State of Conservation (SOC)
Ha Long Bay
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee
Twenty-third session of the Committee – paragraph X.28 and Annex VIII.
Twenty-third ordinary session of the Bureau – paragraph IV. 45
IUCN has submitted a detailed State of Conservation report on this site following a field mission to the site in February 2000. In general the quality of management has improved since the inscription of the site on the World Heritage List. However, a number of threats to the World Heritage site remain, including:
Littering - beaches, visitor paths and walkways are strewn with litter as is the surface of the Bay;
Fishing - This is one of the most important industries of the region. However, the level of catch has significantly diminished demonstrating a possible decline in productivity;
Poaching of coral and speleothems for the souvenir industry and of plants for gardening industry. This problem has been reduced but still continues. The core problem lies in the relative poverty of the fishing community;
Deposition of solid waste in the Bay - Rock waste, coal, silt and other materials have entered the Bay as a result of on-shore developmental activities;
Introduction of organic wastes or nutrients - There is a problem of discharge of human wastes from rapidly growing urban areas and the more serious issue of possible discharge of nitrates, phosphates or other nutrient substances from agricultural and industrial practices originating in the watershed area;
Discharge of water ballast or sediment from shipping - Ships are required to carry out any discharge outside the Bay but the effectiveness of the enforcement of this regulation is not known. This is potentially a very serious problem for coral and other marine biota; and
Oil or other noxious spillage from shipping - The risk of this is now much reduced but contingency plans should always be in place.
The primary recommendations of IUCN include:
- The Ha Long Bay Management Department should be commended for the progress made in ensuring continuing improvement of the environmental quality of the World Heritage Area;
- The management department should review and improve its policy and practice in litter control;
- The Government should: (a) develop education policies to reduce littering in the Bay; and (b) develop legislation and strengthen enforcement practices to control water ballast quality and discharge at all ports; and
- The Provincial Government, in conjunction with the management department should:
- Foster the development of a locally owned and controlled aquaculture industry;
- Continue efforts to reduce the poaching of coral, speleothems and plants;
- Strengthen enforcement of the control of water ballast discharges;
- Ensure that adequate equipment and trained personnel are available to contain and deal with any major water spillage; and
- Institute a programme of monitoring and assessment of the marine environment with particular regard to: (a) deposition of silt and other solid wastes in the Bay; and (b) water quality, with special attention to organic and nutrient pollution. IUCN commends the efforts of the State Party to improve the management of this site. IUCN supports the view of the State Party that integrated development of the region surrounding Ha Long Bay is an essential requirement for protecting the natural values of this site. The IUCN Vietnam Office continues to work with the State Party to address this issue.
In February 2000, the Chairperson approved a sum of US$ 14,508 for organising a donor roundtable for developing projects to strengthen the capacity of the Ha Long Bay Management Department. The Director of the Centre, during his visit to Vietnam was also informed of several donors, including UNDP and the World Bank, co-operating with the UNESCO and IUCN Offices in Hanoi, Vietnam, to develop projects and programmes to strengthen the conservation of the Ha Long Bay World Heritage area.
The Bureau commends the State Party’s efforts to continuously improve this World Heritage area located in an area of intense economic development activities. The Bureau invites the State Party to consider implementing the recommendations of the state of conservation report of IUCN and co-operate with the Centre and IUCN to negotiate with donors to launch programmes and projects to strengthen the long-term conservation of the World Heritage area.
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Requests Approved: 0
Total Amount Ap proved: 67,615USD
|2000||Workshop for Strengthening the Capacity of Ha Long Bay Management ...||14,508 USD|
|1998||Geomorphology Study of the Ha Long Bay World Heritage area||8,857 USD|
|1997||Support to the Management Department of Ha Long Bay, Quang Ning ...||20,000 USD|
|1996||Management Planning for Sustainable Tourism at Ha Long Bay World ...||24,250 USD|
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
- New port is to be developed in the Bay
- License for a large floating hotel at the site
- Various development projects
Current conservation issues
The Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO, via its letter dated 8 September 2000, submitted an annual report on the Management and Preservation of Ha Long Bay World Natural Heritage Area (1999-2000). IUCN has reviewed the report and noted a number of positive developments including:
(i) staff numbers have been increased;
(ii) the ‘Master Plan for the Development and Conservation of Ha Long Bay to the Year 2020’ has been completed and is awaiting ratification by the Prime Minister;
(iii) the fifth anniversary of the inscription of the site on the World Heritage List was celebrated with a seminar of national and international experts, and was supported by a public festival organised by the Quang Ninh Tourism Department to raise public awareness;
(iv) a workshop on World Heritage Management for the managers and administrative staff of proposed and designated World Heritage sites in Vietnam was held in Ha Long City on 20-21 July, 2000; and
(v) a workshop on raising public awareness of World Heritage conservation through community-based education was implemented. Television programmes and documentaries are being used on a regular basis to raise public awareness of the global importance of the site. The Ha Long Bay Eco-museum Feasibility Study, financed by UNDP and jointly executed by the UNESCO Office in Vietnam and the Ha Long Bay Management Department (HLBMD), was launched on 1 July 2000. Initial activities included a team-building workshop and the production of a promotional brochure. A team of international and national experts is compiling a map of cultural and natural assets of the World Heritage area and its hinterland. The project’s principle output will be an interpretive management plan for implementation by HLBMD that will, amongst others, create interpretation products aimed at generating local employment, sustaining local cultural traditions of arts and crafts and raising environmental awareness. IUCN Vietnam, the Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO and the Quang Ninh Province co-organised a workshop on ‘’Strengthening the Capacity of Ha Long Bay Management Department Authority’ held in Ha Long City from 19-20 July. The workshop reviewed the draft project proposal, which IUCN developed in consultation with the Quang Ninh Provincial Government, Ha Long Bay Management Authority and Vietnam National Commission of UNESCO. The draft project, based on comments provided by participants at the workshop, is currently being revised and will eventually be submitted to suitable donors.
Some donors who attended the workshop are pursuing possible avenues for collaboration with the HLBMD. A European Union Project in Vietnam, executed by Belgian Academic Institutions to use GIS techniques for resource use mapping is interested in launching a new phase of the project focusing on the World Heritage area and its environs. A seminar on the project’s Vietnam based activities, including discussions on potential future projects in the Ha Long Bay World Heritage area, is scheduled for 14 November 2000 with the participation of staff from the Cabinet for Development Co-operation of Belgium.
The annual report submitted by the State Party also identifies the following additional actions that have been positively highlighted by IUCN:
(i) a water services project is about to commence that will bring full wastewater treatment facilities to the whole of Ha Long Bay and Cam Pha Town, thus mitigating a major source of pollution of Bay waters;
(ii) the coal port area of Hong Gai area of Ha Long City has been closed and the area will be cleansed and redeveloped for tourism and commercial purposes;
(iii) the Bai Chay Bridge, when completed could, according to the State Party, remove the problems of pollution by ferries crossing the Bay and vehicles entering ferries from the jetties;
(iv) a policy that allows local fishermen to sell souvenirs and refreshments in the World Heritage area in exchange for collecting rubbish and floating waste is working well but cannot solve the source of the problem of waste generation; and
(v) the Department is in the process of drawing up proposals for visitor regulations in order to strengthen environmental protection.
The Chair of the People’s Committee of the Quang Ninh Province, via his letter of 18 July 2000, requested UNESCO’s views on the Bai Chay Bridge construction project. The project is planned at a location outside of the World Heritage area, near the outer boundary of the buffer zone of the site. UNESCO’s views were solicited for the Government’s negotiations with potential donors for financing the bridge construction project. IUCN had provided written comments to the Centre on documents submitted by the State Party in late 1999 on:
(i) the engineering design of the Bridge;
(ii) EIA of the bridge construction project; and
(iii) the Ha Long Bay Environmental Study, jointly implemented by the Government of Vietnam and JICA.
Using IUCN observations and comments the Director’s letter to the Chairperson of the People’s Committee of Quang Ninh emphasised the following:
· The EIA of the Bai Chay Bridge Construction provides a good framework for mitigation measures to be taken as to not impact the state of conservation of the site. But assumptions regarding the main bridge having a positive impact on landscape values are not justifiable and the main landscape values of the area are primarily dependent on the natural features protected by the Ha Long Bay World Heritage area;
· Predicted landscape and visual impacts of the road construction, as that may be seen from the site associated to the approach roads, particularly the Hon Gai access road which lies within the buffer zone of the World Heritage site are of concern. According to the EIA report this will be clearly visible during the construction and operation of the bridge;
· In relation to water quality in the World Heritage site it is not predicted to be the subject of impacts from erosion and run-off associated with the cuts needed to construct access roads provided that the mitigation measures identified in the EIA are implemented;
· The impacts associated with the Bai Chay Bridge construction are relatively small within the context of the Master Plan for the overall development of Ha Long City, including the need to develop and industrialise Bai Chay Bay. The impacts of planned development of the physical environment of Ha Long City have the potential to cause long-term adverse impacts to the marine environment and landscape character of the area, including the World Heritage site. IUCN is in agreement with the EIA report on the need to balance all proposed development plans to ensure the long-term integrity of the World Heritage site. In particular proposals for the construction of the Cai Lan Port continue to be a major concern since its future operation could significantly increase the risk of accidents and oil spill in the World Heritage area;
· The EIA report recognises that there is a large degree of uncertainty as to whether mitigation measures for the Bai Chay Bridge construction project can be effectively implemented or enforced. Currently the environmental legislation and the EIA process do not provide any means to check that the construction phase mitigation measures are implemented. This should be clearly addressed by the State Party, particularly considering the cumulative impacts from a number of development projects on the World Heritage site;
· IUCN considers that the Environmental Monitoring and Audit Programme recommended by the EIA report for the Bai Chay Bridge construction project is comprehensive and the implementation of mitigation measures identified in the report, during the construction phase and beyond, should be ensured by the State Party. However, IUCN takes the view that considering the various development projects proposed for the environs of the Ha Long Bay World Heritage area, the implementation of a broader Environmental Monitoring and Audit Programme, as proposed in The Study on Environmental Management for Ha Long Bay (JICA, 1999), is equally urgent and important.
Analysis and Conclusion
Link to the decision
The Centre informed the Bureau that the donor roundtable for developing projects to strengthen the capacity of the Ha Long Bay Management Department will take place on 19 and 20 July 2000 and that a feasibility study for a project to develop the Ha Long Bay Ecomuseum for US$ 130.000 is being carried out by UNDP Hanoi.
IUCN informed the Bureau that it had carried out a detailed state of conservation report for this site following a field mission. A number of improvements in the management were noted. However, significant challenges remain which include over-fishing and solid and organic waste in Ha Long Bay. Key recommendations include the need for effective regional planning which considers the impact of activities within the region, as well as the need to strengthen the Ha Long Bay Management Department. IUCN suggested that this be reported to the next session of the Bureau.
The Bureau commended the State Party’s efforts to continuously improve this World Heritage area located in an area of intense economic development activities. The Bureau invited the State Party to consider implementing the recommendations of the state of conservation report of IUCN. The State Party should also co-operate with the Centre and IUCN to negotiate with donors to launch programmes and projects to strengthen the long-term conservation of the World Heritage area with progress being reported back to the Bureau at its twenty-fourth extraordinary session.
Link to the decision
State of conservation reports of natural properties noted by the Committee
Belovezhskaya Pushcha/Bialowieza Forest (Belarus/Poland)
Pirin National Park (Bulgaria)
Dja Faunal Reserve (Cameroon)
Gros Morne National Park (Canada)
Canadian Rocky Mountains Parks (Canada)
Comoe National Park (Côte d'Ivoire)
Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
Komodo National Park (Indonesia)
Lorenz National Park (Indonesia)
Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest (Kenya)
Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand (New Zealand)
Arabian Oryx Sanctuary (Oman)
Huascarán National Park (Peru)
Danube Delta (Romania)
Lake Baikal (Russian Federation)
Niokolo-Koba National Park (Senegal)
Doñana National Park (Spain)
Sinharaja Forest Reserve (Sri Lanka)
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda)
Gough Island (United Kingdom)
Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park (United Republic of Tanzania)
Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)
Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe)
Link to the decision
Property: Ha Long Bay (renomination)
Id. N°: 672 bis
State Party: Viet Nam
Criteria: N (i) (iii)
The Committee inscribed Ha Long Bay under natural criterion (i) in addition to the site's existing 1994 listing under criterion (iii).
Criterion (i): The site is the most extensive and best known example of marine invaded tower karst and one of the most important areas of fengcong and fenglin karst in the world. The size of the area provides sufficient integrity for these large scale geomorphic processes to operate unhindered.
The nomination under criterion (i) was supported by a number of Committee members, who wondered why this criterion was not taken into account originally. The Delegate of Hungary also noted the environmental impact assessment referred to under the item "state of conservation of properties" discussed during the twentyfourth extraordinary session of the Bureau.
The Bureau may wish to adopt the following and transmit it to the Committee for noting:
“The Bureau commends the commitment of the State Party to continue to improve infrastructure and capacity for the protection of the site and for providing a report on the Management and Preservation of the site. The Bureau however, draws the attention of the State Party to risks linked to addressing environmental impacts of individual projects to the neglect of monitoring cumulative impacts of the overall development of Ha Long City and other areas surrounding the World Heritage area. The Bureau urges the Government of Vietnam and the Provincial Government of Quang Ninh, to seek donor support, including from JICA and other Japanese Institutions that co-operated to carry out Study on Environmental Management of Ha Long Bay, to initiate implementation of the Study’s recommendations with minimum possible delay. The Bureau recommends that the State Party amends the environmental legislation as appropriate to ensure the full implementation of the Environmental Management and Audit Programme recommended by the EIA of the Bai Chay Bridge Construction Project, during the construction phase as well as beyond. The Bureau invites the State Party to submit a progress report on the outcome of its efforts to implement the above recommendations to the next extraordinary session of the Bureau at the end of 2001.”
Ha Long Bay
- Ground transport infrastructure
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Marine transport infrastructure
- Other Threats:
Risks linked to addressing environmental impacts of individual projects to the neglect of monitoring cumulative impacts of the overall development of Ha Long City and other areas surrounding the World Heritage area
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).