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Committee Decisions

34 COM 8B.9

Natural Properties-Central Highlands of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-10/34.COM/8B, WHC-10/34.COM/INF.8B1 and WHC-10/34.COM/INF.8B2,

2. Decides not to inscribe the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka: its Cultural and Natural Heritage, Sri Lanka on the World Heritage List under natural criteria (vii) and (viii);

3. Inscribes the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka on the World Heritage List on the basis of natural criteria (ix) and (x);

4. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;

Brief synthesis

The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is a serial property comprising three component parts: Peak Wilderness Protected Area, Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest. Its forests are globally important and provide habitat for an exceptional number of endemic species of flora and fauna. The property includes the largest and least disturbed remaining areas of the submontane and montane rain forests of Sri Lanka, which are a global conservation priority on many accounts. They include areas of Sri Lankan montane rain forests considered as a super-hotspot within the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. More than half of Sri Lanka's endemic vertebrates, half of the country's endemic flowering plants and more than 34% of its endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs are restricted to these diverse montane rain forests and adjoining grassland areas.

Criteria (ix): The property includes the largest and least disturbed remaining areas of the submontane and montane rain forests of Sri Lanka, which are a global conservation priority on many accounts. The component parts stretch across the Ceylonese rainforest and the Ceylonese monsoon forest. In the montane forests represented by the three serial properties, the faunal elements provide strong evidence of geological and biological processes in the evolution and development of taxa. The endemic purple-faced langur of Sri Lanka (Semnopithecus vetulus) has evolved into several morphologically different forms recognizable today. The Sri Lankan leopard, the only representative in the island of the genus Panthera, which diverged from other felids about 1.8 million years ago, is a unique sub-species (Panthera pardus kotiya). All three nominated properties provide habitat to this subspecies of leopard, endemic to Sri Lanka. Long isolation and the concomitant evolutionary processes have also resulted in a Sri Lankan molluscan fauna that is the most distinct in the South Asian region.

Criteria (x): The montane forests in the three serial components contain the only habitats of many threatened plant and animal species and are therefore of prime importance for their in-situ conservation. The property features exceptionally high numbers of threatened species, extraordinary levels of endemism, and high levels of species richness in a number of taxonomic groups. Of the 408 species of vertebrates 83%of indigenous fresh water fishes and 81 % of the amphibians in Peak Wilderness Protected Area are endemic, 91 % of the amphibians and 89% of the reptiles in Horton Plains are endemic, and 64% of the amphibians and 51% of the reptiles in the Knuckles Conservation Forest are endemic.

Integrity

The small size of the components of the nominated property is a result of the limited extent of the most significant rain forest areas remaining on Sri Lanka. However, provided the property is effectively protected and managed, these areas are sufficient, especially since many of the plant and animal species have highly localized distributions. The boundary of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area includes a range of protected zones, and this component has a common boundary with the Horton Plains National Park. Effective arrangements to protect the properties from the impacts of surrounding land-use, as well as to address a range of threats are required, including via functioning buffer zones.

Protection and Management Requirements

The property has strong and effective legal protection through a combination of state ownership and a range of different protective legislation. The management of the three components of the nominated property is delivered by a number of different site specific management plans that need to be kept continually reviewed and updated, and made consistent with each other. An overall management system for the whole property is required, to ensure consistency of management, monitoring and presentation of the property, in addition to that provided by the individual management plans. Adequate and sustained budgets are required for the management of the property as a whole, and within each component.

The nature and magnitude of existing and potential threats to the three nominated properties varies between the components, and includes a number of issues. In case of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the major human use is from around two million pilgrims who visit the Adam's Peak annually and contribute to both forest and environmental degradation along the pilgrim trails leading up to the peak. Illicit gem mining is also a threat. Additional threats come from the spread of invasive species, forest die-back, occasional fires and vandalism and pressure for cultivation of cardamom. Effective action is required to ensure all of these threats do not impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. A strong programme of engagement with the communities who live in the area surrounding the property is an essential requirement of its approach to management. In addition to the complimentarity between its different components, the property has a strong link with the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a World Heritage Site in the southern part of Sri Lanka. Links between these two World Heritage properties should be encouraged as part of the management systems of both properties.

5. Requests the State Party to establish within 12 months:

a) An overall management framework for the serial property, as required in the Operational Guidelines, and to also establish completed and effective management plans for each of the component parts of the property;

b) An effectively functioning buffer zones for the property, which will ensure its protection from threats arising from outside its boundaries in consultation with local stakeholders;

c) A fully effective management and monitoring framework for tourism;

6. Recommends the State Party to evaluate the possibility of serial extension of the existing Sinharaja World Heritage Site, considering that the nominated property has complementary values to the existing property and meets the requirements to be one overall serial World Heritage property, as specified in the Operational Guidelines. The Committee considers that a single serial property would provide a more appropriate means of recognizing the Outstanding Universal Value of the remaining high conservation value forests on Sri Lanka than two separate inscriptions of the nominated property and of Sinharaja;

7. Commends the State Party for the significant management and protection efforts in Peak Wilderness Protected Area, Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest;

8. Defers the examination of the nomination of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka: its Cultural and Natural Heritage, Sri Lanka, to the World Heritage List on the basis of cultural criteria in order to allow the State Party to reconsider the scope of the nomination;

9. Considers that any revised nomination with revised boundaries requires an expert mission to the site;

10. Also recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:

a) The protection of the cultural features of the nominated property should be strengthened through the application of the Antiquities Act and related legal instruments;

b) Measures and provisions for filling the gaps in the protection and management of the cultural heritage of the nominated property should be implemented without delay;

c) Cultural resources, including areas of potential archaeological interest, should be properly mapped and inventoried;

d) Comprehensive measures to sustain the cultural values of the nominated property should be developed without delay;

e) An assessment of the carrying capacity of the most visited areas should be developed so as to form the basis for further initiatives addressing visitor issues;

f) The monitoring system and related indicators should be developed with specific reference to the attributes that support the value of the property, in order to ensure effective observation and control over possible modifications of these attributes.

11. Also requests the State Party, to submit to the World Heritage Centre a report on the above recommendations, by 1 February 2011, for examination at the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2011.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Sri Lanka
Session: 34COM