On 3 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides information on progress in the implementation of the 2010 monitoring mission recommendations, as adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010).
a) Development of tourist facilities and infrastructure, related or not to the 2014 Winter Olympics
The State Party reports that the development of an ecological monitoring system for Sochi National Park and adjacent territories is being completed, and that it is expected to be implemented from April 2011 onward. The State Party also states that at present the integrity of the property is intact, and that no plans for the development of infrastructure and other facilities within the boundaries of the property have been approved. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN however continue to receive reports from NGOs on a number of other planned and on-going infrastructure developments within the property, including a road to Lunnaya Polyana, a road and power lines from Guzeripl to Lagonaki Plateau, the development of a ski resort at the Biosphere Scientific Centre in Lunnaya Polyana, and the reinforcement of the banks of the Achipse and Laura rivers, which may threaten spawning grounds for brown trout. The 2010 mission already expressed concern about some of these developments and considers the State Party should provide information on each of these specific cases.
In addition, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN received reports that the President of the Russian Federation announced the planned construction of a number of ski resorts across the Russian Caucasus, including the Lagonaki Plateau within the property. The World Heritage Centre requested additional information from the State Party in a letter dated 16 July 2010 and 10 January 2011. While no reply was received to these letters, the State Party report acknowledges that a series of documents related to the social and economic development of the Northern Caucasus have been adopted by the Government which could affect the integrity of the property but stresses so far no decision has been taken to allow developments inside the property. The report notes that the Ministry for Natural Resources is monitoring this issue closely. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are very concerned about the reports on continuing infrastructure developments inside the property and about the announced possible new development of a ski resort in Lagonaki. They reiterate that all construction works within the boundaries of the property should be halted immediately as requested by the Committee at its 34th session. They further consider that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) should be submitted for all developments within and adjacent to the property to the World Heritage Centre, including an assessment of their potential impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and integrity prior to a decision on these developments.
b) Progress in the implementation of the other recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission
The State Party reports the following progress in the definition of the geographical coordinates and legalization of the boundaries: as already mentioned to the 2010 mission, the definition of the boundaries and their registration of the portion of Caucasus Strict Nature Reserve (CSNR) that falls within the Karachayevo-Cherkessian Republic and the Krasnodar Territory has been finalized. However court cases continue over the ownership of the portion of the CSNR that falls within the Adygeya Republic. In addition work on the boundaries of the the Bolshoi Tkhach Nature Park (BTNP) was also finalized and is currently in progress on the Buiny Ridge Nature Monument, the Tsitsa Headwaters Nature Monument and the Pshekha and Pshekhashkha Headwaters Nature Monument (PPHNM), all components of the property. Although the State Party notes that an updated map of the property’s boundaries was submitted to the World Heritage Centre, this was unfortunately not received. The report provides no information if the buffer zone along the southern boundary of the property has been approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources, as was announced during the 2010 mission. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the progress made on this important issue, request that the map is submitted as soon as possible and consider that the lack of clarity about the boundary of CSNR in the Adygea Republic should be resolved as soon as possible.
The report provides no information on the requested halting of logging activities and on efforts to rehabilitate the logged areas. IUCN received reports of continued logging in the portion of the CSNR that falls under the jurisdiction of the Adygeya Republic, as well as in the PPHNM. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate that logging is incompatible with the maintenance of the integrity of the property.
On the requested upgrading of the protection status of the above mentioned natural monuments included in the property, the report notes that the Department of Natural Resources of the Republic of Adygea approved their “passports”, which under Russian Law defines their protection regime. However, no information is provided on which activities are allowed, so it is not clear if the protection provisions are in line with the World Heritage Status of the property. The State Party reports that a decision was taken to form a state institution for the Bolshoi Tkhach Nature Park (BTNP), and that research was conducted on the capacity of BTNP and PPHNM for recreational use. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate the need to ensure that the protection regime of these components is in line with their World Heritage status.
The report further notes that the State Party is assessing the feasibility of the creation of a coordination body for the implementation of the management plan, which was recommended by the 2010 mission. In response to the request to develop an overall sustainable tourism strategy for the property, the State Party notes that the Ministry developed a concept for development within Strict Nature Reserves, which foresees the development of educational tourism in these reserves. However, the report does not provide any information on the recommended development of an overall tourism strategy for the property.
c) Legal protection of the property
The State Party further reports that its Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology has developed a draft of the Federal Law, which aims to establish the concept of natural heritage sites in the Law of the Russian Federation. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome this initiative, but note that it is not clear from the report if the proposed law will address the issue of the overall management of natural World Heritage properties on the State Party’s territory.Heritage properties in case they are composed of federal and regional entities, as recommended by the Committee
IUCN notes that it has received reports that a draft law (No 97705-5) proposes a number of changes to the Federal Law “About Specially Protected Natural Territories”, which would reportedly facilitate the changing of the boundaries of State Nature Reserves, as well as the weakening of their protection regime by allowing their protection status to be changed to that of a National Park under Russian legislation. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned about these proposed changes as they could potentially weaken the level of protection of more than half of the natural World Heritage properties on the State Party’s territory, including the Western Caucasus, and consider the State Party should provide more information on the proposed law and ensure that the appropriate legal measures are taken to maintain a high level of protection for all World Heritage properties, in accordance with Paragraph 15(f) of the Operational Guidelines.
d) Possible extension of the property
The State Party notes that following the legal establishment of a protected corridor to Teberdinsky Strict Nature Reserve (TSNR) in May 2010, the State Party announces plans to extend CSNR in the Krasnodar Territory and the Adygeya Republic by 2012. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome this proposal and note that it would be important to clarify which areas are considered for inclusion in the Reserve. They also note that the announced development of ski resorts in the Caucasus will also affect TSNR, which has been suggested for inclusion in a potential future extension of the property.