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PART I20. Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest - State of conservation of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List

PART I



20. Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest

(Belarus/Poland) (N 33-627)



Year of inscription on the World Heritage List: 1979; extended in 1992

Criterion: N (iii)

Previous International Assistance:

None

Previous Bureau/Committee Deliberations:

25 COM VIII.97

27 COM 7B.14

Conservation issues:

A joint IUCN/UNESCO mission visited Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest in Poland and the Republic of Belarus from 15 to 20 March 2004 in response to the decision of the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee (27 COM 7B.14). The mission reviewed the state of conservation of the property, evaluated possibilities for multi and bi-lateral co-operation in the management of the site, clarified issues of zoning of the World Heritage property as well as fencing along the international border, and met with all relevant stakeholders in both Belarus and Poland. The mission concluded that the integrity and the World Heritage values of the site in both countries are not threatened directly by logging or any other kind of actions inside the boundaries of the World Heritage property.

The mission observed however a few potential common threats, which might have adverse impact on the whole territory, especially by causing a change in dominance of main tree species: a) global warming, b) long distance air pollution and c) Change of hydrological regime and groundwater levels. The mission also found that the integrity of the World Heritage property is rather vulnerable to external factors due to its relatively small size. The situation has however improved during the past eight years. The area of the Polish National Park was nearly doubled in October 1996, when the Council of Ministers approved an extension of 5,186 ha. By the year 2003, altogether 12,000 ha of the surrounding State Forests have been declared Nature Reserves. The administration of the National Park on the territory of the Republic of Belarus has also received additional territories under its jurisdiction, which will serve as additional buffer zones to the World Heritage property.

The mission noted some other issues of concern, which if not managed or controlled, could potentially evolve to become threats to the integrity of the World Heritage property: a) insufficient integration of the World Heritage property on both sides of the border into the surrounding forest and ecological separation of the two sites due to the border fences, b) management activities in the forests surrounding the World Heritage property (mainly sanitary loggings) reducing the amount of dead and rotting wood, and c) growing impacts of tourism, concentrated in Bialowieza / Kamenuki villages adjacent to the World Heritage property.

The mission found that the States Parties, their National Park staff and partners were well aware of these threats and had identified, where possible, measures to mitigate them. The mission pointed out, that some of the threats could be minimized by handling the whole forest as one management unit, where the protection of old-growth forest ecosystem and its biodiversity would be the main goals.

The mission noted that the cooperation between the States Parties in the field of conservation and management of the World Heritage property was not yet adequate. However, the mission noted with satisfaction that the States Parties on their own initiative used the event of the mission to arrange a bi-lateral meeting and discuss ways to improve co-operation with regard to the management of the World Heritage property and the forest in general.

The report noted that, in 1992, the core zone of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park on the territory of the Republic of Belarus was inscribed as an extension to the Polish site. The Polish part of the nominated area is well known for being the starting point for re-introduction projects of the European Bison. However, the conservation values of the forest complex are much wider.

The World Heritage property area is a portion of a larger transboundary forest complex, of about 150,000 ha. The entire forest complex has remained the largest and best-preserved unit of mixed lowland forest in Europe divided into a Belorussian (90 000 ha) and a Polish (60 000 ha) part. The report noted that while in Belarus nearly all forests of the complex have become part of the transboundary World Heritage property (92,923 ha), less than 10 % of the forests in Poland have been included into the World Heritage property.

The protection of biodiversity and natural processes in this larger forest area is of concern to local and national nature conservation NGOs particularly in relation to impacts from forestry. A number of NGOs and environmental specialists are arguing for an enlargement of the strictly protected areas as well as for an enlargement of the World Heritage property on the Polish side of the border.

Draft Decision:

28 COM 15B.20



The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Noting the information provided by the IUCN-UNESCO mission to the site and congratulating both States Parties for their conservation efforts,




  1. Requests the States Parties to create a management body or joint structure for dealing with the whole World Heritage area on both sides of the boundary to enable coherent planning and management with the main goal to preserve the old growth forest and its natural dynamics;




  1. Urges both States Parties to further evaluate possibilities to reduce the negative impacts of the border fence on ungulates and other mammals, In case the removal of the fence is not possible, relevant techniques should be used to allow the movements of animals along certain corridors;




  1. Encourages both States Parties to give high priority to implement all recommendations proposed in the mission report and requests them to provide a response to these recommendations, as well as information on how they intend to implement the recommendations, by 1 February 2005 for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.


21. Pirin National Park (Bulgaria) (N 225)



Year of inscription on the World Heritage List: 1983

Criteria: N (i) (ii) (iii)

Previous International Assistance:

None

Previous Bureau/Committee Deliberations:

26 COM 21 (b) 2

27 COM 7B.15

Conservation issues:

The joint UNESCO-IUCN mission was carried out from 3 to 6 February 2004 in close cooperation with the State Party, the site manager and the Ministry for Environment and Waters. It noted that a number of ascertained and potential threats exist, including the existing ski development and other potential development proposals, which could threaten the values and the integrity of the World Heritage property. During the mission draft reports were provided to the mission team. The mission however noted that the response from the Government to the requests of the Committee was not adequate, and that no map of the World Heritage property was provided officially by the States Party despite repeated requests.

The mission concluded with a number of specific recommendations on the following issues:

  1. World Heritage area, zoning and buffer zones: The State Party should approve the management plan as soon as possible, but no later than by the end of 2004; provide the exact map of the World Heritage property as declared in 1983; take the decision with respect to the exclusion of the Bansko ski-zone from the World Heritage property; prepare and submit a proposal for the extension of the World Heritage property to include other areas, if appropriate; in accordance with the Operational Guidelines and with the management plan to establish and the zoning system with a buffer zone and sub-zones and manage the whole area to ensure the integrity of the property.



  1. State of conservation of the site: The State Party should ensure effective management by securing staff and resources for the National Park Directorate; effectively control those who work under licence agreements or have other legal rights for use of resources or other activities in the World Heritage property; take effective measures to stop the violations against the laws within and around the World Heritage property.




  1. Management: The Pirin National Park Directorate should set priorities under the management plan according to the analysis made and in particular: defining the regimes and norms and its control, optimum protection and management of habitats of high conservation value, providing opportunities for conservation education and interpretation and stimulation of scientific studies, development of sustainable tourism and income generation for the communities; improve the management policy and the institutional development as defined by the management plan.




  1. Improved communication: The State Party and particularly the Park Directorate should support long-term monitoring for the purposes of conservation and maintenance of the values of the World Heritage property and regularly report on the state of the property.


Draft Decision:

28 COM 15B.21



The World Heritage Committee,

1. Recalling its decision to defer the inscription of Pirin National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger until its 27th session (26 COM 21 (b) 2), with decision on this to be based on an assessment of the State Party's response to the UNESCO/IUCN mission report (27 COM 7B.15) and noting the results of the joint UNESCO/IUCN mission of February 2004,
2. Regrets that the State Party did not adopt the final management plan by the end of 2003 as requested (27 COM 7B.15) and urges the State Party to adopt this plan at least by the end of 2004;

3. Welcomes the cooperation of the State Party in addressing some of the issues, including the submission of an international assistance request for a potential extension of the World Heritage property;

4. Requests that the State Party implement the specific recommendations of the 2004 UNESCO / IUCN mission concerning the state of conservation of the site, its management, its zoning and the establishment of buffer zones and improved communication;

5. Requests the State Party to provide a detailed report on actions taken to respond to the recommendations of the 2004 mission report, as well as a clear map showing the boundaries of the site by 1 February 2005, for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.

22. Lake Baikal

(Russian Federation) (N

754)



Year of inscription on the World Heritage List: 1996

Criteria: N (i) (ii) (iii) (iv)

Previous International Assistance:

1999: US$30,000, Training seminar

Previous Bureau/Committee Deliberations:

26 COM 21(b)19

27 COM 7B.19

Conservation issues:

Following the invitation by the Russian authorities, as requested by the Committee (26 COM 21(b) 19 and 27 COM 7B.19), the high-level mission took place with meetings in the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation from 11-12 November 2003. The Director General of IUCN, the Director of the Centre, the Director of the UNESCO Moscow Office, The Chief of the Europe and North America Unit of the Centre, the Head of the IUCN Moscow Office, a protected area specialist of IUCN and a programme specialist from the UNESCO Moscow Office participated in the mission. The goal of the meeting was to discuss key issues related to the conservation of the Lake Baikal World Heritage property.

During this meeting the representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation stressed the relevance of the cooperation with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN and the importance of developing it further. They presented comprehensive information on issues related to the current state of conservation of this World Heritage property and measures undertaken by Russian authorities, both at the national and local levels, to address these issues. They also confirmed their preparedness to present, according to the requests of the 26th and 27th sessions of the World Heritage Committee, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the Lake Baikal World Heritage property, and proposed to consider a joint pilot project with the participation of UNESCO and IUCN, aimed at addressing issues of concern relating to the conservation of Lake Baikal.

Following this meeting the State Party submitted, on 10 March 2004, a detailed state of conservation Report outlining key actions implemented on the following issues:

  1. Implementation of the Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”:

Eight new enactments have been adopted, including key regulations on the ecological zoning for Lake Baikal; the limits of water level in Lake Baikal under economical activities; and the protection regime for endemic species of plants and animals in Lake Baikal. Four more legislative documents have been prepared on key issues such as the boundaries of the ecological zones, the list of harmful substances which use is forbidden or regulated in Lake Baikal, and the standards of maximum allowable harmful impacts on the Lake Baikal. However, it is not clear from the report whether or not the ecological zoning for Lake Baikal has been completed and formally approved, which is fundamental for the application of a number of these regulations.

  1. Protection regimes:

Plans for the protection and rational use of natural resources have been elaborated for the Baikal basin, the Selenga river basin, and for water treatment and sanitation of the communities and recreational areas in the Central Ecological Zone of Lake Baikal. A feasibility study has been prepared on how to minimize impacts from ships in Lake Baikal.

  1. Baikal Commission:

Key functions assumed by this commission are now under the mandate of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, which is vested with the necessary authority to undertake this task.

  1. Ecological monitoring:

A number of programmes have been implemented for the last three years to assess the ecological conditions of Lake Baikal, including monitoring water quality and forest changes using satellite images. Results from monitoring indicate that the quality of the water in Lake Baikal has not substantially changed in the last 5-8 years and that it still remains one of the cleanest water bodies on Earth.

  1. Gas/Oil Pipelines:

The State Party report noted that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this project, which had considered its potential impacts on Lake Baikal as well as issues of environmental safety in the course of construction and operation of the pipelines, was not approved by the Federal Commission that reviewed it. This Commission identified a number of risks associated with the development of this project in an area of high geological instability and where earthquakes are quite common. Also, the different routes proposed were passing through strictly protected areas, which are forbidden under the Federal Law for the Protection of the Environment.

  1. Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill:

A 10 year integrated programme for the re-profiling of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill has been designed and its first phase is under implementation. The first phase includes the development of a closed water recycling system which excludes industrial effluents from entering Lake Baikal. The total investment for the first phase is US$33,500,000, of which US$11,100,000 is provided by the joint-venture enterprise managing the mill. The State Party has also signed an agreement with the World Bank to obtain additional support for this long-term programme. Measures to reduce atmospheric pollution associated with the mill’s emissions have also been implemented.

  1. Pollution from the Selenga River:

This continues to be a problem due to the pollution associated with the population and related socio-economic activities within the Selenga River basin. It is important to note that this basin is shared with the State Party of Mongolia, where the Selenga River basin occupies more than 20% of Mongolia’s territory, and 40% of the total runoff of this river comes from this country. According to the results from hydro-chemical and hydro-biological monitoring implemented in 2001-2003 the level of pollution has not changed significantly and corresponds, according to the standards established for the Russian Federation, to Class III (moderate pollution). In some tributaries of the Selenga River there have been slight improvements in water quality. As the Selenga River is a key source of pollution for Lake Baikal and it is also of high importance for the maintenance of key fish species that breed upstream along its waters, this issue has been included as a priority activity under the Russian-Mongolian Intergovernmental Agreement signed in 1995.

  1. Baikal Seal Population:

According to the East Siberian Fishing Center the Baikal seal population in the period 1996-2000 ranged from 97,000 to 122,000, however there is indirect evidence of a slow population decrease. The State Party report stressed that there is not enough scientific evidence to relate this trend to human impacts and that this decrease could result from biological changes in the population. The State Party report does not provide information on the level of enforcement of hunting quotas and on the implementation of previous Committee’s recommendations to provide training to hunters to avoid unnecessary deaths of animals that are wounded during hunting.

  1. Protected Areas:

It is reported that the main impacts on the protected areas existing within the World Heritage properties is associated with forest fires (see point below). The GEF project on the conservation of biological diversity in the Russian Federation provides support for the management of these areas, including patrolling and enforcement of protection.

  1. Forest fires:

It is reported that the number of fires in 2003 increased 1.8 times when compared with that of 2002 and the area affected by fires increased 15.8 times. The State Party provided additional funding of US$1,228,150 in the fourth quarter of 2003; however it was insufficient to control all fires that occurred in this period. According to the Russian Committee on Hydrometeorology the high number of fires is associated with the worst dry season reported in Russia for the last 108 years. The Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry for Emergencies and the Ministry of Defence have prepared with the Government of the Buryat Republic a Fire-Prevention and Mitigation Plan for 2004 which includes reinforcing the existing capacities for forest fires at the local level and doubled the number of fire prevention centres able to use satellite information for forest fire fighting and prevention.

Draft Decision:

28 COM 15B.22



The World Heritage Committee,

1. Recalling the recommendation of the report of the monitoring mission in 2001 to include the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger,

2. Welcomes the collaboration between the Russian authorities, IUCN and the Centre in addressing cooperation and communication issues;

3. Notes the results of the high-level mission and the detailed report provided by the Russian authorities on 10 March 2004 and acknowledges the efforts of the State Party in enhancing the conservation of this site;

4. Requests, while noting the complex environmental and socio-economic issues associated to the conservation and development of Lake Baikal, that:

5. Notes with satisfaction that the outcome of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed transportation routes for oil and gas was negative and requests that any future proposal avoids the World Heritage property and to ensure that no route is selected through the watershed of Lake Baikal without first undertaking a comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to guarantee the highest standards of design and implementation;

6. Requests the State Party to provide an up-to-date report to the World Heritage Centre including on any decisions or proposed alternative to the oil and gas transportation route by 1 February 2005, for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.

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