1.         Golden Mountains of Altai (Russian Federation) (N 768rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1998

Criteria  (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/768/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/768/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2001: Joint UNESCO/UNDP mission; 2007, 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/768/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

On 31 January 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/768/documents/ and addresses the longstanding Committee concerns about the possible construction of a gas pipeline through the property, expressed most recently in its Decision 40 COM 7B.96. The report can be summarized as follows:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

It is noted that no decision about the gas pipeline project has been made and that no construction activities are undertaken at this stage. However, despite the repeated requests of the Committee to the States Parties of the Russian Federation and China, involved in the project, to explicitly exclude the property from the route selection process (Decisions 33 COM 7B.27, 35 COM 7B.26, 36 COM 7B.25, 37 COM 7B.25, 39 COM 7B.21 and 40 COM 7B.96), the possibility of the construction of a pipeline through the property remains and is considered the most critical threat to its OUV, as it may directly impact on Ukok Quiet Zone Nature Park, besides likely indirect impacts as well. In addition, the State Party report contains no reference to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements.

The reported intention of the government of the Altai Republic not to construct linear infrastructures (e.g. pipelines) within the property is welcomed. Nonetheless, the legal possibility of such constructions remains, as Decree 212 N 202, dated 2 August 2012 of the Republic of Altai, is still in place.

The continuation of important research projects dedicated to flagship species and ecosystem responses to climate change, as well as the consolidation of coordination efforts both at the level of the Altai Republic and across the border with Kazakhstan are welcomed. In particular, the joint nomination by the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan of a transboundary Biosphere Reserve should be commended, and a best possible harmonization of conservation efforts under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and the World Heritage Convention should be strongly encouraged. Further strengthening of transboundary coordination and communication regarding the management and conservation of the common cultural and natural heritage is strongly encouraged among all States Parties of the Altai region, with advice from the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, as required.

While the reference to ongoing follow-up on the recommendations of the 2012 mission is welcomed, it should be recalled that the first recommendation is an unequivocal decision against the construction of the Altai gas pipeline through the property. It is further recalled that another recommendation is to develop an overall strategy for sustainable tourism for the property. At a time of increasing tourism pressures reported by the State Party, including unauthorized presence of tourist groups, it seems ever more important to implement particularly this recommendation. Noting the efforts to increase stakeholder involvement and broaden the management approach, the mission recommendations to strengthen the cooperation with civil society, and in particular with indigenous communities, and to assess the cultural values of the property with a view to its possible re-nomination under cultural criteria are further recalled.

In line with previous reporting, including the Reactive Monitoring missions conducted in 2007 and 2012, it can be concluded that the property continues to be in a good overall state of conservation. However, there continues to be uncertainty on the exact location of possible large-scale projects, in particular a gas pipeline to China, along with multiple other management challenges. The 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission recommendations continue to provide valid guidance to systematically address those challenges.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.5

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.96, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s ongoing commitment and progress made in implementing the recommendations of the 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission and reiterates its request to the State Party to continue its efforts in the implementation of all the mission recommendations, in particular as regards tourism planning and management, the involvement of civil society and particularly indigenous communities, as well as the consideration of the cultural heritage of the property;
  4. Noting the information provided by the State Party that the selection of the route for the proposed Altai gas pipeline has not been decided yet and that no further construction works have taken place, reiterates its utmost concern that the Altai gas pipeline may cross the property, reiterates its request to the State Party to take an unequivocal decision to abandon the plans for the construction of the Altai gas pipeline through the property and urges the States Parties of the Russian Federation and China to consider alternative routes;
  5. Reiterates its position that any decision to go forward with the Altai gas pipeline through the property would represent an ascertained danger to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and would represent a clear case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  6. Also welcomes that the government of the Altai Republic has currently no intention to construct linear (e.g. pipelines) or any other major infrastructure projects within the property but also reiterates its concern about legal changes in 2012 which still grant the legal possibility of such constructions, and emphasizes that, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, the modification of legal protection status of an area included in a property is considered as a potential danger to its OUV and a reason for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and urges the State Party to revoke Decree 212 N 202 dated 2 August 2012 of the Republic of Altai;
  7. Commends the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan on further progress in transboundary conservation efforts and strongly encourages all States Parties of the Altai region to consolidate existing transboundary conservation efforts, including under the World Heritage Convention and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, and to seek advice from the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, as required;
  8. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, in particular the status of the Altai gas pipeline project, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018, with a view to considering, in case of the confirmation of ascertained or potential danger to the property’s OUV, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.