The application to list the Magaliesberg Biosphere as an International Biosphere Reserve came close to being declined. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) however allows for an application to be "deferred" while the identified issues are addressed. The Department of Environmental Affairs is committed to getting the revised application to UNESCO in the first week of September 2013.
There were two concerns to be addressed, and the revised application will be debated in 2014 again by the International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (the Council).
The Council had this to say about the application: "The Council welcomed this very well prepared and documented proposal which lies between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg in the east and Rustenburg in the west. It covers an area rich in biodiversity with a wide variety of topography, landscapes and geology. Endemism of plant and animals is high, with a world class for butterflies but also with some ecosystems or species that are either endangered or vulnerable, rendering their conservation a key issue."
Positive comments focused on the inclusion of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site as an important cultural heritage not only for South Africa but for humanity; on the management plan actions to reduce the development and impact of the industrial and agricultural activities in the corridor; and training activities which will benefit youth and strengthen cooperation with the private sector.
It was clear to the Council that the proposal failed to reflect the planned biosphere reserve. The Council commented "the zonation is not yet complete and a large piece of buffer and transition zones is lacking in south and southeast, especially around the related core area".
Before the application was submitted in 2012, all areas falling into Gauteng were hurriedly excised. Provincial, local and Cradle authorities had declined to endorse the application indicating that the consultation process was inadequate.
The proposed biosphere also included in the transition zone South Africa's main Nuclear Research Centre – Pelindaba, which uses an atomic reactor and a particle accelerator for different purposes in nuclear sciences.
South Africa sent additional information on Pelindaba confirming its civil research function. However, the Council referred to the nomination of the proposed Terres de l'Ebre (Spain) biosphere reserve which was deferred on the basis of nuclear facilities.
However, the additional information provided by the South African authorities about Pelindaba resulted in the deferral of a decision. The Council invited South Africa to revise the nomination to present a "complete biosphere reserve zonation" and to "exclude the nuclear reactor from the proposed area".
A series of Project Steering Committee meetings have been held. Paul Fatti comments after a meeting on 16 August:
"The encouraging news is that most of the Gauteng endorsements for the Biosphere were signed quickly, including most of the provincial departments as well as the municipalities of Mogale City, West Rand and Tshwane. Three signatures took some time, those from the Gauteng departments of Economic Development and Sports and Recreation and from the City of Johannesburg. The first two were apparently a formality, but Johannesburg expressed concern about the area around Lanseria Airport which falls in the Approach Zone of the Biosphere".
"Everything else is in line for revising the Biosphere Application and submitting it to the Department of Environmental Affairs MAB ("Man and the Biosphere") Department by the end of the first week of September, and they are committed to get it to UNESCO by the end of the month. We will be kept informed of progress by Mashudu Nemutandani, the official in charge of the Project Steering Committee administration," says Paul.