1.         Škocjan Caves (Slovenia) (N 390)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1986

Criteria  (vii)(viii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/390/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/390/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/390/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2004

The State Party provided via letter of 12 February 2004 to the Director-General of UNESCO information on the Spatial Planning Act (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia 10/02 and 8/03) starting the procedure for drafting a detailed spatial plan of national importance to secure drinking water supply for Slovene Istria and the hinterland Karst areas. The measures foreseen are located in the broader impact area of the Skocjan Caves. Several plans had been elaborated and evaluated in view of the sustainable use of the natural resources. To review any potential impact a study was prepared on the “Sustainable Water Supply of the Coastal and Karst Hinterland Area – Examination of Possible Water Resources with the Aim of Finding a Long-Term and Region-Specific Solution”. Construction of dams at the tributaries of the Reka River are proposed with a volume of about 9 million m3 and a height of up to 40m. The final decision will be adopted during the procedure for the Detailed Spatial plan of national importance, based on national legislation and necessary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which includes impacts on the water status of Skocjan Caves. The State Party confirmed that the project is proposed for financing by the European Union cohesion funds and will adhere to national and European legislation.

 

IUCN noted that while this information is most welcome, the State Party report does not expand on the technical solutions proposed to avoid impacts to the site nor is it supported by a copy of the EIA.  The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have recently received a number of letters from NGOs, scientists, local community representatives and individuals who are strongly concerned about the proposed development of a series of wind generators on the Vremščica plateau, only 4 km from the World Heritage property.  This plateau consists of the same type of rock associated with the development of the Skocjan Caves and is thus dynamically linked to the karstic system of the caves.  The proposed development foresees the establishment of 90 wind generators. These are concrete structures 82m high with sails that reach 52m in diameter and weighing over 10 tons.  The information received highlighted the impacts that such development may have on the flora and fauna of the plateau, as well as on the aesthetic values of the landscape.

 

While this proposed development is outside the World Heritage property, IUCN is concerned about the potential impact that the construction work required for this development may have on the caves.  This construction would imply clearing of the land surface, its compaction and the creation of deep and strong foundations for each of the pillars that sustain the wind generators.  Due to the geological characteristic of the area such construction may inevitably require the use of explosives, which predictably can cause major impacts on the nearby caves and its speleothems.  As noted in the IUCN Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection, cave and karst systems are especially vulnerable and this sort of development may have irreversible impacts on the integrity of the site.  In this case such impacts may affect the key values for which the site was inscribed in the World Heritage List.  Indeed the use of explosives associated to land movements in the Vremščica plateau, only 4 km away from the World Heritage property, may result in the collapse of some of the caves.

 

In addition, IUCN noted in its evaluation report of this site at the time of inscription, the importance of the cultural landscape associated with the site and stressed, “an important concern relating to the integrity of the site is the possibility of inappropriate development in the zone surrounding the site.  Careful planning to ensure that the cultural landscape of the site remains authentic and natural must be strengthened”.  However, as noted in many of the communications received, the proposed development of a series of wind generators would have an important aesthetic and visual impact on this cultural landscape.

 

Furthermore, IUCN has been informed that the Expert Council of the Regional Skocjanske Park, the Parks Board and the Park's Authority have all agreed that the planned turbine wind farms in the border zone with the World Heritage property and/or within the Regional Park are not acceptable and that the plans should be withdrawn. These conclusions were widely disseminated and sent to the national authorities.  However, it appears that the Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy has not provided a clear statement on the proposed development and the final decision lies with the local authority to approve the location under their spatial and urban plans. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 28 COM 15B.28

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Thanking the State Party for the report submitted in conformity with paragraph 56 of the Operational Guidelines (2002),

2. Welcomes the information provided on the proposed Detailed Spatial Plan of National Importance for securing freshwater supply to the Slovene Istria and requests the State Party to expand on this information by providing a copy of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared for this project for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;

3. Notes with concern the proposed development of a series of wind generators on the Vremščica plateau and its potential serious impact on the integrity of the Karst system of the area, as well as on the cultural landscape associated with this property;

4. Requests the State Party to submit as soon as possible and at the latest by 1 February 2005 detailed information on the status of the proposed establishment of the series of wind generators including a copy of the EIA prepared for this project, for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN.