1.         Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park (Costa Rica,Panama) (N 205bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1983

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(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/205/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1982-1997)
Total amount approved: USD 276,350
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/205/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 30 000 from the Rapid Response Facility

Previous monitoring missions

February 2008: World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Construction of hydroelectric dams near the property in Panama and associated effects (greater human presence near the property, interruption of aquatic species migratory corridor);

b) Encroachment (settlements, cattle ranching);

c) Planned road construction which would traverse the property on the side of Panama.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/205/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 1 March 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party of Costa Rica. The report provides a detailed overview of progress achieved in the implementation of World Heritage Committee recommendations adopted at its 32nd (Quebec City, 2008), 33rd (Seville, 2009) and 34th (Brasilia, 2010) sessions. On 18 February 2011, the State Party of Panama submitted a copy of the proposal of regulations for the operation of the Bi-national Executing Technical Unit for the management of La Amistad International Park (UTEB-PILA). It did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property as requested by the Committee at its 34th session and thus, there is little information available on progress achieved in the implementation of World Heritage Committee recommendations relating to the Panamanian portion of the property.

a) Hydro-electric dams and mining

The State Party of Costa Rica notes that there are several potential hydropower projects identified within the boundaries of the Costa Rican portion of the property, and that whether or not these will be developed depends on the outcome of current discussions of a law on electric power generation. It also notes that there has recently been a public request to the national authorities to forbid any further mining in the country. However, it further notes that individuals interested in exploiting the mineral resources of the property have been visiting its buffer zone recently. IUCN has received reports that an illegal heliport was constructed for mineral exploration purposes within a proposed 20 km2 mining concession located entirely within the Talamanca Bribri Indigenous Reserve, which is adjacent to the property. According to these reports, the Bribri are opposed to dams and mining in their territory.

The State Party of Costa Rica reports that the national environmental authorities of Costa Rica and Panama, in cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank, are in the process of selecting the consulting team that is to carry out the transboundary Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) requested by the Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), in order to identify the least environmentally damaging options to meet energy and water management needs. The State Party of Costa Rica notes that it will submit a copy of the final SEA report to the World Heritage Centre upon its completion, due four months after commencement of the work. It does not provide further information on the detailed analysis of all development proposals within the property (including dams, mining and forestry), as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). However, it notes that the SEA consultation team will carry out a large part of the work needed, and that the Costa Rican government is still looking for funding to carry out the remaining studies.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the World Heritage Committee, at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), requested the State Party of Panama to halt all dam constructions untill a detailed transboundary SEA has been undertaken. IUCN has received consistent Non Governmental Organization (NGO) reports that the construction of dams on the Changuinola (CHAN-75) and Bonyic rivers is ongoing, and that no mitigation measures are being implemented to ensure that migratory routes for fish and shrimp species remain intact. This raises concerns that a situation may soon be reached where the loss of up to 16 migratory fish and shrimp species is irreversible, with potential impacts on its Outstanding Universal Value . A press release by the Center for Biological Diversity and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, dated 21 April 2011, states that the company constructing the CHAN-75, CHAN-140 and CHAN-220 dams (AES Corporation) has failed to compensate all flood victims and build a resettlement community, and intends to begin the flooding process without rescuing and relocating flora and fauna, in direct violation of Panamanian environmental legislation.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that existing and potential projects involving hydroelectric power and mining represent both a potential and an ascertained danger to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and note that these projects had already been assessed by a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission in 2008.

b) Land tenure and land use issues

The State Party of Costa Rica provides information on the implementation of the strategy it developed in 2009 for integrating private lands into the property by 2018. It notes that there are ongoing efforts to resolve the existing overlap problem between La Amistad International Park (PILA) and indigenous territories, update land tenure information systems for most Costa Rican protected areas, and undertake regular monitoring of the state of forest cover in areas where land ownership is not entirely clear. However, it also notes that most of the actions that form part of this strategy are yet to be implemented, including those related to the assessment of encroachment taking place on the Caribbean side of the property and cattle grazing in the property. With regards to cattle grazing in the Panamanian portion of the property, IUCN has received NGO reports indicating that no concrete action has been undertaken by the State Party.

c) Road development

IUCN recalls reports that as part of its five-year governmental plan (2009-2014), the State Party of Panama intends to build a road traversing the property from Boquete to Bocas del Toro, but that there are currently no concrete maps or designs, nor is there a budget to implement these plans. However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that, as long as there is no official statement that the road will not be built, this issue remains serious and could irreversibly damage the property’s integrity. They recall that the World Heritage Committee, at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), requested the State Party of Panama to submit any preliminary environmental assessments to the World Heritage Centre as soon as these become available.

d) Other conservation issues – (bi-)national coordination, long-term funding of park rangers, and ecological monitoring

The State Party of Costa Rica notes that, following the recent approval of the management plan for PILA, it expects to establish the coordination and decision-making structure proposed in that plan, namely the National Council for the Management of PILA and both the Caribbean and Pacific Local Management Councils. It also notes that a joint agenda for indigenous territories and protected areas is being prepared, which provides a good opportunity to adopt the approach of “shared responsibilities” included in the management plan. Both the States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama note that the imminent recognition of the Bi-national Executing Technical Unit for the management of PILA (UTEB-PILA) is expected to strengthen the coordination of the management of the property.

The State Party of Costa Rica notes that the annual budget of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) has been increasing steadily over the past years, and that a Global Environment Fund (GEF) funded project to update SINAC’s financial strategy could provide opportunities to improve the property’s budget in the middle term.

The State Party of Costa Rica also notes that a number of indigenous people are being trained as tourist guides, and that some of them may become part of permanent biodiversity monitoring teams, which is expected to contribute to addressing the lack of information on the conservation status of target species and ecosystems. It also notes that the ecological indicators and related protocols previously developed by partner organizations will be revised as soon as the draft statement of Outstanding Universal Value has been officially adopted by the World Heritage Committee, in order to ensure that they reflect those elements that determine the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee acknowledges the efforts of both the States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama to establish a Bi-national Executing Technical Unit for the management of La Amistad International Park (UTEB-PILA), and to commission a transboundary Strategic Environmental Assessment, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session. However, they note that there appears to be little progress in removing cattle from the property, and the State Party of Panama’s intention to build a road traversing the property from Boquete to Bocas del Toro could be a matter of concern. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also recommend that the World Heritage Committee notes its regret that the State Party of Panama did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property as requested at the World Heritage Committee’s 34th session, and note that contruction of dams on the Changuinola and Bonyic rivers appears to be ongoing, despite the World Heritage Committee’s request that all dam construction be halted until a detailed transboundary SEA has been undertaken (Decision 34 COM 7B.32). It should also consider that the potential development of dams and mining in the Costa Rican portion of the property is also a concern.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that existing and potential hydroelectric and mining projects in both Costa Rica and Panama represent both a potential and an ascertained danger to the property’s Oustanding Universal Value, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and note that these projects had already been assessed by the 2008 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission. Given the complexity of the threats to the property’s values and integrity, they recommend that the World Heritage Committee request the States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama to jointly invite a World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property to assess the potential cumulative impacts of the multiple threats from dams, possible mining, planned roads, and cattle grazing on the property.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.29

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.32, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Regrets that the State Party of Panama did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session;

4. Notes with appreciation the efforts of both the States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama to establish a Bi-national Executing Technical Unit for the management of La Amistad International Park (UTEB-PILA), and to commission a transboundary Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session, and requests the States Parties to keep the World Heritage Centre informed on the effective operation of the UTEB-PILA, and submit a copy of the complete SEA report to the World Heritage Centre for examination, as soon as it becomes available;

5. Expresses its serious concern that the State Party of Panama has not halted dam construction on the Changuinola and Bonyic rivers until a detailed transboundary Strategic Environmental Assessment process is undertaken, and considers that ongoing discussions over the construction of new dams within the property in Costa Rica, if not immediately resolved, could lead to conditions whereby the integrity of the property would be considered threatened, in accordance with Paragraph 180 (a) (ii) of the Operational Guidelines;

6. Also expresses its concern that the State Party of Panama has not abandoned its plans to build a road traversing the property from Boquete to Bocas del Toro, and reiterates its request that it submit preliminary environmental impact assessments for this development to the World Heritage Centre as soon as these are available;

7. Also reiterates its request to both States Parties that measures be adopted to ensure the complete removal of cattle from the property;

8. Also requests both States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama to jointly invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property prior to its 36th session, which should assess the threat posed by ongoing dam construction in Panama, by potential dam developments and mining in Costa Rica, and from the planned road traversing the property from Boquete to Bocas del Toro, and make a recommendation on the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

9. Further requests both States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a joint report on the state of conservation of the property, including progress on the transboundary dam Strategic Environmental Assessment, a report on progress achieved in resolving land tenure and land use issues (Costa Rica), as well as on the other points raised above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.