1.         Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape (Hungary) (C 1063)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2002

Criteria  (iii)(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/1063/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1063/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2001: International Workshop on vineyard landscapes; september 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Possible development of straw-burning power plant

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1063/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage property was submitted by the State Party. 

From 20to 25 September 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS advisory mission visited the property, at the invitation of the State Party, to consider the impact of the straw-burning power plant in the buffer zone on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property as well as the overall management of the property. The outcomes of that mission are included in the State Party’s report. The mission report is available online at the following Web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM.

a) Current status of the straw-burning power plant

The State Party reports that there has been no change since the last Committee. After excavating for foundations, the developer stopped work, probably due to lack of funding. The State Party acknowledges that it has few means to reverse the permissions that have been already granted for the plant. However, although the environmental utilisation permit for the power plant does not expire until 30 April 2027, the deadline for its first required inspection is 30 April 2012, and the building permit expires in July 2012.

The mission noted that funding for the project was not ensured, as the financial backers from Japan had withdrawn and the State Investment Bank had declined to support the project. The mission also noted that it was now acknowledged that the procedures for permission for the plant had been inadequate, as the procedural rules of the Szerencs local authority did not include special provisions for the property, nor had the requirements laid down in the property Management Plan been ‘adopted’ as part of planning regulations. The local authority did not therefore consider the impact of the development on the property as an entity and neither did the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The Ombudsman for Future Generation made clear to the Mission that it was regrettable that the permission for the plant had been granted, and that an investigation launched by his office had highlighted concern over irregularities in the procedures that had been followed. Furthermore he considered that “the construction of the plant in the authorised form might have endangered the sustainability of environmental, natural and world heritage values through its negative impact in terms of transportation, intensive arable production, the growing of energy grass, and the emission of CO2.”

The mission concluded that the construction of a large straw-burning power plant in the buffer zone near Szerencs city could have severe negative impacts on many of the attributes of the OUV and that every effort should be taken to halt this development. Furthermore the mission considered that the collection of straw, for any straw-burning power plant, should not take place within the property, nor within its current buffer zone, nor in the floodplains of Bodrogköz and Taktaköz rivers (as they are the origin of the mists that cause the botrytisation of grapes that is crucial for Tokaj wine), nor in places from which the collection routes would pass through one of these zones.

The State Party states that it will take these recommendations seriously when the review of the environmental permit takes place (before 30 April 2012).

b) World Heritage Law

The State Party reports that following the Hungarian general elections in 2010 the new government retracted for revision the first draft World Heritage law. The Government will submit to Parliament in 2011, a new draft, which is expected to frame the bill that will be adopted during the year. The law will regulate the procedural and organizational issues related to the management of World Heritage properties in Hungary, and also create the necessary financial support. This will greatly improve the current situation in Tokaj in which the management body of which is a very committed association, but does not have the appropriate legal power and also lacks adequate human and financial resources.

c) State of conservation and management of the property

The mission made recommendations which included the need for more detailed inventories of landscape patterns; area protection for settlements that could foster traditional building practices; an updated management plan with clearer governance arrangements; fostering opportunities for sustainable development and for optimising the assets of the property for the benefit of local communities; the management plan to inform local Spatial Plans, and to be formally ‘adopted’; develop a more strategic approach to traffic management; ensure that further road widening is not undertaken in the property; and preserve existing road hedges from any encroachment by cultivation or by road widening.

The State Party in its report responded that many of these issues will be addressed in the re-drafting of the new management plan that will meet the requirements of the future World Heritage Law, apart from the recommendations for roads which will be considered more urgently in the light of consultations on road building programmes.

d) Boundaries and buffer zone

The mission recommended that the logic for the boundaries of the property be re-considered on the basis of the retrospective Statement of OUV, as currently there is no clear distinction in some places between the property and its buffer zone. The mission also considered that the buffer zone might be extended to take into account the concerns of ICOMOS at the time of inscription relating to adequate visual protection near Zalkod and Tokaj, and the need for the buffer zone to include ecological protection for the wetlands that foster the botrytisation process.

e) Mines and Quarries

The mission considered that there was a need to regulate quarries in the property and in the buffer zone. Small quarries that provide stone for local buildings could be seen as a continuation of a long standing tradition. However, large-scale quarries for road stone that impact on large swathes of the landscape cannot be justified and are not in line with the strategies in the management plan. The State Party reported that there is an application for a license for an andesite mine near the settlement of Szegi in the property that could impact adversely on the property. It has initiated a survey of existing and potential mining sites within the property and its buffer zone in October and this will be evaluated in 2011.

The State Party understood that at the time of inscription the boundaries of the property did not include the mining / quarrying site within the boundaries. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies can confirm that the maps adopted at inscription did not show exclusion areas.

f) Possible trans-boundary extension

The State Party reports that the respective agencies and experts of the States Parties of Hungary and Slovakia have frequent working contacts. Hungary is open to further discussions on the possibility of extending the buffer zone of the property to the north.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies take note of the fact that work has halted on the construction of the large straw-burning power plant at Szerencs and urges the State Party to do all in its power to ensure that this plant is not constructed, in the light of the new understanding of the shortcomings in the approval process and the findings of the advisory mission that construction of such a plant would have a highly adverse impact on the OUV of the property.

They welcome the commitment of the State Party to put forward a World Heritage Bill and to take steps to strengthen the protection, documentation, and management systems of all World Heritage properties, the involvement of stakeholders and ways of delivering benefits in the context of overall sustainable development.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note proposals for andesite mining within the property and underscore the need for clearer policies to be developed on what quarrying and mining might be compatible with the value of the property. They also consider that any proposals for road development in the property or its buffer zone need to be considered with the utmost care.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.94

The World Heritage Committee

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

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.106, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Notes that currently, the work on the construction of a large straw-burning power plant in the buffer zone on the outskirts of the Szerencs has been halted;

4. Urges the State Party to use all the means at its disposal to ensure that work does not resume, in the light of the adverse impact on the Outstanding Universal Value identified by the advisory mission and to keep the World Heritage Committee informed;

5. Welcomes the on-going work to prepare a World Heritage Bill that will provide enhanced protection and management systems for all World Heritage properties in Hungary and also notes that many of the recommendations of the advisory mission will be addressed as a result;

6. Further notes that the maps of the property adopted at the time of inscription do not show exclusion areas for mining and quarrying sites within the property, and therefore considers that all proposed and existing mining and quarrying sites lie within the boundaries of Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape's property;

7. Recalls the World Heritage Committee's clear position that mineral exploration and exploitation is not compatible with World Heritage status, in line with the international policy statement of the International Council of Minerals and Metals (ICMM) of not undertaking these activities in World Heritage properties;

8. Expresses serious concern about the potential development of an andesite mine near the settlement of Szegi within the property, and also urges the State Party of Hungary not to grant a license for this proposed mine;

9. Requests the State Party to undertake a review of the impact of the different traditional and commercial quarries within the property on its Outstanding Universal Value and to submit it to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, for consideration by the Advisory Bodies;

10. Notes furthermore that there is a need for a reflection on the precise delineation of the buffer zone in the light of the development of a retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;

11. Takes note that there are several proposals for new or improved roads that might impact on the property or its buffer zone, and also requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Committee informed, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

12. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, 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 37th session in 2013.