An annual scientific monitoring report prepared by the management authority, “Agence nationale de protection de l’environnement (ANPE)”, was submitted by the State Party in March 2005. The report provides a detailed description of the current state of conservation of the property and describes progress in the implementation of the scientific monitoring programme which was set up to assist in the rehabilitation of the park following the decision by the Committee at its 27th session (UNESCO, 2003).
Following the favourable climatic conditions in winter 2002-2003 and the resulting positive impacts on the property, as reported to the 28th session of the Committee (Suzhou, 2004), another winter of ample rain and water supply in 2003-2004 helped continue the rehabilitation of the ecosystem.
The State Party notes that:
a) 120 million cubic metres of water was released from the dams in 2003 - 2004, that is the annual amount recommended for the rehabilitation of the property, which helped prolong the benefits of the extremely wet season the previous year;
b) The level of water was subsequently maintained at an appropriate level for at least half of the year, resulting in very low levels of salinity (6 g/l during the 4 winter months) representing normal winter levels.
c) Nearly the entire surface of the marshes was flooded at the end of January 2004, with persistent flooding over all the lower areas of the marshes for at least 6 months.
The maintenance of these favourable ecological conditions has been followed by the continued regeneration of some of the vegetation. The lower salinity has created the necessary conditions for the germination of the pondweeds (Potamogeton pectinatus) for the second year in a row, reaching the same coverage as in 1993. Wintering and breeding aquatic birds are also reported to return, although far from reaching the numbers before the dams were constructed. The report also confirmed the reappearance of eels.
The State Party also notes that the preliminary results of the winter 2004-2005 are encouraging with approximately 120 million cubic meters of water being released from the dams by the end of January 2005, the level of water already reaching 2 m and the level of salinity already as low as 4 to 5 g/l.
Since the 28th session (Suzhou, 2004), the State Party was able to complete the work to install automatic sluice gates at Tinja, as recommended by the 2000 mission, to better manage the water flow to the lake. ANPE has developed an inter-annual management programme for sluice gates, in order to balance the different ecological requirements (guaranteeing low but variable salinity levels and appropriate water level for water birds and fish migration).
The report of the State Party does not provide information on the progress achieved in the preparation of the participatory management plan and the establishment of an autonomous and permanent management structure for the property, as requested by the Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004). The State Party did not either provide a clear commitment on the status of Ichkeul National park as a “net consumer of water” and on an average annual release of 80 to 120 million cubic metres of water into the lake as requested by the Committee at its 27th and 28th sessions.
The ongoing efforts of the State Party to rehabilitate this World Heritage property and the second consecutive year of favourable climatic conditions have allowed this ecosystem to begin recovery. The monitoring and research work carried out by ANPE is important and should be continued in order to ensure the full rehabilitation of the property.
A significant factor in the rehabilitation efforts so far has been the confluence of dam releases, favourable climatic conditions and the reparation to the sluice. IUCN reiterates that in order to ensure that regeneration is maintained, a guarantee is required from the State Party that in the case of a year of low rainfall, the recommended amount of water will still be released from the dams. Focus now also needs to shift towards month to month management of the sluice and of the human activities within the park, especially grazing. These are issues that should be addressed in the management plan for the park. Bird populations, while increasing, remain significantly lower than values at property declaration, and the range of species present is also less diverse. This can be expected to improve as the marshes and lake regenerate and such a lag time is normal in rehabilitation processes.