1.         Rwenzori Mountains National Park (Uganda) (N 684)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1994

Criteria  (vii)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   1999-2004

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1995-2006)
Total amount approved: USD 116,739
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

January 2003: World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Mining activities inside the property;

b) Staffing and budgetary deficiencies;

c) Degradation of buffer zone;

d) Impact of tourism and climbing expeditions;

e) Climate Change.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

On 16 February 2012, the State Party submitted a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property covering progress made during the 3 year period since the previous State Party report in January 2009. The report provides a general update on the implementation of park programmes in relation to park operations, resource conservation, transboundary collaboration, community conservation, cultural values and tourism development, as well as specific information in response to Decision 33 COM 7B.7.

a) Management

The State Party reports that a mid-term review of the park’s ten-year General Management Plan (GMP, 2004-14) was carried out in 2009 to adapt its provisions to changing circumstances. The GMP envisages an increase in staffing from 62 in 2004 to 111 by 2014, but the State Party reports a reduction in staffing levels from 74 in 2009 to 64 in 2012. Furthermore, the transport facilities are reported to be inadequate, with just two ageing vehicles and five old motorcycles deployed. The State Party notes that support is needed in order to address this issue.

The State Party also reports that, despite an increase in the number of park visitors and revenues, the amount of internally generated revenue is still inadequate and supports only about 48% of the park’s recurrent expenditure (compared to 50% in 2008/09 and 47% in 2006/07). The shortfall is provided by donors, notably the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), WWF (through the Rwenzori Mountains Conservation and Environmental Management Project, RMCEMP), the MacArthur Foundation and Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

The State Party notes that one new single-room outpost was constructed for staff at Mihunga with financial support from WWF, and the Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST) is supporting the construction of a new visitor information centre. Private sector visitor accommodation facilities have been constructed near the park’s main gate, but other investment costs remain unmet.

b) Community collaboration

The State Party reports a strong programme of collaboration with local communities which has resulted in significant benefits for a wide range of stakeholders. Particular initiatives include continuation of tourism concessions to local community-based groups, a new programme aimed at strengthening cultural values and their links with biodiversity conservation, a climate sensitisation programme, and introduction of climate change mitigation measures, including community-based tree planting to stabilize the banks of the NyamwambaRiver which have been subject to erosion attributed to floods resulting from climate change effects (glacial melt).

c) Resource conservation and protection

Despite the budgetary, staffing and logistical constraints noted above, the State Party reports a 50% increase in patrol effort, covering 65% of the park. Patrol efforts are focussed in the lower-lying areas of the park where the threats are higher, mainly illegal hunting, tree felling and collection of forest products such as bamboo and honey.

The State Party also reports that resource harvesting within the property by local communities has been initiated on a pilot basis. 14 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) allowing members of neighbouring parishes access to park resources, were signed during the 2009-2012 reporting period.

The State Party further reports significant progress in trans-boundary coordination between the management of Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP) and that of Virunga National Park (VNP), two adjoining World Heritage properties. Two senior-level park warden committee meetings have been held to forge working alliances and plan for coordinated patrol efforts in the border areas. Six coordinated patrols have been carried out on a quarterly basis. Despite this progress, the State Party notes that some earlier identified challenges, such as communications, cross-border movement restrictions and lack of understanding of the respective wildlife laws, remain unresolved.

The State Party notes that the insurgency activities which led to the closure of the park for six years (1997-2003) have now abated and there is good coordination between the park management and other security agencies in intelligence gathering and running joint patrols to maintain park security.

d) Mining

The State Party reports that efforts by Kilembe Mines Limited to re-open the Kaolin quarry in the Kasitoha area were halted in July 2006 and that no mining has taken place within the property since then. It notes that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is in on-going consultation on the matter with the parent Ministry.

e) Tourism management

The State Party reports a 20% annual increase in visitor numbers since 2003, and notes a number of significant developments to satisfy this demand and improve the visitor experience, including development of a new 67 km hiking circuit from Kilembe, with a new management concession and eight tented camps, expansion of the overnight visitors’ cabin at Nyabitaba on the central circuit trekking route, and upgrading of the tourist trails and erection of three information boards. The State Party recognises, however, that visitor satisfaction is still inadequate and there is room for further improvement.

f) Research and monitoring

The State Party reports that current monitoring efforts are focussed on three areas of concern, namely resource inventories and off-take monitoring in the designated harvesting zones, impacts of climate change including measurement of the retreat of the glaciers, weather data and monitoring of river water quality, and status of chimpanzees. A further 11 priority research topics have been identified to assist management decision-making, but these remain to be implemented.

g) Forest fire

The World Heritage Centre received reports from the Park management that during February 2012, wild fires started in the Heather/Rapanea zone (3000-4000 m) and spread to the Afro-alpine moorland zone (4000-4500 m). Due to the high humidity and low pressure, the occurrence of fire in this zone was deemed unlikely and therefore not envisaged in the draft fire Management Plan 2007-2014. Park management responded to the threat by ensuring the safety of the visitors present in the area, creating fire lines around infrastructure susceptible to fire, dispatching thirty additional community members to extinguish the fires, and diffusing a fire awareness campaign on two local radio stations, which generated support from 100 volunteers in extinguishing the fires. The fire burnt an area of 4800 ha, which amounts to approximately 5% of the property. Impacts on vegetation, slow moving animals, micro-biota, ecological conditions of the habitat, and ecosystem structure and functioning are reported as significant.

This fire exposed some of the operational challenges in the ability of park management to fight such high altitude fires, including the inadequacy of fire fighting equipment, a poor communication network, and the absence of fire-prevention measures. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the increase in coverage of the recurrent expenditures through increased revenue but note that further efforts are needed to ensure the financial sustainability of the management activities.

They also note that it would be valuable in future State Party reports to include figures derived from the ranger-based monitoring programme to indicate the level and trend of specific illegal activities and resource use from within the property as well as further details of the extent and location of pilot resource harvesting zones, and the procedures for regulating off-take and monitoring their impact.

They further note the significant progress made by the State Party in engaging local communities in the conservation of the property, in monitoring and addressing the impacts of climate change, and in increasing transboundary collaboration with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in managing the two adjoining World Heritage properties of Rwenzori Mountains and Virunga National Park. They recommend that the Committee encourage the State Party to identify and implement further climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in consultation with the Mountains Specialist Group of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and other experts, and to further strengthen transboundary management efforts by developing a more formal protocol in order to address unresolved challenges such as communication barriers and cross-border movement restrictions.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note the positive adaptive management approach adopted by the State Party as exemplified by the conduct of a mid-term review of the Management Plan. However, the implementation of this Management Plan has been slow due in part to on-going funding constraints. They therefore recommend that the Committee requests the State Party to develop a sustainable financing strategy and business plan for the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have not yet had the opportunity to review the ecological monitoring plan requested at the Committee’s 33rd session (Seville, 2009), and also recommend that the Committee requests the State Party to submit a copy, together with additional information on the location and extent of the 14 new resource harvesting zones and the preliminary results of ranger-based monitoring within these zones.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further note that exploration activities are currently on-going in the Kilembe Copper Mines concession which appears to overlap with the southern portion of the property. They recommend that the Committee should request the State Party to halt these activities, and re-iterate its request to the State Party to confirm the permanent cessation of mining activities and licenses within the property, in line with the Committee’s established position that mineral exploration and mining are incompatible with World Heritage status, which is supported by the international policy statement of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) of not undertaking these activities in World Heritage properties.

Finally, they note that the management report of the fire includes recommendations for addressing these challenges. They recommend that the Committee urge the State Party to implement these recommendations as soon as possible, particularly to update the fire Management Plan to include provisions for fire occurrences at the full altitudinal range covered by the property, and also urge the State Party to ensure that adequate fire fighting equipment is made available. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.4

1.  Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B,

2.  Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.7, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3.  Welcomes the progress made by the State Party in engaging local communities in the conservation of the property;

4.  Reiterates its request to the State Party to continue its efforts to establish a sustainable financing strategy and business plan for the property, and calls on the international donor community to strengthen its support for the management of the property;

5.  Also welcomes the transboundary collaboration between the States Parties of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in coordinating protection activities in the border areas between the two adjoining properties of Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Virunga National Park, and encourages the States Parties to further strengthen this collaboration through the development of a formal protocol to address unresolved challenges such as communication barriers and cross-border movement restrictions;

6.  Recognizes the efforts made by the State Party to monitor the impacts of climate change and initiate mitigation and adaptation measures, and also encourages the State Party to consult with the Mountains Specialist Group of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and other experts, in order to identify and implement further measures to safeguard the property’s Outstanding Universal Value over the long term;

7.  Notes with concern the damage caused by the recent wild fire in the property, indicating that park management is not adequately equipped to respond to high-altitude wild fires, and urges the State Party to implement the recommendations from the management report, as well as to ensure that adequate fire fighting equipment is made available;

8.  Reiterates its request to the State Party to revoke any existing licenses for mining within the property and ensure that no further mining licenses are issued within the property, in line with the Committee’s established position that mineral exploration and mining are incompatible with World Heritage status and the international policy statement of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) of not undertaking these activities in World Heritage properties;

9.  Requests the State Party to confirm the permanent cessation of mining activities and licenses within the property, and to submit a copy of the park’s ecological monitoring plan to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2014, together with additional information on the location and extent of the 14 new resource harvesting zones, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.