Srebarna Biosphere Reserve (Bulgaria)
The Committee recalled that at its last session, it recommended that the Bulgarian authorities nominate this small (600 ha) site for inclusion in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee was informed of the conclusion of two IUCN missions to this site undertaken in early 1992: although Srebarna's importance as a Ramsar site and a biosphere reserve could still be retained by the implementation of specific remedial measures, its World Heritage status can no longer be justified because it has deteriorated to a state where it has irretrievably lost the characteristics which merited its inclusion in the World Heritage List. The Bureau at its last session held in Paris in July 1992, recommended that the Committee consider deleting this property from the List and had requested the Centre to obtain all observations and comments the Bulgarian authorities may wish to make.
The Committee recalled that Srebarna Biosphere Reserve was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983 on the basis of criterion (iv), i.e. as a naturally functioning ecosystem providing an important and significant habitat for the threatened Dalmatian Pelican. The IUCN Representative informed the Committee that a series of upstream interferences, including the Iron Gates Dam, have permanently altered the natural hydrology of the Danube River in the region and that of Srebarna, located downstream along the river. Prevention of seasonal flooding has caused significant decline in the size and productivity of Srebarna; agricultural and residential use of surrounding areas have impacted the wetland leading to decline or disappearance of the water and passerine bird populations. Consequently, while awaiting the results of the on-going studies, the Committee decided to inscribe Srebarna on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Observer from Bulgaria, while agreeing with the Committee's decision that this site be included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, was of the view that measures which are being currently taken by the Bulgarian Government will restore the World Heritage values of Srebarna. He said that his Government is planning to construct two canals which will increase and regulate water delivery to Srebarna. Furthermore, 200 ha of surrounding area have been added to the Reserve and all agricultural and residential activities which impacted the lake have been halted. He informed the Committee of an on-going project to prepare a comprehensive assessment of the state of conservation of the site and a plan for ecosystem restoration, and that the report of this project would be available in the first quarter of 1993.
The Committee instructed the Centre to indicate to the Bulgarian authorities that scientific evidence available to date suggests that the site may no longer possess the natural habitat values for which it was inscribed, and that a full restoration of a naturally functioning ecosystem appears to be highly problematic and may be impossible. The Committee invited the Bulgarian authorities to submit to the Centre, not later than 1 May 1993, the results of their on-going project to prepare a comprehensive 'assessment of the state of conservation of the site and a plan for ecosystem restoration. The assessment should include an analysis of available data to monitor biological populations and environmental quality.
The Committee requested the Centre to co-operate with experts nominated by IUCN and the Secretariat of the RAMSAR Convention to undertake an interdisciplinary review of the report on the state of conservation and ecosystem restoration plan which the Bulgarian authorities are expected to submit. The interdisciplinary review will require participation of specialists in wetland ecosystem dynamics, wetland restoration, avian population dynamics, hydrology, regional planning, resource management and other relevant disciplines. A report on the outcome of the review, indicating the possibility of the full restoration of a self-sustaining wetland ecosystem, including a viable population of the threatened Dalmatian Pelican that contributes substantially to the survival of the species, should be submitted to the Bureau at its seventeenth session. The Bureau will assess whether the proposed plan being developed by the Bulgarian authorities, will enable a full restoration of Srebarna as a naturally functioning wetland ecosystem. If the Bureau concludes that such restoration is not technically feasible, then the Bureau should recommend that the Committee delete Srebarna from the World Heritage List at its seventeenth session.