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  N/A

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

October 2012: IUCN reactive monitoring mission; March – April 2005: UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 31 January 2013, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. An IUCN reactive monitoring mission was carried out to the property from 21 to 28 October 2012. The mission report is available at the following link: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/37COM.

a) Logging

The State Party notes that an application submitted by a group of landowners in 2011 to conduct logging operations within the property, was not successful due to strong opposition from other landowners, the general public of East Rennell, the Rennell Bellona provincial government and the Ministry of Environment.  Consequently a timber rights hearing will not proceed. A January 2012 assessment of the logging operations in West Rennell (outside the property) conducted by the Environment Division of the Ministry of Environment shows that the company had adhered to the conditions of its licence and the Solomon Islands Code of Logging Practice, but that logging was causing major ecological damage which could result in loss of plant and animal species. The report further claims that although there would be visible impacts for visitors and loss of biodiversity on the island generally, there would be no direct impact on the natural values of the property.The report recommended that development consent be issued for the existing logging operation as required under the Environment Act 1998. The State Party reports that the Government did not have the power to ban logging operations on land under customary ownership, but admitted there was a lack of communication between the Ministry of Environment and the landowners in the granting of existing licences.

The October 2012 mission observed the destructive impacts from clear-felling of broad strips of forest in West Rennell, and the construction of a network of logging roads, log staging areas, ponds and logging camps, and reported undesirable social impacts for island residents from logging operations. The mission further observed that the forests of East Rennell are intrinsically linked within a single island-wide forest ecosystem to those of West Rennell, and that, contrary to the claims made in the January 2012 Ministry of Environment’s report, any disturbance of the island’s forest ecosystems through logging in West Rennell is likely to have severe adverse impacts on the forest wildlife in the property. The mission noted that current logging operations are being conducted without full legal authority or proper consultation with customary landowners, and that there are no legal provisions in force for protection of the property against logging.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN would like to recall that the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for this property, approved by the State Party and adopted by the Committee in Decision 36 COM 8E (Saint-Petersburg, 2012), warns that logging in lands adjacent to the property, in West Rennell, could have severe adverse impacts on the forests within the property.  It adds that the property’s forests were intrinsically linked to those of West Rennell and were insufficient on their own to ensure the long-term survival of a number of endemic birds.  Moreover, in its Decision 36COM 7B.15 (Saint-Petersburg, 2012) the Committee requested the State Party to ban all commercial logging on the island, further indicating that inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger would be considered based on how the State Party responded to this request, among others. 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note that in addition to negative impacts from logging, 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 (OUV) of the substantial marine component of the property.

b) Invasive species

The State Party acknowledges that there is obvious impact of black ship rat (Rattus rattus) on coastal coconut plantations in West Rennell where logging machinery was off-loaded from ships.It further reports that there is no information about invasive land snails but this will be investigated with help of information from local communities, and that the impacts of invasive species on the natural values of the property require further investigation.

The mission observed that Rennell Island has until now been notable in the Pacific region for the absence of rats and expressed concern that introduced rats will spread into forest areas, especially via logging roads and clearings, where they will have a severe impact on native wildlife including within the property. The mission also reports that African land snails have been seen in the capital Honiara and could gain access to Rennell Island on shipments of food and other produce, where they would compete with the 27 species of native land snails and put their survival at risk, as well as having a destructive impact on crops and other vegetation. The mission observed that there is no evidence of any assessment of the problem of invasive species or that any control measures are in place or planned.

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

The State Party notes that coconut crabs (Birgus latro) have critically declined in size and numbers due to unsustainable over-harvesting by residents in the property. It also reports that a survey of marine resources in the property was conducted in December 2012 and that this will be the basis of deciding any management action. The results of the survey are not provided in the State Party’s report, despite the Committee’s request that any (preliminary) results of such a study be made available to the mission.

The October 2012 mission noted that crabs have disappeared from the western part of Rennell Island, and that within the property the harvesting success rate is dropping, raising concerns that increased harvesting pressure may lead to localised extinction of the species. Harvesting of marine resources is unregulated and traditional conservation measures have been supplanted by a more commercial approach. The management plan for the property makes provision for several measures to regulate the harvesting of marine resources. However, while the plan is well-directed in principle, it has never been implemented and there is no evidence that resources will be provided to do so. The mission concluded that suitable controls on harvesting of marine resources and coconut crabs are urgently required. A return to traditional conservation measures should be encouraged.

d) Legislation, administration and management of the property

The State Party indicates that new national protected area legislation was enacted in 2010. A provincial Lake Tegano Heritage Park Ordinance has been drafted. An intention to update the 2007 East Rennell Management Plan is also noted.

The mission observed that the property is still not declared as a protected area under the Protected Areas Act 2010 and the 2009 Rennell-Bellona Province Lake Tegano Natural Heritage Park Ordinance is currently still in draft form and is yet to come into force. It reported that the management plan for the property has not been effectively implemented. The plan does not fully provide for traditional management under customary laws, or for enforcement of laws and regulations, and it lacks institutional capacity for implementation. There is no evidence that either the local community or other provincial and national authorities have yet made any attempt to review and strengthen the provisions of the management plan in addressing the threats of potential logging operations in East Rennell.

e) Other issues – Climate Change

 

The October 2012 mission reported that weather patterns over the past two decades suggest that climate change may be inducing a higher frequency of cyclonic activity, which in the past has led to extensive damage to forests and high mortality of birds and bats in particular. In addition, climate change effects, including increasing cyclone activity, as well as increasing water levels and salinity in Lake Tegano, induced by sea level rise, have led to shortages of housing, food and medical supplies. The mission considered that environmental controls and replanting are required to alleviate the impacts of lakeshore flooding and increased salinity of lake waters.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the ongoing logging of forests in West Rennell in the Tehakamagoku concession area (12 kilometres away from the property), and the proposal to log forests within the property in the Agapogabu Forest Concession represent a clear ascertained and potential danger respectively to the ecological integrity of the property and its Outstanding Universal Value, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. Furthermore, they consider that the introduction of invasive species represents a potential danger to its OUV, in line with paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. They therefore recommend that the Committee may wish to inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and that it request the State Party to develop and implement an Emergency Action Plan with in-country and international donor support.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that the property’s OUV is under serious threat from existing and on-going commercial logging operations in West Rennell and note that the property itself remains legally unprotected from any future logging operations. They strongly recommend that the Committee reiterate its request for the imposition of an immediate ban on all commercial logging operations on Rennell Island, and that the State Party be requested to provide full legal protection to the property as soon as possible. They also consider that the associated introduction of rats and invasive land snails poses a serious threat to native animals in the property and recommend that the Committee request the State Party to immediately assess the threat to the property from invasive species, implement appropriate control and/or eradication measures, and assess the feasibility of a long-term biosecurity programme to prevent reinvasion. These measures should form part of a comprehensive revision of the Management Plan for the property giving more emphasis to traditional resource conservation practices, and the Plan should be provided with an adequate timeline, budget and other resources for effective implementation.

 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also recommend that the Committee request the State Party to immediately address the decline and potential loss of coconut crab and other marine resources from over-exploitation and introduce appropriate harvesting controls. They further consider that the effects of climate change are having a serious detrimental impact on the natural values of the property and the livelihoods of the local community, and recommend that the Committee promote the provision of appropriate technical advice and financial support required to assist the people of East Rennell to combat this problem. 

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.14

The World Heritage Committee,

1.         Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B,

2.         Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.15, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.         Commends the State Party for passing the Protected Areas Act 2010 and for drafting the 2009 Rennell-Bellona Province Lake Tegano Heritage Park Ordinance, and urges the State Party to apply both of these instruments to the East Rennell property as soon as possible to ensure full and strict legal protection of the property;

4.         Reiterates its request to the State Party to immediately ban all commercial logging from East Rennell to avoid loss of  the property’s Outstanding Universal Value;

5.         Also reiterates its request to the State Party to urgently undertake an assessment of the impact of invasive species, especially of associated introduction of rats  and invasive snails, to institute control and eradication measures as a matter of utmost priority, and to assess the feasibility of a long-term biosecurity programme to prevent reinvasion, and encourages the State Party to apply for International Assistance to support these actions;

6.         Requests the State Party to address the over-exploitation of coconut crab and other marine resources and to apply harvesting regimes based on traditional resource management practices, and including the restrictions recommended by the mission;

7.         Also requests the State Party to take full account of the impacts of climate change on the property and the livelihoods of the East Rennell community, and make provisions in the Management Plan for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures;

8.         Further requests the State Party to undertake an assessment to ascertain whether on-going logging of forests in West Rennell could have severe adverse impacts on the forests within the property, the fact that the property is not strictly protected against logging, and the introduction of invasive species represent a clear ascertained and potential danger respectively to the ecological integrity of the property and its Outstanding Universal Value, in conformity with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;

9.         Decides to inscribe East Rennell (Solomon Islands) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

10.      Requests furthermore the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN and with both in-country and other international partners’ support, to develop and implement an Emergency Action Plan to remove the threats and provide support to the customary owners to enable them to protect the property to World Heritage standards and in accordance with traditional management practices;

11.      Requests moreover the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, to develop a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger and a set of corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

12.      Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property, including a report on the progress made in the implementation of the above recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 8C.1

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (WHC-13/37.COM/7B, WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add and WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add.Corr) and the proposals for inscription of properties on the World Heritage List (WHC-13/37.COM/8B and WHC-13/37.COM/8B.Add),

2.  Decides to inscribe the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: