On 27 January 2010, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party, together with a map indicating the location of the Olympic facilities. The report provides information on the Olympic facilities, efforts to establish clear boundaries and buffer zones for the property, information of the management of the property, as well as a summary of monitoring data for the last 10 years. The same version of the report was again submitted on 10 March 2010.
From 17 to 21 May 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring visited the property, as requested by the Committee at its 33rd session. The mission was able to hold discussions with different stakeholders, including representatives of the Ministry for Natural Resources and the Russian National Commission for UNESCO, the management authority of the Kavkazkiy Strict Nature Reserve (KSNR), representatives of the administration of the Adygea Republic (which is in charge of the administration of the 3 Nature Monuments and Nature Park included in the property), the Sochi 2014 organising committee, Olympstroy and Gazprom (companies involved in the construction of the Olympic facilities) as well as NGO representatives.The mission report is under preparation at the time of writing of this report and will be available online at the following web address: http:/whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM/.
The mission reviewed progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2008 World Heritage Centre /IUCN monitoring mission. The following issues were reviewed:
a) Construction of facilities and infrastructure for the 2014 Olympic Games
The mission was pleased to note that the Olympic Mountain Village and the Biathlon Complex were relocated to the Psekhako Ridge and the sliding centre to the Rosa Khuta area, away from the ecologically sensitive Grushevy ridge and upper Mzimta valley where they were originally planned, as recommended by the 2008 mission. The mission team visited the new locations in the Gazprom concession on Psekhako ridge and concluded that the new location, situated several kilometres away from the boundary of the property is minimizing the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value. Other facilities in the concession, such as ski slopes and the VIP facility appear to be at least one kilometre from the boundary.
The mission also reviewed the issue of the access road to the facilities on Psekhako ridge. This road follows the right bank of the Achipse river, which according to the map in the nomination file is the boundary of the property, for approximately 100 meter, before crossing the river, following its left bank in the envisaged buffer zone before moving away from the boundary, to the ridge. It was agreed with all stakeholders that the access road should be designated as the boundary of the property until the river crossing, from where the boundary would follow the river bed, upstream, as determined in the official map for nomination of the property. No constructions should be allowed near the road. The mission was informed that no other access roads to the Olympic facilities and crossing the property are planned.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN commend the State Party for having implemented the recommendations of the 2008 mission to minimize the impacts of the Olympic facilities on the property. They note that some indirect impact may remain, in particular on wildlife hibernation areas or migration routes and therefore support the recommendation of the mission to establish a comprehensive monitoring programme which would monitor impacts of all new facilities on wildlife trends and movements around the property and in Sochi National Park and to ensure continued cooperation and consultation between the Sochi 2014 organising committee and the Reserve authorities, as also recently suggested by the recent UNEP mission of 28 – 30 January 2010.
b) Buffer zones and delimitation of the property
The State Party announced that recent changes in federal legislation ensure that the buffer zones of federal protected areas such as the KSNR are now under the authority of the Federal Government and have the same protection status as the Reserve. As a result, the legal protection status of the northern buffer zone of the Reserve, which is actually part of the property, has been restored, as recommended by the 2008 mission.
Efforts are also on-going to establish a buffer zone to the south of the property, as recommended by the 2008 mission. The mission was informed that a proposal for a buffer zone with a minimum width of 1 km was submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources, which is currently consulting with the different ministries and regional authorities as foreseen by law. It is expected that the proposed buffer zone will be approved in the coming weeks.
Work is also on going on to complete the exact definition of the geographic coordinates and legal documentation of the boundarythe boundaries of the KSNR, and the registration of its territory in the National Land Registry. While the process is completed for most of the Reserve, several court cases are currently on-going over the boundary in the Adygea Republic, opposing the Federal Government to the Government of the Republic. However, the State Party expects that the process can be completed by September 2010. The same process also needs to be followed for the 3 regional Nature Monuments and Nature Park. The registration of the boundary of the property, especially on the northwestern limit, is of particular importance due to the presence of highly sensitive areas like Lagonaki plateau and other areas of ecological importance. The mission considers that clarification of the boundaries should be finalised in the nearest future, in order to remove all ambiguities regarding the exact location of this border and note the importance of ensuring that the agreed boundaries of the inscribed property are fully recognised in national and regional laws.
c) Issues affecting the integrity of the Nature Monuments and northern buffer zone included in the northern part of the property situated in the Adygea Republic
The 2008 mission noted a number of developments in the Nature Monuments which are part of the property and situated in the Adygea Republic, which were considered incompatible with the World Heritage status. These included illegal logging, construction of a roads and recreational facilities.
The State Party reported to the mission that all illegal logging was stopped since November 2008 and that only sanitary cutting was taking place in the Nature Monuments in accordance with the forest legislation. The mission team overflew the area and, while it is difficult to sometimes distinguish between recent and old logging from the air, it was of the opinion that some logging is still on-going, although to a smaller extent than in 2008. While the ongoing logging might be considered as sanitary cutting in relation to forest legislation, the mission team clearly considered it incompatible with the World Heritage designation.
The mission noted that new cabins had been constructed at Lunnaya Polyana and that also construction is continuing on the Biosphere Centre. The mission received reports that this facility continues to be used for recreational use, contrary to the recommendation of the 2008 mission. The mission notes that while these developments might not be contrary to the national protection status of the Nature Monuments, the unplanned development of recreational facilities is not in accordance with the World Heritage Status.
Road construction and power line construction
According to the State Party, works on the access road to Lunnaya Polyana were stopped after the 2008 mission and the road was used by the forestry department only. However the mission noted that the road is used to access the recreational facilities at Lunnaya Polyana and observed that moreover some recent improvement works were conducted, inside the Nature Monuments and close to the border of the KSNR.
The mission was also informed by NGO representatives of other road constructions which are on-going around the Lagonaki plateau with funding from the Federal Government and which according to the NGOs, are entering the World Heritage property, more precisely the northern buffer zone, which is part of the property. This concerns the tarmac roads Dakhovskaya village – Lagonaki plateau and Guzeripl settlement – Lagonaki plateau. According to the State Party, road works were stopped at the point where the road enters the property. A power line is reportedly also under construction along the road. The mission overflew part of the Guzeriple road but was unable to evaluate if the road entered the property. In any case, the construction of a tarmac road is a significant investment, and does not seem justified to improve access to the small settlements close to the Reserve.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain very concerned about the uncontrolled developments in the Nature Monuments and buffer zone situated in the Adygea Republic and stress the need to address these issues urgently, as recommended by the 2008 mission. A key issue seems to be the low protection status of the Nature Monuments, which allows certain developments which are not in line with their World Heritage status. In addition, as these Monuments are managed by the Government of the Adygea Republic, the Federal authorities have difficulties in enforcing stricter conservation measures. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party considers upgrading the protected status of these areas, for example by including them in KSNR. However, as other World Heritage properties in the Russian Federation, which are also including regionally administered protected areas, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that a solution could be the elaboration of a special legislation for World Heritage sites, ensuring that all components of the properties, whether administered by the federal or regional levels, are under direct supervision of the Ministry for Natural Resources. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that this recommendation was also made following the mission to Volcanoes of Kamchatka World Heritage property in 2007.
d) Tourism development on Lagonaki plateau, Mt Fisht and Mt Oshten
The State Party confirmed to the mission team that tourism activities in Lagonaki are limited to backpacking along established routes, but that the Adygea Republic continues to develop plans for ski facilities in this area. However, so far these plans have not been approved, as they are situated on the KSNR and its buffer zone. The on-going court cases on the delimitation of the boundary of KSNR seem related to the same issue, and the heavy investment in tarmac access roads to the area could also be explained by these plans for developing ski facilities.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate that the development of ski and other mass tourism facilities is not consistent with the World Heritage status of this area and therefore plans for these facilities should be abandoned, in line with the recommendations of the 2008 mission. They also note that many projects are currently ongoing to develop different kinds of tourism and recreational facilities in and around the property and that these developments do not seem coordinated and are lacking a strategic vision. They consider that certain low impact tourism activities could be developed, without affecting significantly the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, provided an overall sustainable tourism strategy and comprehensive plan for the property and adjacent protected areas is developed. A similar recommendation was made by the recent UNEP mission, in view of the on-going development of tourism activities across the entire Mzimta valley.
e) Preparation of an overall management plan
An overall management plan was submitted by the State Party to the World Heritage Centre as requested by the Committee at its 28th session and reviewed by the mission team. While the plan addresses the most important issues related to the property, and sets some clear objectives and expected results, the mission team recommends that in order to facilitate its implementation more detailed operational plans now be developed, specifying the operational activities that will be undertaken to achieve the set objectives as well as timeframes, budgets and responsibilities. Moreover, the mission considers that the key element still needed to successfully implement the plan is the creation of an overall coordination body, which would represent all services at federal and regional level, in charge of managing the property, and include representatives of the civil society. The State Party agreed with the need to set up this body and announced that this structure would be officially established by the Minister for Natural Resources.
f) Development of a corridor to Teberdinsky Strict Nature Reserve, extension of Sochi National Park and reintroduction of the Persian Leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor)to the property
The State Party announced to the mission team that in early May, a decree was signed by the Prime Minister to establish an ecological polygon, creating a strictly protected corridor linking the property with Teberdinsky Strict Nature Reserve, thus creating a continuous strict protected area over a length of 200 km in the Caucasus Mountains. In addition, a decision was also made to extend the Sochi National Park, thereby connecting the two components now forming the park. The State Party also informed the mission of an on-going reintroduction programme for the Persian Leopard into the Caucasian Mountains.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome these important developments and note that the creation of a large protected area cluster is necessary to guarantee the success of the leopard reintroduction project. They note that the reintroduction will significantly add to the value of the property under criterion (x) and that the connectivity to Teberdisnky and the extension of Sochi National Park will also strengthen the overall integrity of the property. They further recall a proposal of extension of the property to include Teberdinsky as a serial extension, which was deferred by the Committee i.a. because of the lack of connectivity to KSNR. The Committee recommend that the State Party consider re-submitting a proposal for extending the property and including Teberdinsky and the corridor within the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN conclude that the State Party has made noteworthy advancements in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2008 mission, in particular in limiting the impacts of the 2014 Olympic Games, preparing the overall management plan of the property, efforts to establish a buffer zone in the south and the delimitation of the property. However, while the integrity of the KSNR is considered good and while it will be further strengthened through the corridor to Teberdinsky, they remain very concerned about the integrity of the Nature Monuments and Nature Park as well as the northern buffer zone and Lagonaki plateau which are part of the property, and stress the need for an urgent and full implementation of the recommendations of the 2008 mission on this issue.
The recommendations of the 2008 mission were updated to take into account the progress made.