Decision : CONF 204 IV.A.10
Ichkeul National Park (Tunisia)
The Bureau recalled that, at its last session (June 1998), while being concerned about the feasibility of the effective rehabilitation of Ichkeul, it had urged the State Party to take all necessary measures to ensure rapid and effective implementation of the rehabilitation programme for Ichkeul. The Bureau had also recommended an expert mission to the site. The mission was intended to give due consideration to the possibility for developing an improved rehabilitation programme for Ichkeul to retain its status as a World Heritage site and to allow the State Party sufficient time for the implementation of the rehabilitation programme.
The Bureau examined Document WHC-99/CONF.204/INF.11 containing the report of the mission of experts from IUCN, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat and the Centre to Ichkeul, fielded in February 1999. The Bureau noted that the experts recognized the uncertainty linked to the feasibility of rehabilitating Ichkeul to conditions that existed at the time of its inscription (1980). However, the Bureau was satisfied to note that the State Party is committed and taking significant efforts to mitigate threats to the site and ensure effective and timely rehabilitation. The Bureau was in agreement with the mission that the monitoring of the effectiveness of the rehabilitation would have to be based on a reasonable time frame. Inter-linked indicators such as salinity, availability of preferred species of food plants of birds, and the number of wintering birds arriving in Ichkeul could fluctuate significantly, based on annual variations in rainfall and evapo-transpiration which affect water levels in the Lake. The Bureau concurred with the view of mission that the Committee should defer its judgement on the success or failure of the rehabilitation of Ichkeul until such time when possible improvements to the ecology of the Lake could be detectable.
The Tunisian Observer informed the Bureau that three of the six dams that would have diverted waters coming into the Lake (see page 12 of the Document WHC-99/CONF.204/INF.11) have been suspended and plans for the provision of fresh water to Lake would become operational by the year 2001. The Delegate agreed with the mission recommendation concerning the longer time frame needed for the ecological monitoring of restoration of wetland ecosystems such as the Ichkeul. He furthermore pointed out that considerable data existed to set up a monitoring programme as recommended by the expert mission, but implementation of a rigorous monitoring programme would require assistance for national capacity-building.
The Bureau invited the State Party to submit a threat mitigation status report to the twenty-third session of the Committee in accordance with the outline proposed by the expert mission report. The proposed outline invited the State Party to define current and expected values for a set of indicators, e.g. water salinity levels, counts of a selected number of endangered species of birds and the availability of preferred food plants of birds etc. This could provide the basis for a monitoring programme during a 5 year-period from 2000 to 2004. IUCN stressed the need that the selection of parameters for the monitoring programme be related to the values for which the site was originally inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980. The Bureau recommended that the State Party undertakes necessary studies and analysis needed for developing the region’s economy based on ecotourism and similar non-extractive resource uses so that local people who are dependent on grazing their livestock on the Ichkeul marshes could be provided with alternative livelihood options. The Bureau recommended that the Committee retain this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger.