On 17 February 2012, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides some information on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property and responds to specific issues raised in previous decisions of the World Heritage Committee.
a) Amendments to the legislative framework
As requested by the World Heritage Committee at its previous session, the State Party report provides information on changes to the Russian protected area legislation: it notes that through Federal Law No. 365-FZ dated 30 November 2011 a number of amendments and additions to the Federal Law No.33-FZ “On specially protected natural territories” dated 14 March 1995 have been made, making it possible to allow capital construction facilities and related infrastructure on specifically designated plots of Strict State Nature Reserves, following a list to be established for each site by the Government of the Russian Federation. The new legislation also provides for the possibility to lease out land plots for the above development activities to citizens and legal entities and establishes a federal executive body, which will be tasked with the development of a procedure for such leases.
b) Legal certificate and conservation regime of natural monuments that form part of the property
The State Party report recalls the three 2008 Orders of the Department of Natural Resouces and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Adygea, which legally approved the certificates of “Buinyi Ridge”, “Headwaters of the Tsitsa River” and “Headwaters of the Pshekha and Pshekhashka Rivers” and states that the certificates approved by these Orders established a strict regime, which excludes ”capital construction facilities” on their territories. However no further details are provided on the protection regime, or on the activities allowed.
The available information is insufficient to judge whether the conservation regime of the three Natural Monuments that form part of the property is effective in preserving the Outstanding Universal Value.
c) Infrastructure development for tourism facilities
The State Party reports that no infrastructure development is currently being carried out on the property’s territory but notes that in accordance with the Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 833 dated 14 October 2010 “On creation of tourism cluster in the North Caucasian Federal District, Krasnodar Region and the Republic of Adygea”, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the Republic of Adygea have decided to establish a special economic zone including touristic and mountain skiing facilities. It is planned that this special economic zone will include development of touristic and skiing infrastructure on parts of Lagonaki plateau inside the Caucasus Strict State Nature Reserve (CSSNR) and inside the property. The State Party notes that these planned projects will only be implemented subject to obtaining a positive conclusion of the State Environmental Expertise, which would take into account EIA documents and the results of public hearings.
IUCN has received maps indicating that the proposed ski development overlaps considerably with the CSSNR and also with the “Headwaters of the Tsitsa River” Natural Monument, both of which form part of the property. At the time of inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, the legislation on Strict State Nature Reserves did not allow for such developments but that the establishment of the special economic zone has been made possible by Federal Law No. 365-FZ mentionned above. IUCN has further received reports about a draft Order of the Government of the Russian Federation, due to be signed in 2012, which lists types of infrastructure the development of which would be allowed on Lagonaki plateau within CSSNR, as required by Federal Law No. 365-FZ. This list comprises guesthouses, skilifts, cable cars, ski pistes, service buildings and information centres, as well as infrastructure necessary to operate the above facilities. The legal basis for development of the parts of the area on the territory of the “Headwaters of the Tsitsa River” Natural Monument is unclear, and appears to contradict the State Party’s information on the protection regime of the Nature Monument as reported under (b) above.
According to recent media reports, the French public investment group Caisse des Dépôts is the main partner of “North Caucasus Resorts”, which plans to develop the five projects envisaged under Resolution No. 833.
d) Implementation of the other recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission
The State Party reports that at the time of preparation of their report (beginning 2012), there was no on-going or approved development of infrastructure and tourism facilities, and therefore no Environmental Impact Assesments can be submitted. No further information is provided on the status of developments reported earlier such as the Lunnaya Polyana road and “Biosphere Centre”. The report also notes that there is no on going logging within the property.
Russian media reported in October 2011 that two tenders for the projecting of two separate sections of a road from a southerly direction to a planned metereological station within the Babuk-Aul section of the CSSNR, and in the immediate vicinity of the “Biosphere Centre” on Lunnaya Polyana, were published on a Government procurement site. One of these sections is reportedly located entirely inside the CSSNR. Since no maps or detailed information on these plans have been provided by the State Party, it is impossible to verify these reports. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that previous monitoring missions have clearly stated that the development of recreational facilities at Lunnaya Polyana and the development of road infrastructure are incompatible with the World Heritage status of the property.