On 11 March 2010, the World Heritage Centre received the State Party’s Portuguese language report on the state of conservation of the property. Upon request, a French language translation was subsequently delivered on 6 April 2010. The report provides a brief overview of the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the 2008 World Heritage Centre/ IUCN monitoring mission. To date, the State Party has not submitted a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value as requested in Decision 32 COM 7B.32.
a) Trans-boundary cooperation
The State Party reports that an international agreement between Brazil and Argentina has been developed covering joint management and monitoring of Iguaçu and Iguazu National Parks, which is in the process of being signed. However, the report does not specify whether the agreement also covers research, resource protection, and public use oriented towards preserving the values of the property, as recommended by the 2008 mission. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the development of an international agreement between Brazil and Argentina may be a positive step towards creating a permanent and effective mechanism for transboundary cooperation; however it is considered essential that park administrations 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 Park administrations met several times to discuss joint management and monitoring issues, and in particular the immediate actions required to reduce the impacts of public use in both parks, as recommended by the 2008 mission. As a result of these meetings, the State Party reports that some management actions were immediately undertaken, but does not specify which ones. The report also notes that a number of longer-term joint management actions are currently being planned, but does not indicate when the coordinated revisions of the two management plans will be completed and what the mechanism for its approval would be as to ensure its further implementation. 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 reports that studying the impacts of weekly variations in the water volumes of the Iguaçu River and Falls on the property’s scenic and biodiversity values is a priority. The 2008 mission recommended that the aim of this study should be to develop a monitoring process to track water-level change and regularly inform decision-making. Due to budget restrictions the park authorities are seeking to undertake this study through various research institutes, which are currently developing project proposals and investigating funding opportunities. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the weekly variations in water volumes across the Iguaçu River and Falls due to the closure of the Salto Caxias dam on weekends (when energy demand is low) has significantly degraded both the scenic and biological values of the property.
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.
The report indicates that a research project focused on the carnivores, and in particular the jaguars, of Iguaçu began in October 2008. This study is based on the collection and collation of information from previous jaguar studies carried out in Iguazu National Park. The project also intends to evaluate the landscape within and around Iguaçu National Park in order to propose potential habitat improvement measures. During the course of 2009, the management team of Iguaçu National Park defined a number of research priorities, including research on endangered species and those species noted in IUCN’s 1986 evaluation report. The report notes that researchers investigating endangered species benefit from the support of the Iguaçu National Park management team, particularly as regards lodging, transport and guides.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the carnivore research being undertaken in Iguaçu, as well as the identification of research priorities, but consider that a more detailed research and monitoring strategy for key species should be developed, and adequate funding secured for its implementation. They 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 it is considered increases the vulnerability of jaguar populations to collapse, and resultant shifts in forest ecosystem dynamics.
e) Public use and development of alternative tourism activities
The report notes that the Iguaçu National Park team is undertaking a programme to identify and develop sustainable tourism potential in the areas surrounding the park, as recommended by the 2008 mission; however the report does not provide information on the timeline for finalising and implementing this programme. The objective of this programme is to develop tourism activities in surrounding municipalities in order to divert visitation away from the falls area. In one of these municipalities, the programme has developed a tourism circuit through which visitors can discover organic food production and participate in adventure activities. In this way, and taking into account the specificities of each municipality, the State Party hopes that tourism activities will create alternative livelihoods which may in turn alter the pattern of resource use in the areas surrounding the park. The programme also aims to disseminate information on tourism potential in surrounding municipalities to tourism operators based around Iguaçu Falls.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the progress achieved by the State Party in developing alternative tourism activities in the municipalities surrounding the property, and note that if these are further developed they may contribute to reducing the unmanageable peaks in visitation currently experienced at Iguaçu Falls.
f) Developing a qualified ranger corps
The State Party reports that members of the Iguaçu National Park’s management team have proposed that a ranger corps training programme for the park be developed based on similar successful programmes in Argentina and the United States of America. The report recalls that decree n.6515 of 22 July 2008 instituted environmental security programmes in national parks. The State Party notes that these programmes have been complex to implement as they require the participation of the military police, which are not legally permitted to undertake environmental protection activities. The State Party concludes that it is therefore difficult to implement the 2008 mission recommendation to develop a qualified ranger corps that is specifically trained to address conservation issues. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that despite the acknowledged difficulties in training and deploying a qualified ranger corps, it will be necessary to fulfil this recommendation as there are ongoing threats to the property’s biodiversity values due to the lack of a qualified ranger corps. Therefore it is important to explore legal options, including the potential revision and amendment of the existing decree, to ensure the implementation of this recommendation.
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 are still only partially implemented, or have not yet been implemented. They urge the State Party to fully implement the mission’s recommendations.