Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda (Gabon) (C/N 1147rev)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2007
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/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 38,600
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1147/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
Lack of management structure to deal with the cultural values of the property;
- Need for training of conservation managers;
- Invasive alien plants;
- Illegal hunting;
- Illegal wood trade;
- Road Development
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1147/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014
On 31 January 2014, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report. Progress is reported on the following:
- Alembé-Mikouyi Road Development Project: The State Party acknowledges that the project to upgrade the Alembé - Lopé highway, which passes along the River Ogooué Valley in the northern part of the property, could potentially impact on cultural heritage attributes of the property. Discussions are currently underway between the National Agency for National Parks (ANPN) and the Ministry of Public Works on a possible redefinition of the project. At the same time ANPN has proposed a new procedure for the realisation and validation of impact assessments. The impact assessments of the road will be revised, taking into account the new procedures, as soon as further alignment options have been proposed. The State Party did not provide detailed maps of the proposed alignment in relation to the archaeological and rock art sites in the property and its setting.
- Poaching: The State Party reports a large number of person days (3276) spent on field patrol in 2013, despite a small number of guards (14 for 491,291 ha). 150 cases of illegal hunting are reported, including of protected species in 23 cases. Furthermore, 13 ivory tusks were seized, and 23 elephant carcasses were recorded.
- Optical fibre project: The State Party reports plans for installing an optical fibre cable through the property, which would follow an existing railroad. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this project was submitted to the World Heritage Centre on 20 January 2014.
- Management Authority & Heritage professionals : In order to strengthen the conservation of the archaeological and rock art sites, ANPN in cooperation with its international partners established a special team of cultural experts tasked with evaluation of the road project. In addition, the Ministry of Culture has recruited archaeologists to ensure the conservation of these sites.
- Approval of the Law on National Parks : While the Law on National Parks has been approved in 2007, the State Party has not yet submitted a copy to the World Heritage Centre.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies
It is noted that no details of the Alembé-Mikouyi Road upgrading project nor on its proposed alternative alignments have been provided. Adequate documentation of the area where the upgraded road is being considered is needed, in relation to the key cultural attributes along the River Ogooué Valley in the property and its setting, including possible alternative alignments and appropriate impact assessments for all options, before any decision is taken on the route of the road. These assessments should be undertaken in conformity with ICOMOS Guidelines on Heritage Impact Assessments for World Heritage cultural properties and with IUCN’s World Heritage advice note on Environmental Assessment.
However, it is considered that the road project could impact on the integrity and value of the property. It is also noted that the archaeological sites are linked and it is essential that the potential impact of possible road alignments is assessed not just in terms of impact on individual sites but also on the ensemble of sites and their disposition in the landscape.
The upgrading of the road could further exacerbate the current threat of poaching in and around the property, by providing improved access. The number of surveillance staff is considered insufficient to effectively protect it against poaching.
As the cable for the optical fibre project will run along an existing corridor, the major impacts both on natural heritage and on archaeological sites would occur during the construction phase. The EIA recognizes increased access to poachers as a potential threat during this phase, especially as this runs through the northern part of the property with the highest elephant density. The EIA proposes a number of mitigation measures, which should be strictly implemented, in particular the provision of support to the park surveillance. It is essential that the relevant cultural heritage authorities are involved in this project.
While acknowledging the efforts of the State Party to develop the management capacity to deal with the cultural value of the property, there is a need to further strengthen management structure and professional resources. This is especially important given the need for active participation of property staff in the consultations and impact assessments for the road project.
It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property to evaluate its overall state of conservation and its management capacity in relation to cultural value, and also to assess the potential impacts of possible new road alignments for the upgraded Alembé - Lopé Highway on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7B.59
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.33, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
- Commends the State Party for its efforts to monitor the property and perform regular patrols in spite of limited human resources, and urges the State Party to take measures to significantly increase the number of surveillance staff for the property, including staff trained in cultural heritage;
- Expresses its concern that the proposed upgrading of the Alembé-Mikouyi Road could impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in particular on its archaeological sites, and could also exacerbate the threat of poaching;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, as soon as possible, full details of the various possible alignments of the road in relation to the specific cultural attributes of the property; as well as the revised environmental, social and heritage impact studies taking into account the impact on the overall cultural landscape of the River Ogooué Valley and not just on individual sites, for examination by the Advisory Bodies, before any decision is taken on the approved route;
- Takes note of the Environmental Impact Assessment which was submitted for the optical fibre project and requests the State Party to implement the proposed mitigation measures to avoid impacts during the construction phase on wildlife populations and on archaeology;
- Welcomes the efforts of the State Party to develop management capacity for the cultural attributes of the property, and recommends that it further strengthens management structure, to ensure that it can engage fully with the impact assessments of the road project and with specific potential threats to the archaeological sites in the property;
- Also takes note of the 2007 Law on National Parks and also requests the State Party to submit a copy to the World Heritage Centre, and to ensure its enforcement in order to enhance the effective long-term conservation and management of the property;
- Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property to evaluate its overall state of conservation and capacity to manage cultural attributes, and also to assess the Alembe-Mikouyi Road Development Project and its potential impact on the OUV of the property as well as concerns over poaching;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015 a detailed report, including a 1-page executive summary, 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 39th session in 2015.