On 28 April 2010, the State Party submitted a brief report on the state of conservation of the property. This report provides an update on the implementation of the corrective measures. From 12to 14 October 2009, a joint UNESCO/ IUCN reactive monitoring mission visited the property. This mission found that significant progress has been made in implementing the corrective measures adopted by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006). The mission report is available online at the following web address: http:/whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM/.
The mission evaluated the progress achieved by the State Party in fulfilling the corrective measures set out by the Committee at is 30th session in 2006:
a) Finalize the extension of the Simien Mountains National Park (SMNP) to include the Silki Yared – Kiddis Yared Mountains and the Ras Dejen Mountain with the interlinking corridors
The park has been extended from an area of approximately 136 km2 to approximately 400 km2 with the inclusion of four new sectors linked by habitat corridors. The new sectors are all free of settlement and cultivation and boundaries have been negotiated and agreed with local communities. The extension areas include some of the best habitat for Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf, and will contribute significantly to the conservation of these two highly endangered endemic species, as well as other wildlife.
A critical element of this extension has been the voluntary resettlement of approximately 165 households from the village of Arkwasiye which was located in a critical wildlife corridor linking the original park area with the Silki - Kiddis Yared mountains extension to the northeast. The relocation of these households was partly funded (approximately 15% of the total budget) through the World Heritage Fund and has created the opportunity for wildlife to disperse between these two major habitat blocks, whilst improving the livelihoods of those who were relocated.
The mission considers that this corrective measure is fully implemented.
b) Gazette the new park boundaries, including the extensions of Lemalimo, Mesarerya, the Silki Yared – Kiddis Yared Mountains and the Ras Dejen Mountain, as well as the realignment of the boundary to exclude certain villages
The boundaries of the extended park have been aligned after exhaustive consultations with local communities in every area. Villages at the foot of the escarpment have been excluded from the park area. The precise location of points along the agreed boundary line has been recorded by Geographical Positioning System (GPS), and strategic points (e.g. where the boundary passes next to cultivated plots, homesteads etc) were marked with red paint on naturally occurring rocks. Furthermore, 300 concrete beacons have been installed all around the extended park area. However, the boundary demarcations are not clear and, in some cases, not visible. Therefore, further work on the physical demarcation of the boundary is therefore required. In addition to the physical demarcation, a draft gazette was prepared by the Amhara State Parks Development and Protection Authority (PaDPA), prior to the recent transfer of responsibility to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA).
In terms of the legal gazetting of the extended park, the mission noted that EWCA is concerned that gazetting a new boundary into national legislation may require the preparation of a completely new World Heritage nomination dossier. This concern was fuelled partly by the opinion expressed in the previous UNESCO/ IUCN monitoring mission report of 2006 which stated that ”This will require a re-nomination of the property as this will be a significant boundary change.” The mission has sought further clarification on this from the World Heritage Centre and concludes that:
a) in terms of the Operational Guidelines, the proposed extension would require that a new nomination be prepared, including an evaluation mission;
b) the documentation does not need to be anywhere near as extensive as a nomination for a new property because potentially the values for which the existing property was inscribed will remain the same. However, it would be essential to update and review the existing documentation on the property;
c) the required ‘new nomination’ should include a detailed map of the new boundary, and focus on how the extension and boundary modification will enhance the Outstanding Universal Value of the inscribed property;
d) the State Party could request International Assistance from the World Heritage Funds to obtain consultant support to prepare the necessary documentation. IUCN is also willing to provide technical advice and identify expert support to assist the State Party in addressing the requirements of a new nomination.
The mission considers that concern over World Heritage status should not be allowed to delay the necessary gazetting of the extension into national law, which is a separate issue. Moreover, the mission is of the view that unless the newly aligned boundaries of the park coincide with the World Heritage property, there would be a situation where (a) certain villages, have been excluded from the park, but remain within the inscribed property; and (b) critical parts of the range of Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf are excluded from the inscribed property, although they are the flagship species providing justification for the property’s inscription under criterion (x).
In summary, the mission considers that some further work is required, both in terms of physical demarcation in the field, and the legal process, to fully satisfy the requirements of corrective measure (b).
c) Develop a strategy and action plan, as part of the planned management plan revision, to significantly reduce the impact of livestock grazing on the conservation of the property by introducing no grazing and limited grazing zones based on ecological criteria, and by setting up a strict management regime in zones where grazing will still be tolerated in the short to medium term, and secure funding for its implementation
A ‘Grazing Pressure Reduction Strategy Document’ (GPRSD) has been prepared (July 2007) by consultants under contract to PaDPA. This document identifies a series of interventions aimed at zonation of the park for different intensities of grazing, limiting grazing rights, reducing animal numbers, improving animal health and engaging local communities. The five year intervention is expected to cost approximately 110 million Birr (approximately USD 9 million).
Some interventions have already been made to reduce grazing pressure, with financial support from the existing Austrian-funded Sustainable Resource Management Programme, which are encouraging signs that progress can be made. However, it is clear that intensive grazing by domestic stock remains the most critical and intractable problem affecting the ecological integrity of the property. Under national parks law, grazing in national parks is illegal, and the authorities do not want to ‘legitimise’ it by giving it prominence in the formal management plan, preferring to develop a comprehensive grazing reduction strategy as a separate issue. The mission does not accept this rationale for excluding the grazing strategy from the management plan, when it is clearly such a crucial issue, and particularly when an entire chapter of the management plan is devoted to the ‘Settlement Management Programme’ (another illegal activity in the park). Unfortunately, the Grazing Pressure Reduction Strategy Document also has a number of shortcomings and lacks specific verifiable targets for grazing reduction, as well as maps of areas that might be considered as ‘no grazing’ or ‘limited grazing’ zones. Furthermore, there is no indication that efforts have been made to introduce the ‘grazing reduction strategy’ to potential donors, and it is questionable (given the national focus on food security) whether any donor could be found to support such an expensive strategy in its totality as presently documented.
The mission therefore concludes that much remains to be done to satisfy the requirement of corrective measure (c).
d) Develop a strategy and action plan, as part of the planned management plan revision to support the development of alternative livelihoods for the people living within the park as well as its immediate vicinity, in order to limit in the medium term their impact on the natural resources of the property, and secure funding for its implementation.
An alternative livelihoods strategy document has been prepared by an international consultant funded by the World Heritage Centre. This identifies 29 different private businesses and cooperatives through which 586 households currently living inside the park can find alternative sustainable livelihoods and move out of the park. Implementation of the strategy would take five years at a cost of approximately US$ 8.7 million. Funding has not yet been secured, and no significant progress has been made in finding alternative livelihoods for those who remain resident inside the park.
As with the grazing reduction strategy, the mission team has significant doubts over the viability of raising USD 8.7 million from the donor community to fund the alternative livelihoods strategy in its present form, and a more pragmatic approach may be to implement elements of it as the opportunity arises. The present proposal implies an investment of USD 15,000 per household/ job created, which may prove to be prohibitively high. The Arkwasiye relocation involved several donors (notably UNESCO, Austrian Development Cooperation and Frankfurt Zoological Society), with the majority of funds (68%) provided by the Amhara Regional government, In this case 165 households were successfully relocated at a total cost of USD 194,000, or USD 1,175 per household. A similar approach may prove to be necessary elsewhere.
The mission concludes that whilst an alternative livelihoods strategy had been prepared, there is no indication of funding to implement it, and further work is required to satisfy the requirements of corrective measure (d).
The mission concludes that despite the progress achieved, much work is still needed to reduce the threats that led to inscription on the World Heritage List in Danger. The mission was encouraged by the recent successful voluntary relocation of 165 households from the village of Arkwasiye, as this sets a precedent for similar exercises in future. Members of other park communities, including notably the village of Gich (which lies at the very core of the park) are said to be willing to voluntarily relocate if compensated in a similar way and resettled within the same district. There has been strong growth in tourism numbers and revenue, assisted by the completion of an up-market lodge in 2006 and new hotels in Debark. Visitor numbers have almost doubled since 2006 (from 6019 to 11,648), and increased ten-fold since the property was listed as being In Danger. The direct benefits from tourism to local communities have done much to improve attitudes towards the park, and gain acceptance for necessary conservation measures.
The mission further noted that wildlife census statistics indicate that populations of the highly endangered endemic Walia Ibex and Ethiopian Wolf have continued to increase and are now approximately double what they were when the property was listed as being In Danger in 1996. A comprehensive 10-year management plan has also been completed with the financial assistance of the World Heritage Fund.The mission team also notes that a decision has been taken to align the new road to Dilyibza through Chiroleba, thus avoiding the critical ‘Arkwasiye wildlife corridor’, as recommended by the 2006 mission
The mission team carried out an initial review of the draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value submitted by the State Party. This was followed by a more detailed review undertaken by IUCN, which was agreed by the State Party and will be presented to the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN acknowledge the considerable efforts towards restoring the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and the progress made in the implementation of the corrective measures. However, they note that two of the main threats to the values and integrity, namely the extensive grazing pressure in the property and the important part of the property encroached by agriculture, have not yet been addressed. They acknowledge the work undertaken to develop strategies to address these threats but are concerned that so far no funding has been secured to implement them. They therefore support the recommendation of the mission that the property should remain on the List of World Heritage in Danger and that State Party should continue to implement the three existing corrective measures that have not been finalized. The mission made some specific recommendations on the work which remains to be done and discussed these with the State party.
The mission reiterated the recommendation of the World Heritage Committee that the State Party urgently organise a donor conference in order to seek the necessary funding for implementation of the grazing and alternative livelihood strategies, which are key to satisfying the conditions set out in the corrective measures. In response to this proposal, funding was provided to the State Party from the World Heritage Fund in December 2009. The donor conference was initially scheduled for February 2010, but was postponed by the State Party, in order to ensure the participation of major donors. The World Heritage Centre is still waiting for a new proposal for a date of the conference. If a donor conference is organised in 2010 and is successful, and the boundary gazetting can be included in the legislative programme for the next Parliamentary session, the mission team considers that a follow-up mission could be undertaken in advance of the 35th World Heritage Committee meeting, thus allowing the property to be removed from the List of World Heritage In Danger at that time.
To further enhance the scope for removal of the property from the Danger List at the earliest opportunity, the mission proposed specific targets for a Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger that could be achieved without full donor support of the current project-based strategies for reducing threats. These are detailed in the mission report. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that these objectives should be met before the property can be removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger.