1.         The Sundarbans (Bangladesh) (N 798)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

Criteria  (ix)(x)

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/798/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2008-2008)
Total amount approved: USD 75,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

USD 32,590 from Switzerland following a Special Appeal by the Sector for External Relations of UNESCO. 

Previous monitoring missions

December 2007: World Heritage Centre mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 13 January 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/documents. The report addresses a number of conservation issues raised by the Committee at its previous sessions, as follows:

The State Party also requested the World Heritage Centre to invite a delegation from Bangladesh to discuss the environmental issues and mitigation measures taken for the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

It is noted that although the State Party has submitted the EIA for the proposed dredging project in the Pashur (Pussur sic) River, adjacent to the property, which is stated to include a specific assessment of the potential impacts on the property’s OUV, no assessment of impacts on OUV was included in the document received by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN. It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party not to begin activities related to the project until the assessment of potential impacts on OUV has been submitted to the World Heritage Centre and reviewed by IUCN.

The State Party reports that the 1320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant, which will consist of two units, each producing 660 MW, will be located 97km away from the World Heritage property. However, referring to the July 2013 EIA, it is noted that this is the distance from the plant to Hiron Point, and that the distances from the plant to the three wildlife sanctuaries, which make up the World Heritage property, are 65, 75 and 80km. It is noted that an SEA to assess the indirect and cumulative impacts from the power plants, has not been conducted, although this was requested in Decision 38 COM 7B.64. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to undertake a comprehensive SEA, including a specific assessment of potential impacts on the OUV of the property. It is also recommended that the State Party be requested to provide further details on the mitigation measures taken for the project, taking the full findings of the SEA into consideration to inform its plans.

The ecological monitoring report for the period September to November 2014 for the power plant project has been submitted, but not for the property as requested by the Committee in Decision 35 COM 7B.11. It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to provide the results of the ecological monitoring programme for the World Heritage property without delay, ensuring that the impact of climate change on the OUV is included, as initially requested in Decision 33 COM 7B.12.

Following the 9 December 2014 oil tanker accident in the Sundarbans, the World Heritage Centre requested further information in its letter to the State Party, dated 15 December 2014. A joint United Nations Development Programme / Government of Bangladesh mission took place between 23 and 27 December 2014, in order to strengthen the State Party’s efforts to contain and clean up the oil spillage, as well as to assess the situation and develop a response and recovery action plan. The mission observed limited acute impacts to wildlife, but noted that long-term impacts require further research. It recommended further efforts to monitor the effect of the spill on the aquatic environment. It is acknowledged that the mission report identified the need to strengthen oil spill preparedness and response capacity in the future, and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to take measures to prevent such accidents, drawing on the lessons learned.  Noting the State Party’s request for a meeting to discuss the environmental issues and mitigation measures taken for the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant, it is finally recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to review the state of conservation of the property, and the potential impacts of the thermal power plant development and dredging of Pashur River.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.8

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.64, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Notes that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the dredging of the Pashur River, adjacent to the property, did not include a specific assessment of the potential impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre an assessment of potential impacts on OUV, in accordance with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and to ensure activities are not conducted before the revised EIA is submitted to the World Heritage Centre and reviewed by IUCN;
  4. Reiterates its request to the State Party to undertake a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in order to assess the indirect and cumulative impacts from the power plants and other developments in the vicinity of the property, including a specific assessment of potential impacts on its OUV;
  5. Also requests the State Party to provide further details on the mitigation measures taken for the power plant project, which should fully consider the findings of the SEA;
  6. Regrets that the ecological monitoring data for the property requested by the Committee in Decision 35 COM 7B.11 has not been provided, and urges the State Party to submit the results of the ecological monitoring programme for the property without delay, to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN, ensuring that the impact of climate change on the OUV is documented, as initially requested in Decision 33 COM 7B.12;
  7. Further requests the State Party to continue monitoring the effects of the December 2014 oil spill on the aquatic environment, and to take measures to prevent such accidents, drawing on the lessons learned so as to strengthen its oil spill preparedness and response capacity, in particular in view of the anticipated increases in river navigation related to the power plant developments upstream;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to review the state of conservation of the property, and the potential impacts of the thermal power plant development and dredging of Pashur River;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.