As requested by the Committee, the State Party submitted a report in January 2004 prepared by the management authority of the property “Uganda Wildlife Authority” (UWA) addressing recommendations of the IUCN/Centre mission that visited Rwenzori Mountains National Park in 2003 and requesting that the property be removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger. In the report, the State Party asserts that the Park is now secure and that the management authority is in full control of the property. The army has moved out of the Park and only carries out sporadic surveillance accompanied by Park staff. It is recalled that the Committee inscribed the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999 on the ground of lack of resources, suspension of projects and serious security issues because a large part of the property was out of the control of the management authority.
With regard to the specific recommendations of the IUCN/Centre mission, the State Party notes the following.
The Uganda Parliament in May 2002 approved the Protected Areas System Plan, which reconsiders all boundaries of wildlife protected areas managed by the UWA. The boundaries of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park are not altered but in this process, UWA has received greater financial support from the Government of Uganda, as well as funds from the World Bank under the Protected Areas Management for Sustainable Use (PAMSU) project, which includes funds for the marking of boundaries of the property as recommended by the IUCN/Centre mission. At the time of the report, 30% of the 150 km open boundary had been retraced and this activity is expected to be completed by June 2004. Planting of a Eucalyptus tree line to mark the boundary is expected to start in March 2004 and end by December 2004. So far, no map indicating the precise surveyed and marked boundary was transmitted to the Centre.
With regard to the management plan, the report notes that a ten-year General Management Plan to ensure the integrity of Rwenzori Mountains National Park is under preparation. The planning process started in April 2003 with selection of a planning team, which included UWA staff, local Government and local community representatives and non-governmental organizations working in the area. Consultations were carried out with all identified stakeholders including international organizations. Based on issues raised during the consultations proposed strategies and actions for inclusion in the General Management Plan were made. Since the proposals have been discussed at the highest level within UWA and found acceptable, park management has already embarked on their implementation awaiting formal approval, expected in June 2004, by the Board of Trustees, of UWA.
The report also mentions that a monitoring and research plan has been developed by the management authority, which include provisions for monitoring of illegal activities and extraction of natural resources such as poaching, logging and bamboo cutting as well as impacts of tourism, fires and human – wildlife conflicts.
As requested by the mission, a Community Protected Area Institution (CPI), a local community committee which works with UWA to address issues that affect the community/Park relations has been established. Furthermore, in co-operation with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a project proposal is being prepared that will not only benefit the Park but also local communities surrounding the Park. The project will: reduce the degradation of the lands around the Park by encouraging improved agricultural methods, agro forestry and better land use planning; improve management of the Park through assistance in staff training, provision of technical support and support to infrastructure development; establish effective mechanisms for Park-community communication and co-operation including enhancement of local government capacity for conservation-focused environmental planning; and provide assistance in the initiation and development of regional and trans-boundary processes and tools for the conservation of the Rwenzori Massif.
The State Party also reports on a number of measures it has undertaken to reduce the impact of tourism, and especially climbing expeditions on the property. The condition of the Central Circuit has been improved through re-routing to less steep areas where possible or by using switchbacks, creating steps, ladders and railings in steep rocky areas and the placement of board walks in the most boggy areas. A new policy has been introduced to reduce the numbers of porters accompanying the visitors. Furthermore, new climbing routes are being identified to divert some of the visitors away from the Central Circuit.
On the issue of landmines, the report mentions that UWA is working with security forces to identify areas with landmines and have them removed and that security forces have already drawn up a programme for mapping and de-mining the area. In a recent message to the Centre, the Director-General of the management authority insists that the issue of mines in the Park, is more of an after-war perception, rather than a real danger and that the State Party has the necessary capacity to deal with the issue.
The report does not provide new information on the recommendation by the mission to examine staffing and budgetary deficiencies, but does mention a shortage of management infrastructures, which have been identified as a priority for improvement in the General Management Plan. It states that the PAMSU project has set aside funds for the construction of offices, staff accommodation and outposts but that these funds are insufficient to cover all infrastructure needs of the Park. The report also contains no new information on the transboundary co-operation with the management of Virunga National Park that was encouraged by the mission.