Decision : CONF 201 VI.20
Virunga National Park (Zaire)
Virunga National Park, inscribed under criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv) in 1979, was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger at the last session of the World Heritage Committee in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive arrival of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated at the border between Rwanda and Uganda, has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing deforestation and poaching at the sites. The Bureau recalled that the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee approved a total of US$ 50,000 emergency assistance for both Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Virunga National Park. The project is carried out in cooperation with IUCN, WWF and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. A report on the project was received at the time of the Bureau session indicating the World Heritage Fund project was effective and crucial to help in maintaining the Park’s management activities and to support the staff. However, the ecological situation at the Park is not improving, the bamboo forests have been cut and the number of elephants and hippos are much reduced within the site. The buffalo population is also threatened. The report indicates that the Park is a primary source of fuelwood and construction wood for the refugees and that 30 to 40,000 people are entering the Park daily.
The report recommends:(1) a long-term-political solution, including the evacuation of refugee camps within the site and (2) that IZCN should pay the salaries of their staff at the Park.
The Bureau discussed the situation at length and recommended: (1) to prepare a press release jointly with IUCN to raise awareness of the need for repatriation and re-location of the refugee camps; (2) to write a letter to the Government of Zaire for greater operational support including the payment of salaries of the staff of the site; (3) that the Centre arranges a meeting between the Director-General of UNESCO with the Ambassador of Zaire to discuss these issues, and (4) that, at the request of the Delegate of Senegal, all possibilities should be explored within the UN system, in particular with UNHCR and UNDP, to find a solution. The Bureau furthermore, requested the Centre to write a letter commending UNDP/GEF, the European Union and the GTZ for their support for the protection of the site and encourages continuous cooperation between the newly-appointed environmental coordinator and the World Heritage Centre.