State of Conservation (SOC)
Lower Valley of the Omo
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Requests Approved: 0
Total Amount Ap proved: 2,000USD
|1996||Review of Lalibela's restoration programmes, in situ training at ...||2,000 USD|
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Soil erosion
- Development projects
Current conservation issues
The State Party submitted its report for this property on 30 January 2014, which included a copy of a brief Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) carried-out for the Kuraz Sugar Development Project. The report is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/17/documents. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the same project carried out in 2011, which was requested by the World Heritage Committee has not yet been received.
- Kuraz Sugar Cane Development Project: The principle conservation concerns continue to be linked to the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development Project, which could have a major negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) if located within or near the property. The State Party reports that this major development project will be undertaken outside the property, while the HIA states that the Kuraz project will include sugarcane plantation on more than 100 km² within the property associated with extensive irrigation and the settlement of thousands of workers. Although the HIA is not based specifically on the Statement of OUV, it does set out clearly the high international importance of the property in terms of the length and continuity of archaeological sequence, the amount of fossils collected and the range of dates obtained as well as the high potential for further scientifically important discoveries. The HIA states that the proposed Kuraz project will have significant adverse impacts on three fossil bearing geological formations. Infrastructure building, deep excavations for building roads and settlements could destroy fossil content to a significant depth. Furthermore roads and settlements near important fossil sites could encourage theft and promote damage from trampling. The current landscape is said to result from a delicate equilibrium between topography and water flows generated by seasonal rains. Changes in routes and quantities of these flows could destroy this equilibrium and may lead to rapid alterations of the landscapes. Mitigation measures proposed in the HIA include full protection of the Shungura, Kibish and Usno geological formations, and the prevention of all activities threatening significant parts of its outcrops. The HIA also recommends that agriculture in the buffer zone should not be associated with heavy infrastructure building and settlements. Road building should be confined to fossil-poor areas directed and monitored by archaeologists. Lastly, an assessment of ‘nearby’ fossil-bearing sediments is recommended in order to establish a plan for feasible conservation actions. The HIA report recommends all developments be guided by the Ethiopian Authority for Research & Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) and Omo Paleontological Project experts in order to avoid negative impacts.
- Boundaries of property and Buffer Zone: Although the terms property and buffer zone are mentioned in the State Party’s report and the HIA, neither have been clearly defined. Confusingly the HIA mentions the ‘delineated core and buffer area of the three formations’. This is not a serial nomination but rather one overall property of some 150 km².
- The property also remains in urgent need of a management plan.
Analysis and Conclusion
The initial brief HIA on the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development Project is well noted. The details of the proposed development remain unclear. None of these have been supplied by the State Party. There are also conflicting statements about the location of the sugar plantations, roads and settlements in terms of how far they are within or without the property.
The fact that neither the boundaries of the property or the buffer zone have been delineated does not help. The statement made in the HIA about three separate sites and three separate buffer zones is clearly incorrect. Clarification of the overall boundary of the single site and its buffer zone needs to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.
What emerges clearly from the HIA is the potentially highly damaging changes that could be sustained by the landscape over a large area of some 100 km², which depending on the exact location could cover some two thirds of the area of the property. These impacts include irreversible damage to fossil remains from excavations, the impact of machinery, agriculture and irrigation, and from looting and trampling associated with new settlements.
The HIA suggests mitigation measures including:
- full protection of the Shungura Formation and prevention of all activities threatening significant parts of its outcrops;
- limiting agriculture to buffer zones but only if not associated with heavy infrastructure building and settlements;
- confining road building to fossil-poor areas directed and monitored by archaeologists;
- and protecting agricultural activities and settlements in core zones of the Kibish and Usno formations.
These appear quite inadequate to deal with the potentially massive changes that could be inflicted by the Kuraz project. The current HIA needs to be followed up by a more detailed cultural Heritage Impact Assessment based on the precise location of the project components, on the agreed retrospective Statement of OUV and on the detailed boundaries of the property. This further information and further assessment needs to be provided before any firm commitments are made on the overall project.
In advance of this being carried out, a map should be provided, indicating the exact location of the Kuraz project, as well as a timeframe for its implementation together with detailed project documentation, including the EIA carried out in 2011. Moreover, there is urgency of delineating the property before any intervention takes place. The new European Union Development Project to be carried out in 2014-2015, which will address the needs for definition of the boundaries and buffer zone as well as for a management plan, is well noted.
From the information so far available, it would appear that the property must be excluded from the Kuraz project. There is also concern as to whether much of the buffer zone could still fulfil its function if it became a focus for development activity.
In addition, there remains concern byreports of enforced clearance of indigenous pastoral communities to make way for the sugar plantations. A reply from the State Party to the March 2013 letter from the World Heritage Centre requesting information on this issue has still not been received. For the Management Plan, although the State Party report expresses its wish for international assistance for stakeholder consultations as well as for including adjacent localities as part of an extension to the property, an official request needs to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before the statutory deadline of 1 October 2014.
As the HIA highlights the high “Paleo-tourism” potential of the site, the State Party should be encouraged to consider testing the new tourism management tools developed through the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme.
It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee also request the State Party to invite a reactive monitoring mission to assess these issues and the potential impact of the Kuraz project.
Draft Decision: 38 COM 7B.48
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.39, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
3. Welcomes the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) on the potential impacts of the Ethiopian Sugar Development Corporation Project (Kuraz project) on the Lower Omo Valley;
4. Notes that this HIA indicates the potential for massive adverse impacts on the property from the irrigation and excavations associated with the development of sugar plantations, settlements and access routes, and also notes that there is conflicting information on the precise extent and location of the Kuraz project;
5. Strongly urges the State Party to provide as soon as possible clear documentation on the scope and extent of the project and its precise location with regards to the property, in order to clarify whether it is within the property or its buffer zone; and requests clear information on the impact on pastoral communities with regards to resettlement schemes;
6. Also recalls its request to the State Party to submit the final report of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out in 2011 to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
7. Also requests the State Party to improve the HIA with a detailed cultural heritage assessment based on the precise details of the Kuraz project and the precise attributes of the property and to submit these to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before any irreversible decisions are made;
8. Further notes that the State Party has obtained funding from the European Union Development Project, which will enable the boundary delineation and management plan to be developed in 2014/2015;
9. Encourages the State Party to carry out an assessment of fossil-bearing sediments, as recommended by the HIA, in order to more clearly define areas of potential archaeological importance;
10. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint UNESCO/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the property to consider the above issues and the potential impact of the Kuraz project;
11. Recognizes the high “Paleo-tourism” potential of the site noted in the HIA, and recommends that the State Party seek funding to test new tourism management tools, which have been developed recently through the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme;
12. Acknowledges the State Party’s urgent wish for international assistance for the site management plan and a possible extension of the property, and also encourages the submission of an International Assistance request to the World Heritage Fund before the next annual deadline of 1 October 2014;
13. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, a report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
Lower Valley of the Omo
- Erosion and siltation/ deposition
- Industrial areas
- Land conversion
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”).