A report on the state of conservation of the property was received from the State Party on 13 January 2012. The report responds to issues raised by the Committee in decision 35 COM 7B.12 and provides additional information on conservation actions undertaken at the property. Extracts relating to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for three hydroelectric power projects (A’hai, Longkaikou and Ludila) are annexed to the report.
a) Issues related to planned dam building
The State Party states that reports of unapproved dam construction having begun on the Liuku Dam on the Nujiang River are incorrect and cite photographic evidence to illustrate that, as of December 2011, no construction has begun. The State Party points out that the prerequisite watershed planning and EIA have not been completed. The report further states that “In accordance with the regulatory protocols of Chinese government for constructing hydroelectric power plants, it will not be possible for Liuku dam project and its EIA to pass the state approval”. Similarly, the State Party confirms that no Lisu people have been displaced in connection with the proposed Liuku Dam, however, 100 households living near Xiaoshaba village were relocated to improved housing, an issue unrelated to dam construction.
The State Party also reports that no unauthorised construction is taking place with respect to the Majia, Yabilluo, Liuku and Saige sites. Geological drilling is being undertaken to inform a report on “Hydroelectric Power Planning on the Middle and Low Reaches of Nu River” which is yet to be approved. The State Party indicates that any road works being undertaken are a part of normal rerouting and maintenance operations.
The State Party reports on three proposed hydroelectric projects (A’hai, Longkaikou and Ludila) on the middle reaches of the Jinsha River which have been approved and are in various stages of implementation. They state that these proposed projects are distant from the Haba Snow Mountain sub unit of the property and that EIAs conclude they will not create negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). Based on this judgement EIAs were not submitted to the World Heritage Centre, however, extracts of the EIAs have been provided within the current report.
The State Party affirms its view that the values of the property are related to higher elevation areas (above 2,000m asl) and that proposed hydroelectric projects and dams within the lower elevation disturbed valleys will not have impacts on the property’s OUV.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome confirmation that construction has not begun at the proposed Liuku Dam site and the State Party’s advice that this proposal will not be approved at the state level. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also appreciate the clarifications provided by the State Party on the three above-mentioned hydroelectric projects. The distance of these projects downstream from the Haba Snow Mountain sub unit of the property may mitigate against significant impact on the property’s OUV, however, IUCN is not in a position to assess impacts having not had the opportunity to consider the EIAs. It is also noted that no lists or maps were provided showing the overall extent of hydroelectric dams proposed for areas adjacent to the property and its buffer zone.
IUCN has also received specific reports asserting that site preparations have taken place for the proposed Li Yuan dam on the Jinsha River and the Songta and Maji dams on the Nujiang River. Physical site preparation works may also have impacts and should not proceed ahead of an approved EIA. The Environmental Impact Evaluation Division of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) issued a notice on 6 January 2012 on further strengthening environmental protection during hydroelectric power construction. This notice directs that site preparation should be included in the EIA of any hydroelectric power project. Furthermore, MEP reinforces that basin-wide hydroelectric power development plans are required by law. On 5 April 2012, the World Heritage Centre requested clarifications by the State Party on reported preparatory construction work at the property.
b) Details of mining and dam proposals which may affect the property
The State Party reports that there are no longer any legal mining activities within the property. The State Party further affirms its commitment that no new mining operations will be approved within the property and its buffer zones. In addition, it indicates that plans to specify areas of no-mining outside of the property and buffer zones have been developed. They also detail a range of measures directed at reducing the impacts of those mines most recently excluded from the property through boundary modifications. Measures include improved standard setting, environmental planning, and environmental compliance monitoring.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the commitment of the State Party to ensure no new mining approvals within the property and buffer zone and to additionally delineate no-mining zones outside of the property. Initiatives to reduce the potential adverse impacts of mining operations in areas adjacent to the property are also welcomed. However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that in its evaluation of the minor boundary modification approved by the Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), IUCN was concerned about some mineral processing taking place in the watercourses, with no separation between the water used for mining and the natural water flow, and noted that this represented a permanent impact on the natural system, while also potentially posing a risk to downstream communities.
c) Issues related to management and planning
The State Party reports that relevant Management Plans have been adjusted for consistency with the boundary changes approved by the 34th session of the Committee. A revised Master Plan for the property has been submitted to the State Council and is anticipated to be approved for implementation in 2012. The State Party furthermore reports a range of activities to better protect the property’s values including proposals to conduct a range of thematic studies, undertake boundary marking, enhance zoning systems, and expand staffing levels and capacity building. Among future management challenges, the State Party notes tourism development and the need to mitigate conflicts between local community development and the protection of natural heritage.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN commend efforts to enhance coordination between the eight sub units of the serial property and encourage on-going harmonization of planning and management especially between the two types of protected areas (Scenic and Historic Interest Areas and Nature Reserves) which comprise the property. They note the State Party did not report on overall progress regarding its intention to put in place adequate staffing and budget for the management of the property, but welcome a report that 85 staff have been hired among 3 components of the property. They recall this was a key element that led the Committee to approve the minor boundary modification at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010).
IUCN received reports of local disputes in relation to existing mining activities close to the property on the western slopes of the sacred Mount Kawagebo, of which the eastern slopes are included in the property. In response, on 23 January 2012, the local Prefecture announced that a gold mine that had been operating in the area for nearly a year would be closed. The reports provided to IUCN also note that the communities on the western slopes of Mount Kawagebo could also be affected by proposed dam development on the Nu River.