As requested by the World Heritage Committee (28 COM 15B.26) an IUCN/UNESCO monitoring mission was carried out at the invitation of the State Party. The mission took place from 21 to 28 March 2007, and included a two day visit to the property. The full report of the mission can be accessed on the website of the World Heritage Centre (http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2007). The State Party submitted a report, as requested in Decision 30 COM 7B.23, indicating that mining activities are illegal and should have been stopped, and that management planning was underway.
The mission noted the effective implementation of the Landscape Territorial Plan since 2004, and the recent efforts made by the State Party to stop illegal pumice mining activity within the property. However, several issues seriously jeopardize the integrity of this property and the values for which it was inscribed in the World Heritage List:
a) Pumice Mining
Since the 1999 IUCN evaluation mission, the scale of mining has significantly increased on the slopes of Monte Pilato (Lipari), which lie within the property. The Italpomice mine was closed in 2002, but mining has continued at the PUMEX mine. Currently, approximately 40 persons are in full- or part-time employment at the PUMEX mine, and they are concerned about the loss of employment if the mine were to be closed. Re-employment and re-training have been discussed since January 2007 by local and regional authorities. Although the final order to PUMEX to cease all mining activities was issued on 6 March 2007 by the regional authorities, the mission was concerned that some extraction may still be going on at the PUMEX mine in the guise of removal of stockpiled material. The mission reported that as of 24 March, 2007 some type of activity was still occurring at the PUMEX mine. In addition, no deadline has been set for completing the removal of stored material.
Serious objections have been raised by stakeholders and environmental groups, in light of the Committee’s decision (28 COM 15B.26) welcoming PUMEX’s rehabilitation plan for the closed pumice mines. Concerns exist over the environmental damage the implementation of the PUMEX plan would cause. Regional authorities are planning rehabilitation for the closed mining areas, but no official statement has been made. The mission was informed of several proposals by experts and environmental NGOs for rehabilitation of the spoil and conversion of the mining infrastructure into an educational and nature park. It is not clear whether these proposals are being taken into account by the regional authorities, and the mission was not informed of whether a budget had been allocated for rehabilitation of the area.
b) Management Plan and Supervision
To date, no management plan for the property, or structure for its implementation, exists. Ecosviluppo Eolie received funds to draft a management plan. However, the draft is only a proposal for the management plan, and has been deemed inadequate by the Regional Authority for Cultural Heritage. Although the State Party has committed resources for the development of a management plan by the Regional Authority for Cultural Heritage, a management entity for the property has not yet been designated.
Further concerns relate to the use of scientific information. Funds for scientific studies are available but it is not clear whether these are channelled to priority research areas or used by the regional authorities for the effective management of the World Heritage property. In addition, data gaps exist especially in relation to the implementation of international environmental agreements.
Finally, the mission noted that the complex, often overlapping and uncoordinated governance makes it difficult to manage the property in an integrated and effective manner. Positive signs now come from the regional authorities who are currently collaborating in unprecedented ways. The Regional Authority for Territory and Environment is interested in creating a Regional Park managed by an independent entity. In addition, the environmental NGO, Legambiente, has proposed a draft regulatory framework to create a Regional Park encompassing all the islands. Given the rather frequent changes in political party governance and the communication and integration difficulties among and across government levels, a Regional Park with its separate management agency and stronger regulatory protection, could help counter these limitations.
Lipari Reserve: The island of Lipari is the only one to lack formal protection, as it still does not have legal Reserve status. However, the new Lipari Reserve is planned to be instituted in June 2007, and its proposed boundaries have been redrawn to exclude the mining zones and protect other areas. The previously proposed boundaries, which are also those of the World Heritage property, included the pumice mines within Zone A (Reserve). Neither IUCN nor UNESCO had been informed about the proposed boundary modifications as requested by the Operational Guidelines. The mission considers the redrawing of the boundaries as a positive step taken to ensure the protection of the areas beyond the pumice mines; however the State Party will need to legalise these boundaries and submit a proposal for a boundary modification of the World Heritage property in line with the Operational Guidelines.
Infrastructure Development: The World Heritage Centre and IUCN were informed of possible hotel developments as well as plans for the construction of an airport on Lipari. However, the hotel proposals were rejected in December 2006 as they did not adhere to the provisions of the Landscape Territorial Plan. Similarly, the proposal for an airport does not conform to the Landscape Territorial Plan, and seems to be limited by the topography of the island.
A serious new concern arose during the mission in relation to the proposed significant expansion of the Port of Lipari. The new port aims to accommodate large cruise ships, which could bring up to 2,000 visitors per ship. Port development, seawall construction, and cruise ship presence do not come under the restrictions of the Landscape Territorial Plan or any other regulatory framework. While the port and ships do not directly affect the World Heritage property, the indirect effects of increased visitation could be substantial. There may also be proposals for ports on the other islands of which the mission team was not aware.