A brief report updating the state of conservation of the property was received from the State Party on 1 February 2012. The report responds to issues raised by the Committee in Decision 34 COM 7B.16.
a) Development of tourism resort in core area
The State Party reconfirms earlier advice that an illegal foot trail constructed between Thame and Kongde was halted and that no tourists are using this trail. The State Party further informs that the issue of the Kongde View Resort has not yet been decided by the Supreme Court of Nepal and that the Committee will be promptly informed once a decision is reached by the court.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN wish to underscore the protracted nature of the legal process for the Kongde View Resort, coupled with the fact that this resort is reported to have been operating since 2007 and legal proceedings have been unresolved since then. IUCN recalls previous advice from the State Party that the Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) Management and Tourism Plan (2007-2012) identifies the Kongde region as a special protection zone because of its unique and best habitat for musk deer in SNP, amplifying concerns that this resort development may be impacting on an area of high conservation value.
b) Strengthening management and tourism planning
The State Party reports that tourism is being managed in accordance with the SNP Management and Tourism Plan and in collaboration with local communities and stakeholders. Furthermore, though without providing any quantitative details, it reports on a number of training and capacity building initiatives, as well as a significant increase in annual park budgets. The State Party conclude that there is no observed significant negative impact from tourism.
The State Party also reports on plans to review the SNP Tourism and Management Plan for the period 2013-2017. In line with the Committee’s Decision 34COM 7B.16, the State Party requests international technical assistance to review the management of a range of tourism issues including setting carrying capacities and appropriate levels of tourism infrastructure development.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall previous state of conservation reports, the previous IUCN mission (2002) and information from local stakeholders which assert that tourism is having significant impact. IUCN has received reports which suggest that tourism related waste management is still a major concern, and that well publicised garbage removal initiatives by mountaineering groups and the clean-up of high use trails may be giving a false impression and masking underlying problems with waste in other less visited areas.
These reports suggest that tourism impacts remain a significant threat to the property’s values. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN therefore welcome the commitment to seek international assistance and look forward to working with the Nepali Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation to develop a constructive package of support.
c) Declaration of a Buffer Zone to the World Heritage property
The State Party confirms briefly its intention to submit documentation related to the inclusion of the existing Buffer Zone of Sagarmatha National Park, as a recognised buffer zone to the property and informs that this process is underway. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are willing to provide advice to further assist the State Party to consider this proposal, and determine the most effective means to propose it. They note that the proposal to create a buffer zone would be considered normally through the minor boundary modification process. They recommend that the proposal indicate clearly how the buffer zone would be managed to enhance protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
d) Other conservation issues of concern
The State Party reports on a range of positive initiatives with respect to management of endangered species; sustainable use of natural resources, pollution control, alternative energy schemes and wildlife poaching. These include collaboration with the Nepal Army and awareness raising programmes with local porters to overcome impacts from poaching and threats to endangered flora and fauna. Furthermore the State Party notes that the collection of non-timber forest products is not a significant concern as most locals are deriving their income from tourism. The report notes the implementation of various alternative energy schemes in the Buffer Zone which aim to reduce pressure on firewood collection. Finally the report speaks to a range of activities to control pollution in collaboration with the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, however, no details are provided.
The initiatives noted are welcomed by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN as positive contributions to addressing long-term threats to the values of the property. However, the lack of detail within the State Party report does not allow a more in-depth assessment of the effectiveness of these measures. Moreover previous state of conservation monitoring has highlighted a range of other issues such as the threat of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), social impacts on Sherpa communities and other ethnic groups, localised quarrying for building materials, and aircraft access and management, none of which are discussed in the report submitted by the State Party.