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Decision : 27 COM 8C.4
Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (China)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Inscribes the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, China on the World Heritage List on the basis of natural  criteria (i), (ii), (iii) and  (iv):

Criterion (i): The property is of outstanding value for displaying the geological history of the last 50 million years associated with the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate, the closure of the ancient Tethys Sea, and the uplifting of the Himalaya Range and the Tibetan Plateau. These were major geological events in the evolution of the land surface of Asia and they are on-going. The diverse rock types within the property record this history and, in addition, the range of karst, granite monolith, and Danxia sandstone landforms in the alpine zone include some of the best of their type in the mountains of the world.

Criterion (ii): The dramatic expression of ecological processes in the Three Parallel Rivers property has resulted from a mix of geological, climatic and topographical effects. First, the location of the area within an active orographic belt has resulted in a wide range of rock substrates from igneous (four types) through to various sedimentary types including limestones, sandstones and conglomerates. An exceptional range of topographical features - from gorges to karst to glaciated peaks -- is associated with the property being at a "collision point" of tectonic plates. Add the fact that the area was a Pleistocene refugium and is located at a biogeographical convergence zone (i.e. with temperate and tropical elements) and the physical foundations for evolution of its high biodiversity are all present. Along with the landscape diversity with a steep gradient of almost 6000m vertical, a monsoon climate affects most of the area and provides another favourable ecological stimulus that has allowed the full range of temperate Palearctic biomes to develop.

Criterion (iii): The deep, parallel gorges of the Jinsha, Lancang and Nu Jiang are the outstanding natural feature of the property; while large sections of the three rivers lie just outside the property boundaries, the river gorges are nevertheless the dominant scenic element in the area. High mountains are everywhere, with the glaciated peaks of the Meili, Baima and Haba Snow Mountains providing a spectacular scenic skyline. The Mingyongqia Glacier is a notable natural phemonenon, descending to 2700 m altitude from Mt Kawagebo (6740 m), and is claimed to be the glacier descending to the lowest altitude for such a low latitude (28° N) in the northern hemisphere. Other outstanding scenic landforms are the alpine karst (especially the 'stone moon' in the Moon Mountain Scenic Area above the Nu Jiang Gorge) and the 'tortoise shell' weathering of the alpine Danxia.

Criterion (iv): Northwest Yunnan is the area of richest biodiversity in China and may be the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth. The property encompasses most of the natural habitats in the Hengduan Mountains, one of the world's most important remaining areas for the conservation of the earth's biodiversity. The outstanding topographic and climatic diversity of the property, coupled with its location at the juncture of the East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Tibetan Plateau biogeographical realms and its function as a N-S corridor for the movement of plants and animals (especially during the ice ages), marks it as a truly unique landscape, which still retains a high degree of natural character despite thousands of years of human habitation. As the last remaining stronghold for an extensive suite of rare and endangered plants and animals, the property is of outstanding universal value.

The inscription is for fifteen protected areas in eight clusters:

Name of Protected Area

Area (ha)

Buffer (ha)

Gaoligong Mountain



Baimang-Meili Snow Mountain






Yunling Mountain






Haba Snow Mountain



 Red Mountain



Qianhu Mountain






2. Commends the Chinese authorities for the planning initiatives made to date and encourages completion of the remaining six protected area management plans and a revision of the General Management Plan;

3. Notes concerns over the nature and extent of future tourism and hydro development that may affect the nominated property;

4. Encourages the continued refinement of the boundaries of the property, including the addition of other areas of equally high natural value, expansion of core zones and discussion of transboundary issues with neighbouring jurisdictions;

5. Requests the Chinese authorities to invite a mission in 3-4 years time to: (i) review progress with implementation of management plans and, (ii) to assess revisions to the boundaries of the property;

6. Commends the cooperative efforts of The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, the Global Environmental Facility and others for their assistance in strengthening the efforts of the Chinese authorities.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
Focal Point: APA
States Parties: China
Year: 2003
Decision Code: 27 COM 8C.4