On 22 February 2010, a report was submitted by the State Party on the state of conservation of the property. The report provides an overview of the three priority threats affecting the property including: i) ongoing road construction and forest die-back in the Lake Habema region; ii) functioning of the management agency; and iii) management of illegal logging and poaching in the southern lowlands region. The report furthermore acknowledges that whilst most of the Lorentz National Park retains its Outstanding Universal Value and integrity, little progress has been made in addressing the threats that are seriously degrading key areas of the property, which is one of the last great wilderness areas in the world. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the lack of progress in addressing these threats is due in large part to severe constraints to effective operation of park management including funding, limited monitoring and surveillance equipment, and limited staff capacity and technical expertise.
a) Road construction in the Lake Habema region
The State Party reports that the road between Wamena and Yuguru has damaged the integrity of the property, that construction work is ongoing, and that 62 km have been built (out of a total of 170 km planned). The World Heritage Committee’s 2008 request to cease all road construction and rehabilitate existing sections wasaddressed by a series of letters to the Regent of Jayawijaya, which noted that any road construction should be sustainable and suggested that an air strip may be the best transport option for the area. While the Lorentz National Park authority continues to dialogue with the Local Government to minimise the impacts of the road, to date the Local Government has only committed to building a monitoring post at the entrance and exit of the property and installing gabions to limit erosion in landslide-prone areas. The report further notes that the Strategic Plan for Lake Habema may include provisions for additional roads and lanes in the alpine region to support planned tourism infrastructure. While the Park authorities have discussed the design of these roads with the Local Government, the State Party notes that there has been no technical assessment of the planned roads in the montane-alpine area to date. The report further notes that the Park authorities are coordinating with the Forest Service, local indigenous communities, and the police to address increased illegal logging resulting from the road development.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are gravely concerned by the ongoing unauthorised road development in the Lake Habema glaciated landscape, and the proposed major road construction programme in the alpine and montane regions of the property. The lack of progress in stopping road construction (raised by the World Heritage Committee each year since 2004) has led to ever-increasing negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property from habitat degradation, illegal timber cutting, forest fires, landslides and the additional threats of forest die-back, and invasive species.
They strongly recommend that the State Party take direct action to stop all road construction activities within the property, that an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Lake Habema road is commissioned to evaluate alternative transport options such as an air strip (as requested at the Committee’s 28th session), and that substantial rehabilitation of existing road sections is rapidly undertaken to prevent further impacts on the property’s fragile high-value natural heritage features. Furthermore, a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Strategic Plan for Lake Habema, which may include provisions for additional roads, should be rapidly undertaken to identify the least environmentally damaging transport options for the alpine region of the property, including alternatives to road building. IUCN recalls that all projects that may affect the values and integrity of a World Heritage property should be subject to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and all plans and programmes should undergo Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
b) Forest die-back in the Lake Habema region
The State Party notes that the forest die-back disease is being addressed through cooperation with a range of stakeholders including NGOs, educational institutions and research institutes. However, there is no report on progress or concrete actions to identify and control the die-back disease threatening the Nothofagus forests.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are seriously concerned by the disease driven forest die-back in the high altitude Gondwanan Nothofagus forest adjacent to the Lake Habema road. To date, there have been no pathogenic investigations of the Phytophthora disease as a possible cause of forest die-back. The evidence from the 2008 joint reactive monitoring mission indicates that the die-back associated with roads was continuing to spread, killing the relict Nothofagus forest. This threat, combined with illegal logging ensuing from the road development, may cumulatively cause serious and irreversible damage to the high altitude Gondwanan Nothofagus forest. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the cause of the forest dieback be rapidly ascertained and addressed.
c) Functioning of the Management agency
The State Party reports that the Lorentz National Park Strategic Plan 2007-2012 has been implemented through an annual work plan and budget, and that the Park’s budget in 2009 was 4 billion IDR, or roughly USD 440,000. The Draft Management Plan 2010-2030, which will address zoning and is expected to accommodate existing interests within the park, is being prepared in collaboration with WWF Papua Sahul, as well as representatives of the nine nearby districts and other stakeholders. It is expected that this Draft Plan will be completed in conjunction with the Papua Province Spatial Plan. The State Party notes that the property’s limited budget and capacity have hindered its effective management and reports some capacity building of existing staff, as well as the addition of one additional staff per year. The State Party highlights that surveying and mapping of the alpine region and other areas is necessary to support effective management.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN commend the State Party for implementing the Lorentz National Park Strategic Plan 2007-2012. However, while some progress has been made in strengthening field-level management, it is still insufficient to address the many threats affecting the property. The State Party has identified severe constraints to effective operation of Park management including funding, limited monitoring and surveillance equipment, and limited staff capacity and technical expertise, which deserve the attention of the international community. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the management budget in 2007 was USD 710,000 (7 billion IDR), that in 2008 it increased to USD 1,000,000 (9.5 billion IDR to cover salaries for 44 personnel with the aim to increase this to 60 staff), but that it decreased by over 50% in 2009 to 440,000 USD (4 billion IDR), which is insufficient to manage the property. Unless there is rapid and significant improvement in the field management performance of the park authority, important areas of Outstanding Universal Value will be further degraded or lost.
Because of the acknowledged constraints to the effective operation of park management, IUCN recommends that Lorentz National Park revise its management approach and consider the following collaborative and participatory management options: i) creating multiple management units in the form of small local outposts managed by indigenous staff; ii) securing greater participation and engagement of traditional land owners; iii) increasing the number of trained indigenous staff and creating a network of indigenous-based management; iv) emphasizing local community development; and v) securing greater input from alpine environment specialist, including the WCPA Mountain Task Force. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party convene an international workshop in 2010 to explore all options for the effective management of Lorentz National Park, with the participation of international donors, international and local NGOs, local communities, PT Freeport, IUCN, and the World Heritage Centre.
d) Management of the Southern Lowlands Region - illegal logging and poaching threats
The State Party reports that effective management in the southern portion of the property has been impossible due to lack of personnel and capacity. The Park authorities have continued to cooperate with PT Freeport in order to monitor the impacts of tailings disposal from the Grasberg mine. Freeport has built a major dike and gabions to slow the flow of tailings and prevent further sedimentation in the marine portion of the property, which extends up to 10km offshore. The report further notes that lowland areas of the park are affected by illegal logging and poaching taking place along the river network that provide access to the southern lowlands. Illegal activities in this area of the property need to be closely monitored in the future, as does the impact of tailings disposal. However, a comprehensive monitoring programme covering illegal logging, poaching and the impact of tailings disposal cannot be undertaken by the Park administration given its limited capacity.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the 2008 reactive monitoring mission found no evidence of mine tailings affecting the marine section of the property, and that the monitoring programme maintained by Freeport for periodically advising the Government agencies, including the Ministry of Forestry, represents a sound basis for the State Party to continue to monitor mining impacts in the property. However, it is necessary to expand the current monitoring to the marine part of the Lorentz property. IUCN considers that a comprehensive monitoring programme that also covers illegal logging, poaching and monitoring discharge of effluent from mine tailings should be undertaken.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that given the immediacy of the road construction issue – one illegal road under construction at present and many more planned – resolution of this serious threat to the alpine/montane section of the property is a matter of urgency. Similarly, the cause of forest die-back associated with roads needs to be rapidly determined and addressed. They note that a variety of additional issues are also of conservation concern, which include illegal fishing and trawling, the seaward boundary of the marine section remains unmarked, and invasive species (particularly water hyacinth).
Unless a much greater level of protection and management control is exercised in the immediate future, important vulnerable parts of the property could lose their integrity, values could be seriously degraded or lost in the near future, and the current drift towards the whole property becoming threatened will continue. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the World Heritage Committee should encourage the international community to assist the State Party in resolving the severe constraints to effective operation of the Park management including funding, limited monitoring and surveillance equipment, and limited staff capacity and technical expertise.