1.         Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of LopĂ©-Okanda (Gabon) (C/N 1147rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2007

Criteria  (iii)(iv)(ix)(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/1147/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2002-2006)
Total amount approved: USD 38,600
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1147/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Threats identified at the time of inscription of the property in 2007:

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1147/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

The site was inscribed at the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee (Christchurch, 2007).  At the time of inscription the World Heritage Committee had strongly recommended the State Party to ensure that high priority be given to the assignment of one or several correctly trained staff members to manage the archaeological and cultural landscape sites. At the time of inscription, the IUCN evaluation indicated that the natural values would be managed by the Gabonese National Parks Agency (ANPN).

In May 2012, the World Heritage Centre was informed of the “Alembe-Mikouyi Road Development Project” and requested the State Party to submit an impact study on the cultural heritage affected by the project.  In the absence of any response, the World Heritage Centre renewed this request in a letter dated 4 April 2013.

a)  Management and conservation of the property

In its Decision 31 COM 8B.54, the World Heritage Committee made several requests to the State Party concerning the conservation and protection of the site.  But since inscription, no structure responsible for the equal management of both natural and cultural values for which the property was considered has been established. Moreover, no information has been provided by the State Party in respect of the presence of trained staff, specifically assigned to the conservation of archaeological sites, the fragile nature of the petroglyphs requiring the reinforcement of preventive conservation measures and restoration work as well as appropriate monitoring.  Furthermore, no information has been provided concerning the approval of the proposed new law for the National Parks and the measures for its enforcement to improve the management of the property.

b)  Alembe-Mikouyi Road Development Project

In May 2012, the World Heritage Centre learned of an environmental and social impact study on work for the “Alembe-Mikouyi Road Development Project” mandated by the China Road Corporation and Bridge Society, contracted by the State Party. All the cultural sites are concentrated in the northern part of the site, along the valley bordering the road in question.

 

This study highlights three possible impacts that could affect the integrity of the property: (i) an alteration to the landscape and the living environment; (ii) risk of pollution of surface and underground water; (iii)  loss of vegetation.  It makes no mention of the impact on the archaeological sites, which for the most part, are located alongside this section of the road, nor measures to mitigate the negative effects of the project to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.  Noting that the development work of this section and their impact as described in the study, would present a real danger to the property, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party on 27 July 2012, requesting that a revised study be submitted, with an analysis of the negative impacts of the road works foreseen on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, as well as the measures envisaged to mitigate this impact.  The Centre recommended that this revised study focus more specifically on the archaeological areas of Elarmekora and Kongo Boumba. The World Heritage Centre addressed a further letter dated 4 April 2013 to the State Party, renewing its request for a revised study.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies propose that the World Heritage Committee express its concern regarding the Alembe-Mikouyi Road Development Project that could have an impact on the archaeological sites that justified inscription of the property under cultural criteria. They also recall that the revised environmental impact study and the heritage impact study be urgently submitted, so that an evaluation of the damage that the Road Development Project might engender on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property be evaluated. They recommend the suspension of the project until the evaluation of this analysis is completed.

 

Further, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are concerned about the absence of a structure responsible for the equal management of both the natural and cultural values for which the property was considered. They believe that this situation does not guarantee the optimal conditions to manage all the development pressures currently being faced by the property. They also consider that, if this situation is not resolved in the short term, it will be very difficult to control future development pressures, and the Outstanding Universal Value of the property would be threatened.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.33

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 31 COM 8B.54 , adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3.  Expresses its grave concern regarding the Alembe-Mikouyi Road Development Project that could have an impact on the property, as well as the lack of information provided to the World Heritage Centre concerning the implementation of the main recommendations of Decision 31 COM 8B.54 , notably those regarding the establishment of a management authority, the approval of the law on the National Parks and the training of staff specifically assigned to the conservation of archaeological sites;

4.  Urges the State Party to create this management authority and to appoint a site manager responsible for the equal conservation of both cultural and natural values of the property;

5.  Reiterates its request to the State Party that high priority be accorded to the assignment of one or several well-trained persons to reinforce the preventive conservation measures and conduct restoration work at the archaeological sites;

6.  Requests the State Party to transmit to the World Heritage Centre the revised environmental and social impact study and the heritage impact study on the Alembe-Mikouyi Road Development Project, for examination by the Advisory Bodies;

7.  Also requests the State Party to desist from undertaking any work until such times as the requested additional information has been submitted to the World Heritage Centre;

8.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2014 a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above-mentioned points for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.