The government of Montenegro, Serbia and Montenegro, has cancelled a project to build a dam that would flood part of the Tara River Canyon in the buffering UNESCO Biosphere Reserve next to Durmitor National Park, a World Heritage site inscribed in 1980. The decision comes as the result of meetings that UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura had with the Presidents of Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004, and his decision to immediately dispatch an international mission of UNESCO and IUCN experts to the site in January this year. Following their on-site evaluation and report, which recommended the World Heritage Committee place the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger if the dam were built, the government decided to cancel the project.

The spectacular Durmitor National Park was formed by glaciers and is traversed by rivers and underground streams. The Tara River Canyon has the deepest gorges in Europe, and is also important for its dense alpine forests and endemic flora. The project would have flooded 12 km of the 80-km long canyon, in order to build a hydroelectronic power plant. Mission experts concluded that the dam would potentially threaten the values for which the site was inscribed on the List, and its integrity, by impacting the canyon and threatening a wide range of flora and fauna, including migratory fish.

Specifically, the mission strongly recommended enhancing collaboration between the Republic of Montenegro, Serbia and Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina on a number of issues, including coordination of activities on both banks of the Tara River Canyon, joint protection activities in the Tara River basin, and cooperation for potential World Heritage extensions in the future. The mission saw long-term sustainable development activities as key to the protection of the World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve as well as developing sustainable livelihoods for local populations. Montenegro, whose constitution is the first in the world to specify the protection of ecology, is committed to finding solutions for producing energy while protecting their World Heritage sites.

The decision, taken two months after the agreement between Lithuania and the Russian Federation to protect the Curonian Spit World Heritage site, is another example of the success of the World Heritage Convention as an instrument for international cooperation and heritage protection.