1.         East Rennell (Solomon Islands) (N 854)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1998

Criteria  (ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   2013-present

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2006-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 56,335
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

March – April 2005: UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Mining;

b) Logging;

c) Over-exploitation of coconut crab and marine resources;

d) Invasive species. 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

A report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party on 2 February 2012. This report addresses all previous Committee decisions since 2005. Copies of the Protected Areas Act (2010), the draft Lake Tegano Natural Heritage Park Ordinance (2009), the East Rennell World Heritage Site Management Plan (2007), the Constitution of the Lake Tegano World Heritage Site Association (2009), and the Environmental Assessment and Audit Report for logging operations on Tehakamagoku Customary Land in West Rennell (2012) are annexed to the report.

a) Logging

The State Party report notes that a logging licence was granted to a logging company, Amos Company (SI) Limited, by the Commissioner of Forests in July 2008, for the 6,900 hectares Tehakamagoku concession area in West Rennell. Infrastructure such as roads, a logging pond, wharf and campsite were constructed and logging operations commenced. This licence had not been subject to the required environmental impact assessment and this led to the Ministry of Environment declaring a stop on logging, which was ignored by the logging company and not enforced. In January 2012 an assessment of the logging operation was conducted under environmental monitoring and auditing procedures of the Environment Act 1998, the report of which is annexed to the State Party report. This assessment acknowledges that flora and fauna habitat destruction is a major environmental impact of the logging. The World Heritage property was not considered to be directly affected by the logging operations because it is located well away (apporixametely 12km) from the concession area, but it was accepted that indirectly the property would suffer from loss of the island’s biodiversity and from visual impacts for visitors. Nevertheless, the assessment recommended that a development consent be granted under the Act.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are mindful of the likely impact of logging operations on the integrity and Outstanding Universal Value of the property. They note that the Management Plan for the property recognises that communities in East Rennell are trying to attract logging in areas outside the property, and includes policies preventing large-scale timber extraction in the property. Reports received by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN indicate that at least six shipments of logs have removed some 60,000 cubic metres of timber from the Tehakamagoku concession, and that another licence was granted in 2008 for logging the Magaone & Aga’eha forests in West Rennell. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also received a copy of an application for timber rights over the Agapogabu forest within the property, and advice from the Provincial Secretary that a hearing on these timber rights is scheduled to be held in April 2012. On 29 February 2012 the IUCN Oceania office wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment requesting information on the application, offering its assistance, noting that the proposal to establish palm oil plantations in the logged areas would directly affect the values for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List and compromise the integrity of the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN would also like to highlight that the construction of wharves, establishment of staging and loading areas, and the increase in activity by logging vessels could all threaten the Outstanding Universal Value of the substantial marine component of the property. IUCN notes that the Regional Director of its Oceania office had a meeting with senior leaders in the Solomon Islands in April 2012 to discuss these issues. On 21 March 2012, the Director of the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party requesting clarification of the reports regarding the proposed logging withing the property, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. No response has been received to date.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have also received reports that a national NGO and representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and the Provincial Government conducted forestry awareness activities with villagers, warning of the threats from logging, explaining the Code of Logging Practice, outlining the financial disadvantages of logging (e.g land owners receive only 5% of logging export earnings) and the disruptive social impacts for the community. The delegation report notes that the majority of the residents are opposed to logging, favour the development of sustainable livelihood enterprises, such as ecotourism, support World Heritage and are concerned about possible de-listing of the property. The report further notes that the Provincial Government wishes to ban logging for the sake of World Heritage and its deleterious impacts on the lives of residents, and will endeavour to have the property adequately recognised in the Provincial Ordinance being drafted at present.

b) Invasive species associated with illegal logging

IUCN has received reports that rats and the invasive African snail have been introduced to the island with the onset of logging operations. This could have extremely serious consequences for the biota of the property. The IUCN evaluation report at the time of inscription of the property highlighted the absence from Rennell Island of invasive predators such as rats and alien land snails, which have decimated the fauna of many other oceanic islands in the Pacific. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that at the time of inscription of the property questions arose about confining the property to only a portion of the island where the extent of forest is insufficient to ensure long-term survival of the endemic bird population, in particular. Any disturbance of the forest ecosystem through logging in West Rennell could, therefore, severely impact the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property. They consider that the situation should be assessed promptly and appropriate control or eradication measures implemented.

c) Legislation, Management Planning and administration of the property

The State Party notes that a national Protected Areas Act 2010, which applies only to conservation of biological diversity, includes provision for gazettal and management of protected areas over areas that merit protection under the World Heritage Convention. National legislation for cultural protection, including heritage sites and cultural landscapes, is at draft stage, and the Rennell-Bellona Province Lake Tegano Natural Heritage Park Ordinance will move forward in 2012 with assistance from the Australian Government and WWF. The State Party reports that a Management Plan for the property was produced in January 2007 with support from the World Heritage Fund. The report also notes that the Solomon Islands National Commission for UNESCO established a World Heritage Sub-Commission in 2011 with focal points in key Government agencies. A representative East Rennell World Heritage Site Association was established in 2008, and replaced in 2009 by the Lake Tegano World Heritage Site Association with financial support from the Australian Government. This support continues in partnership with the NGO Live and Learn Environmental Education to strengthen the governance of the property and enhance the livelihood of the customary owners.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome these developments. However, they note the need to strengthen provisions in the Management Plan to address threats from logging and from over-exploitation of coconut crab and marine resources, in particular, and welcome the intention of the State Party to prepare a proposal for international assistance under the World Heritage Fund in 2012.

d) Over-exploitation of coconut crab and marine resources

The Management Plan notes that coconut crab are harvested for subsistence use and are important for income generation, and that the potential for localised extinction of the species is growing. The plan also notes that overharvesting of crayfish, trochus, beche-de-mer and clamshells is the most serious threat to marine resources at present. Localised declines in trochus and beche-de-mer stocks are noted. 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that an immediate assessment of coconut crab and commercially exploited marine resources should be conducted to determine the impacts of current harvesting practices and establish appropriate conservation measures.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the scale of commercial resource extraction taking place both within the property (coconut crabs, other marine species) and outside (large scale commercial logging), particularly in the context of a small island ecosystem is likely not sustainable and may have significant negative impacts on the OUV and on the longer term subsistence prospects for residents. They wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that an application for commercial logging within the property is reported to be under consideration by the State Party. If permitted, such a licence inside the property would constitute a clear basis for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They therefore recommend that the Committee request the State Party to immediately refrain from considering any further logging operations on Rennell Island. They further recommend that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, in order to assess its current state of conservation, particularly in relation to the threat of logging operations on Rennell Island, the associated threat of invasive species, and the over-exploitation of Coconut Crab and marine resources, as well as other relevant conservation issues. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.15

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.17, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3.  Commends the State Party for its work to rectify deficiencies in the protection legislation, Management Planning and administration of the property, that have been the subject of Committee concerns since 2003;

4.  Expresses its serious concern that applications for commercial logging rights within the property are being considered by the State Party, which if granted would represent an ascertained danger to the property in line with Paragraph 180 of the Opertational Guidelines, and also over the impacts of large scale commercial logging operations in West Rennell on the property;

5.  Requests the State Party to immediately ban all commercial logging from Rennell Island to avoid loss of integrity and the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and to assess the possible associated introduction of rats and invasive land snails, and institute the necessary control measures, and also calls upon companies applying for licences which could impact the property to not proceed further with those applications;

6.  Urges the State Party to make an immediate assessment of the over-exploitation of Coconut Crab and other marine resources;

7.  Also requests the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, to assess its current state of conservation, particularly in relation to the threat of logging operations on Rennell Island, the associated threat of invasive species, and the over-exploitation of Coconut Crab and marine resources, as well as other relevant conservation issues;

Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property, including a report on the outcome of an assessment of over-exploitation of resources and the possible introduction of invasive species, and on the imposition of a ban on logging operations on Rennell Island that might impact the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, for examination by the Committee at its 37th session in 2013, with a view to considering possible inscription of the property on the World Heritage List in Danger. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 8E

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/8E,

2.   Congratulates States Parties for the excellent work accomplished in the elaboration of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in their territories;

3.   Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-12/36.COM/8E, for the following World Heritage properties:

4.   Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in Danger will be reviewed by the Advisory Bodies in priority;

5.   Further decides that, considering the high number of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value to be examined, the order in which they will be reviewed by the Advisory Bodies will follow the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting, namely: