On 29 December 2009, the State Party submitted a report (in Spanish) on the state of conservation of the property. The report provides an update on scientific research on the key values of the property, which is useful as baseline data for monitoring as well as for reviewing the management plan. It also provides a brief overview of the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the 2008 World Heritage Centre/ IUCN monitoring mission, as requested in Decision 32 COM 7B.32.
a) Trans-boundary cooperation
The State Party reports that an international agreement with Brazil has been developed covering joint management and monitoring of Iguaçu and Iguazu National Parks, which is in the process of being signed. The report notes that this agreement will give priority to the revision of the management plan for the properties and focus on issues of public use in the area of the waterfalls, as well as capacity building to enhance the management of the properties. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the development of an international agreement between Brazil and Argentina is a positive step towards creating a permanent and effective mechanism for transboundary cooperation; however it is considered essential that the Parks’ administration at the local level in both countries be empowered and resourced to ensure the effective implementation of this agreement. The State Party is invited to submit a copy of this agreement to the World Heritage Centre when it is signed.
b) Coordinated revision of management plans
The report notes that during 2009, the Iguaçu and Iguazu National Parks’ administrations met several times to discuss joint management and key issues relating to public use and visitor management. It was agreed that a joint public use strategy should focus on how to address the following issues: (a) increasing visitation; (b) impacts from public use on biodiversity and aesthetic values; (c) prevention and mitigation mechanisms; (d) capacity needed to effectively address these measures; and (e) how to enhance the quality of the visitor experience, in keeping with the World Heritage status of these properties. Whilst the report notes that an Action Plan has been prepared between Argentina and Brazil to jointly address key management issues, it does not provide information on its implementation status. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the input of an external expert may be beneficial to the joint management plan revision process, and that the State Party could be invited to submit an International Assistance Request to organise a series of joint management planning workshops. IUCN is willing to facilitate expert advice through the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) in this regard.
c) Hydroelectric dams
The State Party report noted the results from a study on variations in the water volumes of the Iguazu River and Falls carried out in 2008. This study clearly shows that the variations in the water-level at the falls are dependent on the water released from the dams, and that in general the level of water is lower than would be expected based on normal variations in rainfall. Whilst this study has not assessed the impacts on biodiversity, it shows that the quality of the water released from the dams does not show high levels of pollution. It is noted in the State Party report the need for joint monitoring of water flows and their impacts on the biodiversity and aesthetic values of the properties. However, no information is provided on the timeframe for the development of joint monitoring activities. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the State Party does not report on point 5 of Committee Decision 32 COM 7B.32 concerning the implementation of an early warning system to alert the World Heritage Committee of any plans to develop a hydroelectric project on the Iguaçu River that would adversely affect the property. They also note that the 2008 mission reported that a dam (programmed within the National Development Plan of Brazil) is planned somewhere within the 25km between the falls and the existing Salto Caxias dam.
As noted above, the State Party report provides a number of scientific studies on the flora and fauna of the property. These studies conclude that these values are generally in a good state of conservation. However, it is noted that conservation could be substantially enhanced by linking the property with remaining forest areas in the Paraná ecoregion through the development of biological corridors.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome these studies, which provide important baseline data for monitoring biodiversity, and recall that the “Argentine Peninsula Bottleneck”, a stretch of privately owned land in Argentina that is a key biological corridor between the two properties, is threatened by agricultural development and should be jointly monitored by both State Parties, as its deforestation is increasingly limiting genetic flows between certain species’ populations, which is increasing the vulnerability of jaguar populations and the resultant shifts in forest ecosystem dynamics.
e) Public use and development of alternative tourism activities
The report notes that the Project Araucaria XXI – Atlantic Forest, funded by the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), is supporting a number of actions aiming to enhance the management of the property through different models of sustainable tourism including the involvement of local communities. This project is complemented by the Caburei Project, funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is promoting sustainable development activities, including tourism, in the buffer zone of the property, thus creating additional options for visitors in order to reduce the pressure from tourism to the property. Furthermore, the report notes that a new regulation (Resolution APN No. 146/09) on nautical excursions and boat services has been approved and introduces rigorous measures on environmental control, capacity and types of boats, and frequency of activities that will contribute to limit the visual impacts in the area of the falls. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the progress achieved by the State Party in developing alternative tourism activities in the buffer zone surrounding the property, and note that if these are further developed they may contribute to reducing the unmanageable peaks in visitation currently experienced at the property.
In conclusion, while the World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the progress achieved in the implementation of some of the recommendations of the 2008 mission, many of these remain only partially implemented. They urge the State Party to fully implement the mission’s recommendations.