28 May 2012
The Vredefort Dome is a step closer to being formally recognised and protected under South African law, after a memorandum of agreement was signed by the government and landowners in the area on the weekend.
Located about 120 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg, the Vredefort Dome is the oldest meteorite impact structure or astrobleme on earth. It resulted from a meteorite 10km in diameter crashing into earth two billion years ago.
The site was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in July 2005 – being described as having “outstanding universal value to human kind” – and was intended to be proclaimed in terms of national legislation. It was gazetted in December 2007, but has not yet been proclaimed due to concerns raised by landowners.
The signing of the agreement will pave the way for the proclamation of the area and appointment of a management authority which will serve as a precursor for the development of an integrated management plan.
Edna Molewa, minister of water and environmental affairs, said the agreement will give the area a formal status like other sites such as Robben Island, iSimangaliso, Mapungubwe, Cape Floral Region, Richtersveld, uKhahlamba Drakensberg, and the fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa encompassing the Cradle of Humankind, Taung Skull and Makapan Valley.
The management system will address issues relating to the preservation of archaeological sites, land use management and zoning, pollution and waste management, water resource and fire management.
As part of this management system, tourism development will be ensured in order to support local economic development.
Molewa said they had addressed most of the concerns and established a multi-stakeholder steering committee for coordination purposes.
She added that her department would be embarking on a consultation process towards final proclamation of the area as a World Heritage Site.
“The management authority will be given full powers and resources to manage the area in terms of relevant policies in order to maintain the highest management standards in terms of an integrated management system and ensure full compliance with Unesco World Heritage prescripts and South Africa’s World Heritage Convention Act of 1999,” said the minister.