1.         Curonian Spit (Lithuania,Russian Federation) (C 994)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2000

Criteria  (v)

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/994/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1998-2002)
Total amount approved: USD 85,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/994/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2001: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS / IUCN mission; November 2003: World Heritage Centre mission; July 2009: ICOMOS / IUCN Technical Advisory mission (invited by Lithuania), December 2010: WHC / ICOMOS / IUCN reactive monitoring mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/994/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

The State Party of Lithuania submitted a state of conservation report on 10 February 2011. The State Party of the Russian Federation submitted a state of conservation report on 4 March 2011.

From 4 to 9 December 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010). The mission report is available online at the following web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM/.

a) Kaliningrad Economic Development Zone

The mission report states that the "The Tourist and Recreational Zone of the Curonian Spit” at Kaliningrad region was established by a Russian Federal Government Decision of 2007. This is one of 15 Federal Special Economic Zones that have been created under a federal law issued in 2005. The zones are managed by a joint stock company to attract investment.

Within the Kaliningrad Economic Zone there are proposals for a series of leisure complexes in the municipality of Zelenogradsk. This development is in line with a new “Federal Target Program of Economic and Social Development of the Kaliningrad Region for the Period till 2010”. The planned leisure complexes would be located on four sites, two of them on the Baltic coast and two on the lagoon shore, covering a total area of 282 ha. The proposals include parking for 1,000 vehicles, 1,200 rooms/apartments, restaurants and coffee shops (with 550 seats) as well as a business and conference centre (6500 m2).

The details of these projects shown to the mission raised concerns about the appropriateness of the developments. The proposed artificial environment has no affinity with the Outstanding Universal Value of the Curonian Spit. The proposed development would dwarf the traditional settlements and severely impact on the landscape of the man-made dunes.

The mission considered that the potential tourism projects highlight the weak protection arrangements for the World Heritage property in the Russian Federation. The creation of an economic development zone conflicts with the purpose of the National Park and the obligations to protect the cultural landscapes for which the property was inscribed. The mission recommended that the State Party review legal protection for the property. It also recommended that the leisure complexes should not be built and that the economic zone should be reviewed. The Mission further recommended that, as a matter of urgency, an overall tourism plan be developed for the property to identify the type of tourism that the Spit might host without damaging the fragile environment.

The State Party of the Russian Federation reports that the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation informed that the development plans for the Zelenogradsk district shall not be executed in their present form. New development plans will be drawn up taking into account the opinion of the Federal Executive authorities, the Government of Kaliningrad Region, the Administration of the Curonian Spit National Park, scientists carrying out research on the Curonian Spit, and the general public. It further states that these plans will be in strict conformity with the existing ecological requirements and will ensure the maximum preservation of the existing ecological environment, and the minimization of loss of green plantations. The predominant location of the proposed development will be, it is stated, on ‘territories with violated landscapes’. No more details are provided.

b) Erosion of the dunes and water quality

The mission reported that due to a variety of factors, since the inscription of the property the dunes have begun to diminish visibly in several areas. While the reasons for this are not exactly known, the main factors seem to be the violent storms, changes in the direction of the winds, and problems with the stability of the shores of the Baltic Sea and the Lagoon.

The State Party of Lithuania reports that there have been no strong storms and winds in the Curonian Spit in 2010 and the dune condition is stable. The part of the foredune that was eroded in 2009 was not reconstructed because of judicial issues related to public procurement. After the court decision this part will be reconstructed using traditional materials.

The State Party of Lithuania further reports that it has successfully maintained the protected dunes for years and could provide methodical recommendations to the State Party of the Russian Federation, if such assistance is needed, as a part of the existing cooperation agreement (2009-2010) between the Lithuanian and Russian Federation National Parks administrations.

The mission reported that the work of cleaning the Curonian Lagoon undertaken in Lithuania during recent years has now begun to show positive results, as the water meets European Union (EU) standards.

The State Party of the Russian Federation reports that 5 ha of dunes were strengthened in 2010, bundled brush checks have been erected on an area of 0.15 ha and trenches have been filled in an area of 0.3 ha. Moreover, beach peas were planted in an area of 1.2 ha and brushwood was paved in an area of 3.375 ha. To prepare effective methods for preservation of sand bund and big white dunes, the Directorate of the National Park “Curonian Spit” cooperates with the St. Petersburg State Engineering Academy named after S.M Kirov and the St. Petersburg Scientific and Research Institute for forest farming, exchanging experience with the National Park “Kurshu Neria” (Lithuania).

c) Collaboration between States Parties

Both States Parties report on the collaboration of experts of responsible institutions on the issue of possible oil spills. The last meeting concerning this issue was organized on the 27 September 2010 in Klaipėda, Lithuania. Local authorities (national park administrations of both States Parties) and municipalities (Neringa and Kaliningrad) have close contacts.

d) Lithuania: Implementing the 2009 advisory mission recommendations

The State Party of Lithuania reports good progress in implementing the recommendations of the advisory mission including in the following areas:

i) Approval of the boundaries of Curonian Spit national park in December 2010;

ii) Work on the revision of the new municipal general plans for the Neringa and Klaipėda city municipalities and the National Park management plan – with a proposal to approve the management plan in October 2011, after which the revised Neringa municipality general plan should be approved. After successful approval, all territorial planning documents will enter into force at the end of 2011;

iii) Improvement works at nine cultural heritage sites and the restoration of two fishermen’s houses;

iv) Modernization of sewage treatment system completed in 2010, with all settlements equipped with modern treatment facilities in conformity with EU standards;

v) Considerable progress in challenging claims that sought to overrule spatial planning and construction regulations.

The State Party also reported on two project applications submitted to the UNESCO Participation program for 2010-2011. The project proposal for “Developing Preconditions for Sustainable Curonian Spit Managing” was approved. The second proposal for the “Preservation of the Curonian Spit Cultural (Architectural) Heritage: Research, Recommendation and Awareness-Raising” was not approved. However, alternative financial possibilities are being considered.

The State Party further reports that a fire protection system was installed in the Park.

e) Joint Management plan

The mission reported that the joint management plan agreed at the time of the inscription and requested again by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), is still lacking.

f) Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value

A draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) has been prepared, but only for the Lithuanian part of the property. The State Party of the Russian Federation states that the draft is in preparation and will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre shortly. The mission noted that one joint statement is urgently needed as a basis for the management of the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the designation of an economic development zone within the Kaliningrad region and the proposals for a series of large leisure complexes in the municipality of Zelenogradsk. The entire concept of the economic zone appears to have the potential to threaten the OUV of the property. More specifically, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies further note that the size and scale of the proposed leisure complexes would overwhelm the landscape of the property and threaten its integrity. Although the State Party of the Russian Federation states that the current plans shall not be executed in their present form, and that the proposed development would only occur on ‘territories with violated landscapes”, there is no information on where these territories are located within the World Heritage property, all of which is a National Park:

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are of the view that these leisure complexes should not be built, and that the economic zone as well as the legal protection of the property should be reviewed keeping in mind the OUV of the property. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that an overall tourism plan should be developed for the property to identify sustainable tourism options, in harmony with the environment as a matter of urgency. This could build upon the UNESCO supported project in the Lithuanian part for ‘Developing Preconditions for Sustainable Curonian Spit Management’.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies also note that progress has been made on the Lithuanian part of the Spit on implementing the recommendations of the 2009 advisory mission. They also note the offer to share experience on dune management and restoration.

Although cooperation continues between the States Parties on certain issues, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies further note that there has been no progress in developing a joint Statement of Outstanding Universal Value or a joint Management Plan which could allow exchange of information and ideas across the property and should over-arch economic development and ensure the long-term protection and management of the property as a whole.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.99

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2. Recalling Decisions 31 COM 7B.114, 32 COM 7B.98 and 34 COM 7B.91 adopted at its 31st (Christchurch, 2007), 32nd (Quebec City, 2008) and 34th (Brasilia, 2010) sessions respectively,

3. Acknowledges the recommendations of the December 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission;

4. Notes with great concern the designation of an economic development zone within the Kaliningrad region which appears to conflict with the needs of the property, and proposals for large leisure complexes which would overwhelm the fragile landscape of the Spit and threaten its integrity;

5. Requests the State Party of the Russian Federation to halt immediately the current proposals, not to pursue the development of large leisure complexes and to review the designation of the economic zone;

6. Also requests the State Party of the Russian Federation to review the overall legal protection arrangements for the property in order to ensure that development respects the Outstanding Universal Value;

7. Urges the States Parties of Lithuania and the Russian Federation to prepare a joint Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property as a basis for future management, conservation and economic development; to strengthen collaboration on management and protection, in line with the assurances made at the time of inscription, and to put in place a coordinated management mechanism in line with the requirements of the Operational Guidelines;

8. Also urges the States Parties of Lithuania and the Russian Federation to develop, as a matter of urgency, an overall Tourism Strategy for the property, based on the UNESCO supported project on the Lithuanian part, in order to define sustainable approaches to tourism that respect the landscape and support local communities;

9. Further requests the States Parties of Lithuania and the Russian Federation to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a joint progress report on the state of conservation of the property, and the implementation of the above and of the recommendations of the December 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.