recommendations resulting from the Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Site, undertaken in February 2022 (UNESCO, June 2023), undermining efforts of their own advisory bodies to improve the protection of the Site.


Kramera and Van der Bank (2011) The Victoria Falls, a species boundary for the Zambezi Parrotfish, Cyphomyrus discorhynchus (Peters, 1852), and the resurrection of Cyphomyrus cubangoensis (Pellegrin, 1936). Journal of Natural History, Vol.45, Nos.43-44, November 2011, 2669–2699. [Available to download from the KVFW website here.]

UNESCO (June 2023) Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls Reactive Monitoring Mission (February 2022) Final Report. [Available to download from the UNESCO World Heritage website here.]

UNESCO (July 2023) Item 7B of the Provisional Agenda: State of conservation of properties inscribed on the of World Heritage List (WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add). [Available to download from the UNESCO World Heritage website here.]

UNESCO (August 2023) 7B Amendment/Proposal 45 COM 7B.10 Submitted by the Delegation of South Africa, 26th August. [Available to download from the UNESCO World Heritage website here (direct download).]

Further Information

Read more on the background to the Batoka Gorge HydroElectric Scheme on the Keep Victoria Falls Wild website.

Friday 1 September 2023

New Report raises questions over management of Victoria Falls World Heritage Site

(1st September 2023)

A new independent report raises serious questions over the management of Victoria Falls World Heritage Site in advance of the 45th Session of the World Heritage Committee, to be held 10-25th September 2023. The 2023 State of Development Report (7.2mb) has been commissioned by Keep Victoria Falls Wild, a group of concerned residents and individuals who are campaigning against a wave of proposed tourism developments which threaten the southern (Zimbabwean) side of the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site (VFWHS).

Lights from the newly constructed Baines Restaurant intrude over the view of 
the Devil's Cataract in a picture taken at night on a special tour 
to experience the lunar rainbow

The report raises widespread and serious concerns over the management of the Site, with conservation priorities ignored, concerns over the rapidly increasing number of tourism concessions within the area of the WHS, new concerns over the identification or the Site’s boundary, and significant and serious concerns over the boundary of management zones within the Site - with implications for recent developments within the Highly Ecologically Sensitive Zone (HESZ) which prevents the development of any new infrastructure (including a new National Park development, the 'rock pool', and the Baines Restaurant, immediately above the Falls).

"We believe the combined mismanagement and increasing tourism development pressures highlighted over the last few years raise serious concerns over the future viability of the World Heritage Site with serious negative impacts on the Site’s Outstanding Universal Values already caused by recent developments along Zambezi Drive ... The management of Site is in urgent need of detailed review and increasing scrutiny is needed to monitor and mitigate the negative impacts and pressures affecting the Site - and in which the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority appear themselves to be complicit by authorising and agreeing concession licenses within the HESZ. Failure to react strongly to the current wave of developments which threaten the Site will be seen as a green light to the State Parties to continue the commercial development, and ecological degradation, of the Site."

UNESCO World Heritage Committee 45th Session (10-25 September 2023)

The report concludes by responding to the recent World Heritage Committee draft documents, published in advance of the 45th Session of the World Heritage Committee to be held in September 2023, calling the current text inadequate to address the serious and urgent problems facing the Site, especially in relation to developments which have already been authorised by Park Authorities on the southern, Zimbabwean, side of the property. The wording of draft decision for Victoria Falls point 5 reads:

“5. Reiterates its concern over the increasing pressure from tourism infrastructure within and around the property, exacerbated by the absence of strategic planning and also requests the States Parties to produce a blueprint for infrastructure development in and around the property that ensures the protection of the property’s OUV, and to not approve any further developments until the blueprint is finalized and submitted to the World Heritage Centre, together with an impact assessment for each proposed project in accordance with the new Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context, prior to taking any decision that is difficult to reverse;” (World Heritage Committee, 2023, p.19)

The wording of the current draft request for the ‘blueprint’ overview appears to do nothing in terms of addressing the current wave of unsuitable developments within the WHS HESZ and which have already been authorised and agreed between the Zimbabwean National Park Authority and private tourism operators. The report continues:

"After the delays faced by the monitoring mission to the Site, originally requested in 2019 and only undertaken in February 2022, and the subsequent delays in the dates for the 45th Session, there is an urgent and pressing need for the Committee to further investigate and consider its response to the State Parties, and we urge the Committee to request an urgent review of all current development proposals within the World Heritage Site and surrounding Buffer Zone, and request that all current as well as further/future developments are immediately suspended pending submission and agreement of the detailed ‘blueprint’ and ESIA documents requested by the Committee.

"We further believe that the requested suspension on all new tourism developments and activities within the WHS should be maintained until an adequate (and IUCN/UNESCO approved) management plan for the Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks is in place and a new Joint Integrated Management Plan for the Site agreed, including addressing the management of the transport corridor and other areas within the WHS and surrounding Buffer Zone which are outside of National Park control an ignored in current reports presented by State Parties to UNESCO."

The report highlights that the World Heritage Committee has already missed the opportunity to influence some of these developments, which are now already completed and operational (including the Mosi-oa-Tunya Resort in Zambia, opened in December 2022, and Baines Restaurant in Zimbabwe, opened in mid-2023), and risks that others which are in advanced stages of planning and preparation (for example the riverside 'tree lodge' development in Zimbabwe among many others) will be completed before it has time to consider them. 

The report concludes:

"The Committee must act now to influence these developments and put a stop to the continued degradation and fragmentation of the Site. A clear response to the two already constructed and operational developments is also needed from the Committee."

Read More

Download the Keep Victoria Falls Wild 2023 State of Development Report (7.2mb) for more details on the extensive tourism development pressures facing the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site.

Read more on all these issues and developments on the Keep Victoria Falls Wild website, including the history of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Resort and Baines Restaurant developments.

Follow our Facebook page Keep Victoria Falls Wild for latest news and updates.

Please sign the online petition against the current wave of tourism development proposals which threaten the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site.


UNESCO (2023) Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls Reactive Monitoring Mission (February 2022) Final Report. [Available to download from the UNESCO World Heritage website here.]

World Heritage Committee (2023) Item 7B of the Provisional Agenda: State of conservation of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (WHC.23.45.COM.7BAdd) p.16-9.