1.         Golden Mountains of Altai (Russian Federation) (N 768rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1998

Criteria  (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/768/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/768/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2001: UNESCO/UNDP mission; 2007, 2012: World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/768/

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, providing information on the current status of the gas pipeline project and on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2012 reactive monitoring mission.

a)  Gas pipeline project

The State Party report states that no decision has been made on the construction of the Altai gas pipeline project through the Ukok Quiet Zone Nature Park, that the construction project has not been developed and that therefore the environmental impact of the pipeline project has not been assessed and maps showing possible and preferable routes are not available. The State Party also states that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation is obliged to take measures in order not to allow construction of the gas pipeline through the territory of the property.

However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN received information that the Republic of Altai on 2 August 2012 passed a decree 212 N 202 “On amendments to some Decrees of the Government of the Republic of Altai” which allows the “construction and exploitation of linear objects as well as structures that are an integral part of the process, subject to conservation measures to reduce the negative impact on natural systems and their components” in the Ukok Quiet Zone Nature Park. They were also informed that when the decree was published for public consultation on the website of the Republic of Altai prior to its approval, an accompanying explanatory note stated that the decree was developed by the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Altai based on the outcomes of a meeting on project development of the Altai gas pipeline, which took place on 13 June 2012, one month after the monitoring mission. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that this amendment significantly weakens the protection status of this component of World Heritage property as it would make the development of the pipeline legally possible. They recall that in accordance with Paragraph 180 b) i) of the Operational Guidelines the modification of legal protection status of an area included in a property is considered as a potential danger to its Outstanding Universal Value and a reason for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. On 10 September 2012, the World Heritage Centre transmitted this information to the State Party in accordance with Paragraph 174 of the Operational Guidelines and requested the State Party to clarify this issue. So far no reply to the question has been received from the State Party.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also received information, including photographic material, that preparatory survey work on the pipeline route has been continuing inside the property, including in the most restricted protection zone of the Ukok Quiet Zone Nature Park.  On 9 April 2013, the World Heritage Centre has sent a letter requesting the State Party to verify this information and provide further details. At the time of drafting this report no response had been received yet from the State Party.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that such activities, if confirmed, would be in contradiction to the request of the World Heritage Committee to the State Party to make an unequivocal decision to abandon the construction of the Altai gas pipeline through the property and to ensure that no further preparatory works are undertaken within the property. Furthermore the State Party did not respond to the Committee’s request (Decision 36 COM 7B.25) to ensure that the pipeline developer Gazprom considers alternative routes, and to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments are submitted to the World Heritage Centre for any infrastructure development in or around the property that could affect its Outstanding Universal Value.

b)  Hydro power cascade on Multa River

On 18 July 2012, the World Heritage Centre requested that the Russian authorities submit to the World Heritage Centre relevant information on the project of a hydro-electric power plant on the Multa River and its potential impact on the World Heritage property in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operation Guidelines.  In a letter of 26 October 2012, as well as in the state of conservation report, the State Party informs that a project for small scale hydropower development on the Multa River, downstream from the property, has been under discussion for two years, and could potentially constitute a threat to the property. The report notes that no construction has been carried out to date and that the project is at the pre-production stage. The State Party also notes that survey work has been scheduled from June 2012 to August 2013 and that expert examination can only be made after the survey work has been completed.

c)  Progress made in the implementation of other recommendations of the 2012 mission

The State Party restates previously reported progress with the implementation of the other recommendations of the 2012 mission, including the implementation of the 2009-2015 development and management strategy and the preparation of management plans; the establishment of the non-profit partnership “Council of Lake Teletskoe”, continued patrolling efforts, purchase of new equipment and capacity building. Progress is also reported in relation to trans-boundary cooperation with China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, to enhance the ecological connectivity across the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion; managing visitor pressures, including research into recreational impacts and ecological change of Lake Teleskoe; comprehensive monitoring including of airborne pollution, climate change impacts, animal populations and on-going monitoring of rare and endangered species; and research into climate change revealing glacial reduction and changes in hydrological regimes and the initiation of a strategy for adaptation to climate change.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that while the State Party affirms that no decision has been made on construction of the Altai gas pipeline project through the Ukok Quiet Zone and that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment would not allow the construction of a gas pipeline through the World Heritage property, preparatory survey work on the pipeline route is reported to continue and a new decree by the Republic of Altai allowing the construction of linear objects seems to create the legal conditions to permit the construction of the pipeline across part of the property.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that in accordance with Paragraph 180 b) i) of the Operational Guidelines the modification of legal protection status of an area included in a property is considered as a potential danger to its OUV and a reason for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They therefore recommend that the World Heritage Committee urge the State Party to ensure that Government of the Altai Republic restores the legal protection status of the Ukok Quiet Zone in line with the protection requirements of the Convention. They further note that this again highlights the weak protection status of regional parks in the Russian Federation and recall the recommendation of the World Heritage Committee to establish a comprehensive national legal framework for the protection and management of natural World Heritage properties in order to ensure the fulfilment of the State Party's obligations under the Convention.

They further recommend that the World Heritage Committee reiterates its request to make an unequivocal decision to abandon the construction of the Altai gas pipeline through the property and to ensure that no further preparatory works are undertaken within the property, in line with its previous decisions. They recall the Committee’s position (Decisions 32 COM 7B.22, 35 COM 7B.26 and 36 COM 7B.25) that a decision to proceed with the gas pipeline project through the property would represent an ascertained danger to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in line with paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and would lead to the property meeting the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

They recommend furthermore that in line with Paragraph 172, the Committee reiterates the need for an environmental impact assessment to assess the potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value before any proposed hydropower development on the Multa and other rivers that might affect the property is decided.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.25

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.25, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Expresses its utmost concern about a new decree 212 N 202 dated 2 August 2012 of the Republic of Altai which allows the “construction and exploitation of linear objects as well as structures that are an integral part of the process”, which weakens the legal provisions protecting the property and recalls that in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines the modification of legal protection status of an area included in a property is considered as a potential danger to its Outstanding Universal Value and a reason for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

4.  Notes with concern reports that preparatory survey works on the pipeline route have been conducted within the World Heritage property since its 36th session;

5.  Takes note of the information recently provided by the State Party that as of April 30, the design works on the Altai pipeline project have been suspended and that no further funding for design works will be provided in the period 2014-2015;

6.  Reiterates its position that any decision to go forward with the gas pipeline through the property would represent and ascertained danger to its Outstanding Universal Value in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines , and represent a clear case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

7.  Also reiterates its request to the State Party to make an unequivocal decision to abandon the construction of the Altai gas pipeline through the property and urges the State Party to ensure that no further preparatory works be undertaken within the property, and that the Government of the Altai Republic restores the legal protection status of the Ukok Quiet Zone in line with the protection requirements of the Convention ;

8.  Requests the State Party to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for any infrastructure development in or around the property, including the gas pipeline and hydropower projects, which could affect its Outstanding Universal Value, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

9.  Also requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the recommendations of the 2012 reactive monitoring mission;

10.  Also reiterates its position that all legal issues concerning natural properties in the Russian Federation, which are composed of federal and regional protected areas, be addressed through a comprehensive national legal framework for the protection and management of natural World Heritage properties in order to ensure the fulfilment of the State Party's obligations under the Convention , and further reiterates its request that the State Party convene a workshop to assist in developing such a framework, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;

11.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015 , an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.