1.         Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island (France) (N 1317)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2010

Criteria  (vii)(x)

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/1317/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1317/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/1317/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 31 January 2013, the State Party submitted a full report concerning the state of conservation of the property. The report provides information on progress achieved in the strategy for the combat against invasive species, as well as on the management of fires that had occurred since its inscription on the World Heritage List.

a)  Management Plan

At the time of inscription, the property did not have an overall management plan in force. In 2008, the public establishment of the La Réunion National Park (PNR) undertook the preparation of its charter that also constitutes its management plan for both the inscribed property and its buffer zone.  The project for the charter of the National Park, approved by the Administrative Council on 21 June 2012, covers issues of integrity, protection and management to ensure the long-term conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. For those components of the Park located beyond the territory of the Park, the State Party foresees the completion of these provisions by 2014 through conventions and partnership contracts that will enable the definition of specific management plans and the mobilization of the necessary resources for their implementation.

b)  Invasive alien species

During 2010, Reunion Island adopted a strategy to combat invasive species (Programme for the Control and Eradication of Invasive Species) that notably concerns prevention, active combat, awareness raising and regional, national and international cooperation. This strategy is conducted by the Directorate of Environment, Development and Housing (DEAL) and is implemented with important financial resources by a steering committee, mobilising all the competent stakeholders. The combat against invasive alien species also constitutes a transversal axis of the charter of the National Park. Demonstration projects for the installation of intensive control areas have enabled the observation of results in the field of ecosystem restoration degraded by invasive alien species. However, the eradication of certain alien invasive species remains problematic, in particular the Guava tree of China (Psidium cattleianum), used locally in the buffer zone, and thus its progression within the boundaries of the property is difficult to control. Forestry developments in the National Park of the Reunion Island are in conformity as regards the control of this species and support the restructuration of the sector within the boundaries of the Park. Moreover, the National Forestry Office has developed an intervention strategy and a combat programme to control European gorse.  This mechanism requires adapted and sustainable resources.

Finally, following the recommendation of the World Heritage Committee to share information linked to eradication activities and the management of alien species with other interested States Parties, the State Party has initiated an annual seminar in the Indian Ocean region (2011, 2012, 2014). A draft cooperation agreement is foreseen with the Hawaii National Park to share experiences on issues concerning the management of invasive alien species, and technical exchanges are on-going with Rodrigues Island.

All these actions require sustainable long-term implementation and the provision of sufficient human and financial resources, while ensuring close coordination between the different State components.

c)  Fire management

In October 2010 and in 2011, fires destroyed several thousand hectares of the property (Maido and Grande Chaloupe Massifs), affecting several rare indigenous or endemic species of flora and fauna, among the rarest on Reunion Island. The main risk concerns the re-colonization by alien species of the ground following fires, in particular by the European gorse, acacia and several herbaceous species. Following the fires, a post-fire action plan (PAPIF) was defined and funds were provided for its implementation that mobilises all the public stakeholders concerned. All the actions of this plan have been initiated, in particular the strengthening of forest defence mechanisms, combat against invasive alien species and landscape restoration work, including the long-term monitoring of biodiversity. However, the presence of wandering cattle prevents the natural restoration of the area and regeneration of the forests following the fires, and favours the spread of invasive alien species and the eutrophication of the environment.

In order to improve fire prevention, Reunion Island envisages strengthening the programme for the creation of tracks (forest defence network against fire) in the Benares and Maido sectors. However, all the technical options available impact the landscape and involve risks as regards the propagation of invasive alien species. Facilitating access in this rare and vulnerable semi-arid vegetation zone also carries the risk of increasing frequentation.

The outbreak of fires in 2011 highlighted the need for aerial methods to combat fires, particularly during the high-risk season (the dry season between September-December). Mechanisms were mobilised at the end of 2012 with the prepositioning of an aircraft. However, no formal commitment has been taken towards the sustainability of these means and to establish structures to facilitate their use in the territory.

d)  Other conservation problems

Increased tourist visitation is likely to constitute a threat for the biodiversity and the landscape. Following the IUCN recommendation, the Regional Council of the Reunion Island announced in 2010 the definitive abandonment of the geothermal project in the Plaine des Sables, which was in contradiction to the protection objectives and the enhancement of the natural heritage. Furthermore, the charter of the National Park plans to prohibit geothermal development within the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that at the beginning of March 2013, representatives of the region of Reunion Island, the French Ministry of Environment, UNESCO and IUCN, as well as its French Committee, had planned a meeting to discuss the potential impacts of geothermal projects on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. However, this meeting was not held.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the geothermal development project was considered incompatible with World Heritage status at the time of inscription of the property.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the State Party has taken into account the recommendations formulated in 2010 and their implementation is in progress. Implementation of action to combat invasive alien species is underway, involving all the stakeholders concerned. These actions need to be sustainable, and must be strengthened over the long-term, ensuring good coordination between all the State services, and provide adequate technical and financial support. In addition, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee request the State Party to undertake the necessary measures to evacuate the cattle from the property, in order to reduce the risk of the spreading of the invasive alien species.

However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN draw the attention of the World Heritage Committee to the fact that the programme to strengthen the network of fire breaks to combat the fires within the property and the development of some renewable energy projects could have negative impacts on the principal elements of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and that alternatives should be considered to avoid or minimize these impacts. They recommend that the Committee request the State Party to respect the commitment undertaken in 2010 prior to inscription of the property, to abandon definitively the geothermal project in the Plaine des Sables. They also note that it would be desirable to establish a global strategy concerning increasing tourism as well as interpretative schemes. They finally note that it would be also advisable to carry out evaluations on the potential impact of certain major sporting events on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.20

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 34COM 8B.4 , adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3.  Welcomes the progress achieved by the State Party in the preparation of a management plan and the implementation of a strategy to combat invasive alien species, and requests the State Party to provide all the technical and financial resources for the effective long-term implementation of these mechanisms, and to undertake the necessary measures to remove the cattle from the property;

4.  Also requests the State Party to:

a)  strengthen the means to eradicate the Chinese Guava tree (Psidium cattleianum) within the boundaries of the property, and to ensure that this objective is inscribed in the forestry development and multi-annual programmes, and support the restructuration of the Guava fruit production activities in the buffer zone,

b)  prepare a prevention, monitoring and rapid intervention strategy to combat fires and ensure minimal imnpact in implementation on the values of the property, in particular to avoid opening new tracks and to preferably opt for the use of aerial means to combat fires during the dry season,

c)  ensure close coordination with the different stakeholders regarding the actions to be implemented for fire management, and involve the population in fire surveillance activities;

5.  Recommends the State Party to seek IUCN’s expertise with regards to post-fire management and the control of invasive alien species;

6.  Further requests the State Party to develop a tourism management strategy for the property taking into account the results of the evaluation survey, currently underway, on the potential impact of major sporting events on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;

7.  Recalls that the geothermal development project is incompatible with World Heritage status and requests furthermore the State Party to respect the commitment made in 2010, prior to inscription of the property, to definitively abandon the geothermal project in the ‘Plaine des Sables’;

8.  Also recalls that economic activities such as agriculture, arboriculture, energy production and tourism must be managed in a way to avoid negative impacts to the integrity and the OUV of the property, that the development projects for economic purposes having a potential impact on the property must be the subject of environmental evaluations, in conformity with international best practice and requests moreover the State Party to submit the environmental impact assessments to the World Heritage Centre, in conformity with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

9.  Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015 , a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, and on the implementation of the above.