1.         Western Caucasus (Russian Federation) (N 900)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1999

Criteria  (ix)(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/900/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

April 2008: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; May 2009: High-level visit by Director of the World Heritage Centre and the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee; May 2010: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; September 2012: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2016: IUCN Advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018

On 1 February 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/documents/, and providing the following information:

On 16 May and 3 July 2017, the World Heritage Centre requested clarifications regarding third party information noting the lease of land plots for large-scale investment projects related to the development of recreational facilities on the territory of Sochi Wildlife Refuge bordering the property. On 7 June 2017, the State Party asserted that (1) tourism infrastructure development plans have not been adopted, (2) no decision to create "biosphere polygons" within the boundaries of state nature biosphere reserves have been made and (3) the preparation of relevant legislative amendments has been suspended.

On 28 August 2017, the State Party noted that leased land plots are located outside the boundaries of the property and that the development of the plots can only proceed once specific plans have undergone the necessary evaluations, including environmental impact assessment. The State Party also noted that it has no intentions to develop the territory of the property for recreational, tourism or sport purposes.

On 2 March 2018, the World Heritage Centre sent another letter to the State Party to seek clarifications regarding further third party information, which provided additional information on this matter, including maps and a government order. No response has been received at the time of writing this report.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The confirmation that the recent legislative changes do not impact on the obligations of the State Party under the Convention to preserve and transfer the heritage object to future generations in an unchanged state is appreciated. However, the State Party has not provided any specific information about these changes. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.8, in which the Committee considered that the continuous degradation of the legal protection regime of protected areas comprising the property represents a potential danger to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), it is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to provide detailed information about all recently adopted legislative changes and measures taken to avoid negative impacts on the property.

It is further noted that, beyond the statement that no construction of tourism, recreational or sports facilities is planned on the Lagonaki plateau, the State Party report did not provide any information regarding the current status of any existing plans for large-scale tourism and sport infrastructure within the entire property, as was requested by the Committee. However, it is welcomed that, in its letter of August 2017, the State Party indicates that it has no intentions to develop the territory of the property for recreational, tourism or sport purposes. It should be recalled that the 2016 IUCN Advisory mission concluded that the plans it was shown for development of skiing facilities within the property, which the mission evaluated, may have significant impacts on the OUV of the property.

The lease of land plots for the development of large-scale investment projects related to sports and recreational activities directly bordering the property also raises serious concerns. It should be recalled that in Decision 40 COM 7B.101, the Committee expressed its concern regarding the potential negative impacts on the property resulting from legislative changes adopted in 2015 to the Decrees on the Sochi National Park (SNP) and the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge (SFWR). These decrees provide for expansion of recreational zones and construction of large-scale tourism infrastructure in these protected areas, which could also undermine the efforts to reintroduce the Persian leopard to the property, by disrupting the connectivity of its natural habitat. It further needs to be noted that as part of the “Plan of measures for the restoration of Mzymta river, comprehensive environmental monitoring and preparation of compensatory measures as part of environmental component of preparation for the XXII Winter Olympic and XI Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014”, it was foreseen to expand the Caucasus State Nature Reserve by the inclusion of the SFWR and the core zone of the SNP in the upper Mzymta valley where the projects are reportedly planned. These areas were also part of the proposed boundary modification of the property, which was withdrawn by the State Party in 2016.

It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party not to permit any construction of such infrastructure in areas immediately adjacent to the property, particularly on the territory of other protected areas, if such construction can have negative impacts on the property’s OUV. These impacts need to be assessed carefully by Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment. Otherwise, it can be concluded that plans for large-scale tourism infrastructure development within the property and directly on its boundaries could constitute a potential danger to the OUV of the property, in line with paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. It is further recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to provide detailed information on the status of any such projects. In the absence of a comprehensive response on this matter, or in the case of projects proceeding to implementation inside the property or adjacent to the property without prior assessment of impacts on OUV, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee consider inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 43rd session in 2019.

The destruction of Colchic Boxwood forests in the property by an invasive insect pest is noted with utmost concern. There is evidence that this invasive alien species (IAS), the box tree moth, was accidentally introduced with Buxus sempervirens plants imported from Italy during the preparations for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to assess the damage incurred by this invasion on the OUV of the property and to develop with the help of specialists a set of urgent measures to control the box tree moth invasion and to restore Colchic Boxwood within the property and in its surroundings. It is further recommended that the Committee request the State Party to assess the risks posed to the OUV of the property by other potential IAS which may have also been introduced to the property or the broader region.

Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.80

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 41COM 7B.8, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s statement that the recent legislative changes do not impact on the obligations of the State Party under the Convention to preserve and transfer the heritage object to future generations in an unchanged state, but regrets that no detailed information about these changes has been provided and therefore reiterates its request to the State Party to provide detailed information about all recently adopted legislative changes and measures taken to avoid negative impacts on the property;
  4. Also recalling that the Committee has on several occasions reiterated its position that the installation of construction of large-scale infrastructure on the Lagonaki Plateau, or in any other area inside the property would constitute a case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, also welcomes the statement of the State Party in its August 2017 letter addressed to the World Heritage Centre that no plans exist for construction of large-scale infrastructure on Lagonaki Plateau, nor any intentions to develop the territory of the property for recreational, tourism or sport purposes;
  5. Reiterates its concern expressed in Decision 40 COM 7B.101 on legislative changes providing for expansion of recreational zones and construction of large-scale tourism infrastructure in the protected areas adjoining the property, which could have negative impacts on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), including on efforts to reintroduce the Persian leopard to the property, by disrupting the connectivity of its natural habitat;
  6. Expresses serious concern regarding the reported lease of land plots for the development of large-scale investment projects related to sports and recreational activities directly bordering the property and located on the territory of Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge and Sochi National Park, and requests the State Party not to permit any construction of large-scale infrastructure in areas immediately adjacent to the property, particularly if located on the territory of other protected areas, if such construction could have negative impact on the property’s OUV, which should be assessed as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for each proposed project, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  7. Also regrets that the State Party did not provide information regarding the current status of any existing plans for large-scale tourism and sport infrastructure on the territory of Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge and Sochi National Park property and also requests the State Party to urgently provide this information;
  8. Notes with utmost concern that part of the Colchic Boxwood forests in the property have been destroyed by the invasive box tree moth, and further requests the State Party to:
    1. Assess the extent of the damage and its impact on the OUV of the property,
    2. Develop in cooperation with relevant specialists, including IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group a set of urgent measures for the restoration of Colchic Boxwood within the property and its surroundings, and to control the box tree moth invasion,
    3. Assess risks posed to the OUV of the property by other potential invasive alien species, which may have also been introduced to the property or the broader region;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 43rd session in 2019, with a view to considering, in the case of infrastructure projects proceeding to implementation in proximity of the property without prior assessment of impacts on OUV, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.