English Français

Decision : CONF 204 IV.B.27
Iguacu National Park (Brazil)

Since 1997, the Bureau and the Committee have repeatedly called for the permanent closure of the 18 km road traversing this Park which had been illegally opened by local people. At its twenty-second session, the Bureau requested a Centre/IUCN mission to review the situation and to assist the State Party to mitigate threats to the Park. The twenty-second extraordinary session of the Bureau (November 1998) was informed of a new threat to Iguacu’s integrity, arising from plans to fill a hydropower reservoir in southwest Brazil that would divert a considerable volume of Iguacu’s waters for seven to eight weeks per year.  The Bureau reiterated its request that the State Party provides information on the two above-mentioned items and on plans for the hydropower reservoir project. The Bureau noted that a possible Centre/IUCN mission to the site in March 1999 should determine whether the site needs to be included in the List of World Heritage in Danger.

An IUCN/UNESCO mission visited the site in March 1999 and discussed the state of conservation with all the stakeholders including local residents and local Government officials. The mission identified the following four issues as most threatening to the integrity of this site:

(1) The Colon Road which was illegally reopened in May 1997. The Federal Public Prosecutor is presently prosecuting the local communities of the area for reopening the road and the Federal and State agencies for not enforcing the closure of the road. The majority of the local people favour the continued use of the road as it shortens the distance between communities in the northern and southern sides of the Park by about 130 km. The north-south road dissects the Park into two and has resulted in the opening of the forest canopy along most of its length. The road has led to the destruction of parts of the forest, interrupted wildlife movement between the eastern and western sections of the Park and has severely impacted the site’s World Heritage value. Research and academic personnel have expressed particular concerns regarding the preservation of the jaguar that may be threatened with extinction in the region, as its habitat has been dissected by this road. The road is leading to an increase in silting of the creeks and rivers and alteration of drainage patterns, further exacerbating the impact on World Heritage values. The road has also opened up the Park for illegal extraction of timber and poaching.

(2) Helicopter flights originating from Brazil and Argentina began in 1972. Following recommendations from the World Heritage Committee in 1994, flights on the Argentinean side have been stopped, but have continued on the Brazilian side. In 1996, growing concern on this matter led to a discussion between the Presidents of Brazil and Argentina. In 1997 Brazil, in agreement with Argentina, recommenced helicopter flights which are restricted to Brazilian territory, operate between 0900 and 1700 hours, and maintain a minimum altitude of 1600 feet (i.e. 500 metres). The heliport was to be relocated from a site adjacent to the Falls to outside of the National Park. But a suitable location for the heliport outside of the Park has yet to be found and up to 20-25 flights per day, each of 7 to 11 minutes, continue to originate from within the Park. A study of the Environment Institute of Paraná has found that most visitors believe that the flights are interfering with their enjoyment of the Falls. The study however did not investigate the impact of the flights on the fauna.

(3) The Salto Caixas Dam on the Iguacu River was built recently but is located upstream of the National Park and at present there is no evidence of any impact on the World Heritage values of the Park. The proposal for another dam, Capanema, has been abandoned, as it would have had a direct impact on the Park.  The new Management Plan for Iguacu National Park was to be completed by May 1999.

This management plan will aim to address all of the above-mentioned problems. It is clear that the management of the two World Heritage sites, i.e. Iguacu National Park (Brazil) and the Iguazu National Park (Argentina) would benefit from closer liaison and co-ordination between their respective management authorities. IUCN stressed that sufficient time should be given to the State Parties for implementing the recommendations of the mission.

The Centre informed the Bureau that the Ministers of both the Environment and Tourism, and the Governor of the State of Parana met on 13 April 1999 and agreed that the situation of the Colon Road is not acceptable. They defined a number of measures to solve this problem, including the recuperation of degraded areas, and consultation with local authorities to ensure a peaceful solution to close the road. The Observer of Brazil informed the Bureau that the new management plan has been finalized and recommends the closure of the illegal road and evaluates damage and establishes a series of recommendations for the restoration of this area. The plan also defines a new zoning of the Park.  A dialogue with the Argentinian National Park Service towards a common programme of research, monitoring and protection of the two World Heritage sites has been started.

The Bureau requested the State Party to immediately close the Colon Road and initiate a recovery plan to increase canopy closure and re-vegetation of ground cover and stabilise soils and control erosion. In the absence of satisfactory progress with regard to the permanent closure of the road and the implementation of the recovery plan by the time of its twenty-third extraordinary session, the Bureau may recommend that the Committee include Iguacu National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger. Furthermore, the Bureau requested the State Party to: (i) immediately halt helicopter flights pending a thorough evaluation of their impact on the fauna, particularly the avifauna; and (ii) provide a copy of the new management plan to IUCN for review to enable an assessment of the effectiveness of the plan to address prevailing threats to the integrity of the site.

Context of Decision
Themes: Conservation
States Parties: Brazil
Properties: Iguaçu National Park
Year: 1999
Decision Code: CONF 204 IV.B.27