Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) (N 1263)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2008
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/1263/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
December 2012: IUCN mission; June 2014: IUCN/Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH) mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Legal frameworks, governance and management systems
- Ground transport infrastructure: road network
- Livestock grazing: sheep, goat and cattle
- Invasive species
- Fishing and collection of marine resources
- Solid waste: primarily in and around main settlements
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016
On 19 February 2016, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/documents/.
In November 2015, Socotra was hit by cyclones Chapala and Megh, causing damages to marine and terrestrial environments and human settlements, the extent of which requires further assessment. Seventeen people lost their lives, with many more injured and/or displaced. In response, the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH), in cooperation with the Yemeni Ministry of Environment, hosted a workshop in February 2016 to undertake a Needs Assessment for Socotra Archipelago World Heritage site, with the participation of representatives from Socotra, IUCN, UNESCO, and a number of international partners.
The State Party reports on progress with the implementation of the 2012 mission recommendations:
- Declared an independent Governorate in 2013, a position of Deputy Governor for Environment and Development has been created for the Archipelago. Actions are being taken to strengthen the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the management of the property;
- A policy to cancel all previous decisions to expand main access roads within the property is in the process of being adopted. Alternative access options outside the property are being explored. While the current Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) legislation is suspended due to the political situation in Yemen, interim mechanisms are being considered;
- Rehabilitation of the sea port, damaged by the cyclones, will be limited to restoring it to its previous condition, and will not include any extensions;
- Various initiatives to increase the involvement of local communities in the management and conservation of the property are ongoing or planned;
- Although tourism at Socotra is virtually non-existent due to the current political situation in Yemen, sustainable tourism is seen as a potentially significant alternative revenue generating activity;
- Initiatives are being taken to strengthen the archipelago’s biological monitoring, focusing on overgrazing, invasive species, marine resource exploitation, wood cutting and infrastructure development. A marine conservation programme will commence in mid-2016;
- Protection of cultural values is a primary focus of the local government, which intends to adopt special regulations to protect tangible and intangible heritage as an integrated part of the archipelago’s planning and management systems.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
It is recommended that the Committee commend the State Party for the progress achieved with the implementation of the recommendations of the 2012 mission, despite the ongoing conflict in mainland Yemen. In particular, the appointment of a Deputy Governor for Environment and Development, the initiatives taken to strengthen the EPA’s role in the management of the property, and the ongoing consideration of a policy to cancel all previous decisions to expand main access roads within the property, should be welcomed, as should the significant support from international donors and partners for the conservation of the archipelago’s biodiversity and the sustainable development of its communities.
Nevertheless, some existing and significant concerns have been further complicated by the conflict and the impacts from the recent cyclones, which urgently need further scientific assessment in order to establish with certainty to what extent the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property has been affected:
- The conflict in mainland Yemen has caused a temporary increase in the archipelago’s isolation. Fuel supplies have decreased and resulted in increased wood collection. On the other hand, pressures to marine resources from overfishing appear to have decreased due to a shortage of fuel and a reduction of export;
- Localized stands of Boswelia and Dracaena have suffered significant impacts from the cyclones, however no serious declines in the island-wide populations of these or other endemic plant species are currently apparent;
- Although the cyclones have caused substantial losses in livestock numbers, overgrazing is considered to be a significant current pressure on Socotra’s terrestrial ecosystems, causing soil erosion and habitat degradation;
- The cyclones have caused much damage to infrastructure, including increased soil erosion in the immediate vicinity of roads. It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to ensure that prior to commencing rehabilitation of roads inside the property, the road master plan is revised in line with the property’s zoning plan, with a particular focus on mitigating impacts from existing roads;
The participants to the ARC-WH Workshop (February 2016) were informed that two cargo ships were grounded within the property west of the harbor of Haulafe, where they were still remaining at the time of writing this report, causing a concern about damages to the marine environment. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to hire, as soon as it is feasible to do so, a professional specialized company to assess the possibilities of and risks involved in a salvage operation.
It should be recalled that at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015), the Committee expressed its concern over the increased vulnerability of the property owing to the security situation in Yemen, and the likelihood of recurring fuel shortages. Considering that this vulnerability may have been further exacerbated by the recent cyclones, it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to implement the actions identified in the Needs Assessment for Socotra Archipelago World Heritage site as a matter of priority, particular to explore alternatives to respond to the local demand for energy that do not impact on the OUV of the property. It is also recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its state of conservation and to support the State Party in identifying priorities for rehabilitation activities.
It is recommended that the Committee also urge the State Party to promote the revival of traditional land management practices, including seasonal transhumance in order to reduce threats from soil erosion and habitat degradation as a result of overgrazing. It is also recommended that the State Party be requested to ensure the enforcement of the archipelago’s protected area regulations and its zoning plan, in order to address threats from unsustainable resource use both in the terrestrial and marine environments.
Decision Adopted: 40 COM 7B.86
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.6, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
- Expresses its sincere condolences to the State Party and the inhabitants of Socotra for the damages and loss of life caused by the passage of cyclones Chapala and Megh, which ravaged the island in November 2015;
- Commends the State Party for the progress achieved with the implementation of the 2012 mission recommendations, despite the challenges resulting from the current security situation in mainland Yemen, and welcomes in particular the appointment of a Deputy Governor for Environment and Development, the initiatives taken to strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency’s role in the management of the property, and the ongoing consideration of a policy to cancel all previous decisions to expand main access roads within the property;
- Also welcomes the support provided by international donors and partners for the conservation of the archipelago’s biodiversity and the sustainable development of its communities;
- Reiterates its significant concern over the increased vulnerability of the property due to the security situation in mainland Yemen, considers that the impacts of the recent cyclones are likely to have further increased the property’s vulnerability to pressures from unsustainable resource use, soil erosion and habitat degradation, notes that these impacts require further and urgent assessment, and calls on the international community to support Yemen in implementing the actions identified in the Needs Assessment for Socotra Archipelago World Heritage site, developed in February 2016, at the workshop hosted by the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH);
- Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its state of conservation, in particular in view of the impacts from wood cutting, overgrazing, unsustainable use of marine and terrestrial resources, and the impacts from the cyclones, and to support the State Party in identifying priorities for rehabilitation and management activities;
- Encourages the State Party to hire, as soon as it is feasible to do so, a professional specialized company to assess the possibilities of and risks involved in salvaging the two ships grounded inside the property near Haulafe and take appropriate measures to restore any damages caused by their grounding;
- Urges the State Party to promote the revival of traditional land management practices including seasonal transhumance in an effort to reduce threats from soil erosion and habitat degradation as a result of overgrazing, and to ensure the enforcement of the archipelago’s protected area regulations and its zoning plan, in order to address threats from unsustainable resource use both in the terrestrial and marine environments;
- Further requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement all recommendations of the 2012 mission;
- Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.