1.         Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove (Nigeria) (C 1118)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2005

Criteria  (ii)(iii)(vi)

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/1118/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 10,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies requested the State Party to submit a state of conservation report to address recent reports on:

The State Party submitted their report on 28 February 2014, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/documents. Progress is reported on the following:

Although the report acknowledges the rapid growth of the city of Osogbo and the attendant pressures on land and water resources, it states that development has not affected the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), as it is outside the property and the buffer zone. Nevertheless the report notes that in order to respect the sensitive nature of the grove and sustain its OUV, there is a need to curtail negative development pressures in the wider setting of the property, and for the local  government to amend its Urban Renewal Programme.

One of the negative outcomes of development has been the pollution of the Osun River as a result of the violation of drainage regulations in the city. However, this has reportedly improved through annual cleaning by the National Environmental Standards Regulation Agency.

In the Conservation Management Plan for 2010 – 2014, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments acknowledged the many factors affecting the site such as development pressures, environmental pressures, natural threats and disasters, as well as visitor/tourism pressures. The plan also sets out actions to tackle these threats such as an arrangement with the Federal Fire Service to deal with bush fires in the property and buffer zone.

The replacement of the tarmac road through the Sacred Grove by a new access road outside the property has been delayed by financial constraints, but the State Party still intends to undertake this work.

Two developments projects are reported: a car park in the buffer zone and a replacement pavilion within the property. These are in line with the Conservation Management Plan, and a Heritage Impact Assessment was submitted to UNESCO. In January 2014, the First Palace was repaired using traditional techniques, materials and craftsmen.

No details are provided on the overall conservation of the forest and the large number of shrines, structures and sculptures in the property, nor on the management processes; however, a Senior Assistant Heritage Officer from the property participated in the Disaster Risk Management Workshop organized by the African World Heritage Fund in May 2013 in Zimbabwe, where a draft disaster risk management plan was developed for the property.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

In the 9 years since inscription, the city of Osogbo has grown considerably as has the scope, size and profitability of the annual Osogbo festival--these two factors are putting strains on the property, which was inscribed as a sacred forest grove. The adverse impacts of development and potential development in the wider setting are acknowledged by the State Party as well as the need for more controls.

A hotel has recently been built close to the Grove and the road through the property has not been diverted, as requested by the Committee at the time of inscription.

Although river pollution is said to be addressed by annual cleaning, this does not seem to be the optimal approach for a sacred river at the centre of the annual festival, which reconnects the city to the river goddess Osun who is revered for providing the waters of life. Moreover, the natural aspects of the property, such as the river and forest, are still not clearly addressed in the Management Plan, as requested by the Committee. In addition, no information has been provided on how the shrines and forest are being conserved and managed.

The risk of over-commercialization of the festival is a cause for concern with sponsorship being visibly acknowledged. The commercial success of the festival also means that funding for the festival tends to take precedence over funds for conservation.

The need for a cultural tourism management plan has magnified considerably since inscription. Such a plan should set out clearly and precisely the carrying capacity of the Grove, in relation to its spiritual atmosphere, physical fragility and pristine nature, as well as its connections to access routes, car parking, accommodation etc.

The submission of the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) on the proposed pavilion is noted and they acknowledge the work done to create a Conservation Management Plan. Moreover, the preliminary disaster risk management plan drafted during the Disaster Risk Management workshop in 2013 should be finalised and adopted as an annex to the Conservation Management Plan for the property.

The robustness of the fragile Grove needs to be strengthened to withstand the growing pressures from urban development and from the enormous success of the Festival before both inflict irreversible damage. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a reactive monitoring mission to consider how approaches to urban development, cultural tourism management and the conservation of natural resources might be strengthened, and also to consider the appropriate balance between conservation and development in relation to the OUV of the property.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7B.53

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 8B.23B, adopted at its 29th session (Durban 2005),
  3. Welcoming the continuing efforts of the State Party to improve the conservation of the property through the development of a Conservation Management Plan for 2010-2014,
  4. Notes with concern that in the nine years since inscription, urban development pressures in the wider setting have increased as have the scale and commercialisation of the annual festival and overall visitor numbers; and considers that development threats in the wider setting need to be curtailed;
  5. Regrets that the road through the property has not been diverted as requested at the time of inscription, and urges the State Party to ensure this is carried-out as soon as possible;
  6. Expresses concern that the Cultural Tourism Management Plan, also requested at the time of inscription, has not yet been developed; and also considers that such a plan is urgently needed in order to address ways to sustain the spiritual, symbolic and ritual qualities of the Grove in relation to the very large numbers of people visiting this property, particularly during the festival, through defining clearly and precisely the carrying capacity of the Grove, in relation to its spiritual atmosphere, physical fragility and pristine nature, as well as its connections to access routes, car parking, accommodation etc.;
  7. Also expresses concern that the natural qualities of the sacred grove, upon which its cultural values depend, and particularly the Osun River, appear to have been adversely affected by water-borne pollution;
  8. Requests the State Party to invite an ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the property in order to consider with the State Party how approaches to urban development, cultural tourism management and the conservation of natural resources might be strengthened and also to consider the appropriate balance between conservation and development in relation to the OUV of the property;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2015 a progress report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the above issues, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.