Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquís (Costa Rica) (C 1453)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2014
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/1453/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 17,500
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1453/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Interpretative and visitation facilities (provide visitor interpretation and future accessibility to components not yet open to the public)
- Human resources (guardians and managers)
- Housing (future urban development)
- Water infrastructure (discussion on the construction of a hydropower dam)
- Air transport infrastructure
- Financial resources
- Management systems/ management plan
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1453/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018
On 27 November 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, including an extensive technical conservation report, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1453/documents/ and addresses the Committee’s previous recommendations.
On 22 March 2018, the State Party provided additional information consisting of the updated Management Plan (2017-2020) for the property, and its approval note by the National Museum of Costa Rica (MNCR) from March 2018.
The State Party reports the following:
- The project for the Southern International Airport is in its feasibility stage and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been conducted. The airport would cover 500 hectares, having a 2.2 kilometres long and 45 metres wide runway, and would be located at Fincas 9 and 10, adjacent to Finca 6 archaeological site. An Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) is underway;
- A HIA of the hydroelectric project in the Diquís delta has been undertaken and is included as an annex to the report;
- Despite ongoing efforts, little progress has been made in the preparation of the Osa Canton Regulatory Plan, intended to integrate the revised buffer zones. In order to advance these issues, the possibility of a specific regulation for the buffer zones is now being explored with the Municipal Council;
- The acquisition of 5.6 ha of land at El Silencio site was formalized in September 2016, while that of a second farm, corresponding to the access zone, is in process;
- A team of four people is located at Finca 6: an administrator, an educator, a ticket clerk and a maintenance manager. These posts will be institutionalized in the first half of 2018, while the appointment of another staff member at the box office has been requested. Additionally, five temporary maintenance workers have been hired, while contracts with two private companies provide 24-hour surveillance and cleaning services at Finca 6, respectively;
- The Disaster Management Plan for Finca 6 is expected to be approved in the first quarter of 2018. In order to mitigate the risk of flooding, the State Party has taken action to monitor ground water levels and has proposed the establishment of drainage channels;
- Preliminary actions undertaken and planned for a Risk Preparedness Plan are presented for each of the four component sites;
- Regarding the establishment of cooperation mechanisms with local communities and indigenous groups and associations for management purposes, options that would allow joint management activities are still being explored. These initiatives require a lengthier consideration since there are legal and administrative issues to be solved;
- Diverse educational and cultural activities are being promoted, such as the annual Spheres Festival and a participatory project with members of the Boruca indigenous community;
- Important archaeological research and conservation actions have been carried out in line with the objectives and strategies presented in the updated Management Plan;
- An extension of the Finca 6 Visitor Centre is in progress and is expected to be finished by May 2018;
- In 2016, the National World Heritage Commission, which works under the auspices of the Costa Rican Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO (CCCU), was created.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
The State Party should be commended for its progress made in the implementation of a number of the Committee’s recommendations, and particularly for the promotion of diverse educational and cultural activities and projects related to the property. Further efforts to finalize cooperation agreements with local communities and to develop educational initiatives that highlight the property as a reference for cultural heritage potential in Costa Rica, should be encouraged.
However, delays are noted in the implementation of actions that are essential for the proper management and conservation of the property, particularly the preparation of the Osa Canton Regulatory Plan, the Risk Preparedness and Disaster Management Plans, and management arrangements with the local and indigenous communities. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit a work plan and timetable for the further implementation of these and other recommended activities, along with the commitment to increase the human and financial resources required for ensuring their implementation and the broader conservation and management objectives for the property.
It is noted with concern that certain key threats to the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, including its authenticity and integrity, have not been resolved. The HIA of the international airport immediately adjacent to Finca 6 has not been finalized, although it may be expected that the airport, with its runway and auxiliary structures, would have a major impact on the property as a whole and in particular the Finca 6 component.
In March 2018, ICOMOS submitted a Technical Review to the State Party of the HIA for the El Diquís Hydroelectric Plant project. Further technical details were subsequently provided by the State Party, including visualisations, and the review was augmented accordingly, noting the following:
- Although the dam will be located outside of the Diquís delta, the ancillary constructions (power generators, 2-km long channel, camps and other facilities) will be located less than 1 km from the Batambal site;
- The surroundings of the Batambal site to the north, west and south will be altered considerably and, at some points, at less than 500 m from the border of the buffer zone;
- The State Party indicates that “an analysis of the wider environment would require a new study, which could not be done in the immediate term” in order to better understand the potential impacts of the project on the landscape setting;
- While the State Party highlights the possibility to cover or mitigate the visual impacts, the scope and the geographic proximity of the constructions are significant.
It should be noted that the Management Plan 2017-2020 highlights the “excellent view of the delta and its surroundings” from the Batambal site, and the need to “better understand the delta’s dynamics of occupation [and to] reinforce the values and significance of the asset”, while one of its objectives includes the assessment of the “eventual expansion” of the declared sites’ buffer zones. The narrow focus of the HIA appears to be at odds with the aims and objectives of the Management Plan.
It is suggested that the Committee express its concern at the potential negative impact of the proposed hydroelectric dam project on the landscape context of the chiefdom settlements, and thus on the OUV of the property.
Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.36
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.3, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
- Commends the State Party on the progress made in the implementation of its recommendations with regard to the acquisition of land, staffing and educational activities;
- Encourages the State Party to pursue its efforts to finalize cooperation agreements with local communities for management purposes, and to develop educational initiatives that highlight the property as a reference for cultural heritage potential in Costa Rica;
- Notes with concern, however, delays in the implementation of actions that are essential for the proper management and conservation of the property, in particular the preparation of the Osa Canton Regulatory Plan, the Risk Preparedness and Disaster Management Plans, and management arrangements with the local and indigenous communities;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, a work plan and timetable for the implementation of its recommendations and to increase the human and financial resources necessary for these actions, and for the broader conservation and management objectives for the property;
- Urges the State Party to conclude the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the international airport project and to provide it, including a section in the impact of the project on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, as soon as it becomes available;
- Notes with concern that the HIA for the El Diquis Hydroelectric Plant has taken a narrow focus and that technical details and visualisations show that, although the dam will be located outside of the Diquís delta, ancillary constructions in the wider setting of the Batambal site would have potentially negative impacts on the landscape context of the chiefdom settlements, and thus on the OUV of the property, and are at odds with the aims of the Management Plan, and therefore also urges the State Party to reconsider the project;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, 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 44th session in 2020.