State of Conservation
Virunga National Park
(Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Factors affecting the property in 2002*
- Civil unrest
- Financial resources
- Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
- Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
- Illegal activities
- Land conversion
- Volcanic eruption
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Political uncertainties,
- New settlements in the Park,
- Gold mining,
- Livestock grazing,
- Destruction of vegetation,
- Agricultural encroachment,
- Over-exploitation of fish populations,
- Lack of financial resources
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2002
Requests approved: 9
Total amount approved : 238,560 USD
|2000||Emergency assistance to World Natural Heritage of the ... (Approved)||26,400 USD|
|1999||Support to Resident Staff of Garamba, Virunga, Kahuzi ... (Approved)||35,000 USD|
|1996||Request for Technical Assistance for Virunga National ...||0 USD|
|1994||Financial contribution for the protection of ... (Approved)||25,000 USD|
|1993||Financial contribution for the purchase of equipment ... (Approved)||20,000 USD|
|1992||Review of the state of conservation of World Heritage ... (Approved)||3,750 USD|
|1991||Purchase of a motor boat and of spare parts for motor ... (Approved)||40,000 USD|
|1990||Training of 2 specialists each from Salonga and Virunga ... (Approved)||4,750 USD|
|1988||Equipment to improve protective measures in Virunga ... (Approved)||40,000 USD|
|1980||Assistance for Virunga National Park (equipment and ... (Approved)||43,660 USD|
Missions to the property until 2002**
April 1996: WHC/IUCN/WWF mission; November-December 2001: World Heritage Centre mission
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2002
A proposed mission to the DRC and neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, to be led by the Director General of UNESCO and tentatively scheduled for late March 2002 had to be postponed due to unforeseen circumstances. The Director-General’s Office has however reiterated its commitment to re-schedule this mission for early 2003 with a view to soliciting support of the Heads of State and high-level authorities in each of the three countries to respect their obligations under the Convention and strengthen the conservation of World Heritage sites, particularly those in eastern DRC.
The inter-Congolese dialogue that commenced in February 2002 has concluded with relations between Kinshasa and the rebel authorities controlling most of the northeast DRC showing considerable improvement and hopefully benefiting the state of conservation of Garamba National Park and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the near term. The inter-Congolese dialogue however, failed to solve prevailing tensions and disagreements between the Kinshasa Government of DRC and the rebel regime based in Goma that controls territories in the east and southeast of DRC. Hence, the situation in Kahuzi Biega and Virunga National Parks, the two World Heritage sites most impacted by war and civil unrest in eastern DRC, is cause for continuing concern. The state of conservation of Salonga National Park, predominately under the direct authority of ICCN-Kinshasa also appears to be of concern because of the small number of staff who have to ensure the protection of the 36,000 square kilometre Park with difficult access conditions. Salonga is situated in an area that forms a frontier between areas controlled by the Kinshasa Government and the rebel regime based in Goma and hence has considerable presence of armed groups that also threaten its conservation status.
The UNESCO/DRC/UNF Project successfully organized a training workshop on biodiversity monitoring in Kinshasa from 19 to 23 March 2002 where representatives from all the five World Heritage sites of DRC and their NGO partners and other ICCN staff were present. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Co-ordination Unit of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF project were jointly responsible for the organization of the training workshop. The participation of site and other ICCN staff from all parts of DRC was one of the examples of on-going inter-Congolese cooperation amongst civilians and professionals of DRC and their international partners to promote World Heritage conservation. A report of the workshop is expected to be ready before the end of 2002.
The implementation of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF Project activities in Kahuzi Biega was set back due to conflicts involving the decision, taken by the new ICCN authorities in Goma, to transfer the Director of the Park and replace him with another individual from the ICCN cadre. One of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF Project partners, GTZ (Germany), expressed dissatisfaction with the non-consultative manner in which the decision was taken and the impact this action could have on the continuity of project activities. The Project Co-ordination Unit and the Centre facilitated a meeting from 26 to 28 April 2002 in Nairobi, Kenya, between ICCN-Goma and its counterparts from ICCN Kinshasa and ICCN-Beni/Bunia; the meeting was moderated by a neutral expert and the Project Co-ordination Unit. Agreements have been reached to avoid the repetition of such conflicts in the future and the Centre is in the process of reviewing recommendations of the meeting and communicating them to the authorities of the GTZ Project and other partners to ensure their continuing support and collaboration for the conservation of the Kahuzi Biega National Park.
On 17 January 2001, the 3,469 metre Nyirangongo Volcano in Virunga National Park erupted from a fissure on its side. The Nyirangongo, along with the active Nyamulagira volcano, forms the western end of the Virunga Massif chain of eight volcanoes and is located at the southeastern most point of the World Heritage site. Three lava flows spread to the town of Goma 12 miles south, destroying an estimated 40% of the town as well as at least 14 villages on the way, and flowed into Lake Kivu. At least 40 persons died as a direct result of the eruption, however another 50 were killed in a gas station explosion several days later, caused by the ignition of tanks from the hot lava. As many as 500,000 people fled the area into neighbouring Rwanda, but returned within days.
A resource centre for gorilla conservation located in Goma was destroyed and staff and wildlife rangers made homeless. It was reported that the gorillas of the Park had suffered no direct impact from the eruptions, as a wide valley separates Nyiragongo from the nearest group of gorillas on the upper slopes of Mt Mikeno, but it was predicted that chimpanzees and other wildlife in the forest around Nyiragongo would be devastated, and the eruption would affect every level of the mountain’s ecosystem. A report from the Coordinator of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF Project noted that there was potential for noxious gas problems and that the Park post at Kibati was destroyed.
In April 2002 IUCN was informed by the Park that the re-definition of the Park’s boundaries had commenced, involving a process of collaboration with political and community leaders. A mission to Virunga National Park was undertaken on 22 March 2002, involving representatives of the environmental service; officers of the provincial government and land administration; officers of the PEVI Kacheche (Programme d’Education Virunga); police; the Provincial Director of ICCN, as well as active and retired Park guards. The objective of the mission was to clarify and clearly demarcate the boundaries of the Park in the areas invaded particularly by crop growing. Certain parts of the Park have been particularly affected by crop growing, deforestation, the construction of housing and the influx of Ugandan and Rwandan immigrants with their cattle. These problems have arisen from the high population density surrounding the Park, widespread poverty and unemployment, the current socio-political context, the lack of logistical equipment and the lack of law enforcement with regard to illegal encroachments. The northern sector of the Park has not had the benefit of international projects other than those supported by DFGF/Europe for work on gorillas, and the area has suffered from environmental degradation. The province of North Kivu in the north of the Park could not be accessed during the mission due to the security situation and Park staff are unable to monitor the west bank of Lake Edouard. A new director in the Beni sector has been appointed and work has commenced to mark the boundaries despite certain opposition groups. The Provincial government in this area is also more responsive to the problems of the Park than in the Goma area.
The mission had some success, particularly in showing, by way of involving other authorities, that the protection of the Park’s resources is not only the concern of ICCN but of all Congolese people. Since the mission, there appears to be some reduction in encroachments and associated impacts. However, there remains a negative attitude amongst the population and strong opposition to the Park authorities. The mission report recommends that ICCN should reinforce its means of communication with the local population while severely penalizing violators of Park laws; guards should be provided with means of communication and equipment to facilitate greater ease of movement around the Park, and an official report should be sent to the highest authorities urging the removal of Ugandan and Rwandan immigrants from the Park, particularly from Kiolirwe (south) and Karuruma (north).
The need for community support activities benefiting conservation of the World Heritage sites has been widely recognized and has been the focus of the UNESCO/Belgium Government Project whose implementation began in late 2001. The first workshop under this project, to define and develop specific activities in and around each of the five sites was planned for February 2002 in Beni but had to be postponed following the disruptions caused to normal life in and around Virunga after the volcanic eruptions in January 2002. This workshop will now be convened from 25 to 30 July 2002 and will facilitate improving staff-community relations in and around World Heritage sites of the DRC, including Virunga National Park.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2002
World Heritage sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)The World Heritage Committee,
1. Regrets the widespread damage caused by the volcanic eruption in January 2002 and requests the Director-General to transmit its sympathies and solidarity to the people of Goma through appropriate UN and other channels;
2. Requests the Director-General to consult with the UN authorities and other appropriate partners to put in place natural-disaster-prevention and risk-assessment systems to protect lives and minimize damage to property in the event of future eruptions;
3. Notes the efforts of the UNESCO/DRC/United Nations Foundation (UNF) Project to support the conservation of all five World Heritage sites of DRC and requests that a detailed progress report be submitted for examination by the Committee at its 27th session in June/July 2003;
4. Takes note of the fact that the state of conservation of Garamba, Kahuzi Biega and Salonga National Parks and the Okapi Faunal Reserve remain unchanged from conditions reported to the 25th session of the Committee;
5. Expresses its serious concerns over the illegal encroachments and settlements in Kiolirwe and Kararuma in the Virunga National Park, some of them being attributed to people coming from across the border with Rwanda, and requests the Centre to urgently find ways and means to alert the authorities in Goma and in Rwanda of the need to fully respect the integrity of the Virunga National Park;
6. Calls for urgent and high-level diplomatic initiatives to check illegal encroachments and settlements threatening the Virunga National Park and to ensure that all authorities in Eastern DRC and Rwanda respect the international significance and neutrality of World Heritage sites and assist site staff and other conservation authorities to effectively protect those sites;
7. Welcomes the forthcoming visit of the Director-General to the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda in early 2003 and requests the Director-General to take all possible steps to promote transborder co-operation between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda for the conservation of Virunga National Park and other World Heritage sites in the Great Lakes Region of Africa;
8. Recommends that the Centre concentrate its efforts to strengthen conservation in areas in and around the World Heritage sites of the DRC that are returning to normality as on-going UN peace-building efforts in the country take root;
9. Invites its Chairperson and the Director-General to take all other possible diplomatic measures, e.g. writing to the UN Secretary General, to Heads of States and important personalities in other concerned States Parties etc., to build international solidarity to promote peace and other necessary conditions for effective World Heritage conservation in Eastern DRC;
10. Retains the five National Parks: Virunga, Garamba, Kahuzi Biega and Salonga and the Okapi Faunal Reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Committee may wish to adopt the following:
"The Committee notes with regret the widespread damage caused by the volcanic eruption, particularly to the people of Goma, and requests the Centre to transmit its sympathies and solidarity to the people of Goma through appropriate UN authorities resident in Goma. The presence of active volcanoes is part of the outstanding universal values of the World Heritage site and eruptions are likely to occur again. The Centre and IUCN may consult with the UN authorities in DRC and appropriate partners to put in place natural disaster prevention and risk assessment systems in order to minimize damage to property and lives during future eruptions. The Committee welcomes the efforts to clarify and demarcate the boundaries of Virunga as a first step to enhance its conservation from encroachments and other associated impacts. The Committee notes other efforts of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF Project to continue supporting the conservation of all five World Heritage sites of DRC and requests a detailed report on progress made be submitted to the 27th session of the Committee in June 2003. The Committee requests the Centre to contact appropriate authorities to find ways and means of resolving transborder encroachment issues in Kiolirwe and Karuruma in Virunga. The Committee welcomes the possibility of a UNESCO Director-General led mission in early 2003 and requests that the mission places special emphasis in promoting transborder cooperation between DRC, Rwanda and Uganda for the conservation of World Heritage sites in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. The Committee decides to retain all five sites of DRC in the List of World Heritage in Danger".
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”).