The property is an artificially created and maintained wetland requiring a guaranteed minimum flow of water so that ecosystem functions can be assured. The property’s Outstanding Universal Value relates to the wintering Palaearctic migrant waterfowl from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia, and the large populations of resident breeding birds which depend on this ecosystem to complete their life cycles. Various infrastructure projects have been put in place over the years to divert monsoon floodwaters to the property. However, competing demand for water from communities and agriculture surrounding and upstream from the property is leading to more frequent water shortages to the property, particularly when the monsoon rains are weaker than normal. During a regular monsoon, existing water diversion infrastructure continues to assure sufficient water supply to the property.
The World Heritage Centre received the State Party’s report on 11 February. The report provides an update on a) efforts in dealing with the water supply problems, b) eradicating invasive plant species, c) collaborating with local communities, d) monitoring birds and wetlands, e) investing in tourism infrastructure, and f) management and planning activities.
The assessment of key conservation issues, including progress in implementing the requests of the committee and addressing the threats identified in previous reports, is as follows:
a) Water supply
At the time of the joint 2008 World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission it was anticipated that the Govardhan Drain project would become operational in time for the arrival of the 2008 monsoon in June. This project would ensure provision of adequate water supply during drought years, and would thus have been in place had the 2008 monsoon rains failed to deliver. According to the State Party, progress on this important project has been delayed: the Planning Commission only approved the project in August 2008 and the budget for works was only approved by the Government of Rajasthan in January 2009. The infrastructure for the diversion of water from the Govardhan Drain to the property is currently estimated to be completed some time in 2009.
The State Party reported that the Dholpur-Bharatpur drinking water supply project is due to be completed in October 2009. This project will provide regular, but limited quantities of water, though without the critical biological components of other water sources (fish fry, nutrients, other). Though the report provides no information on the 2008 water supply situation, separate sources reveal that the 2008 monsoon rains were normal, thus avoiding the consequences of water shortages that would otherwise have occurred due to the incomplete Govardhan Drain project.
b) Invasive species
At the time of the 2008 reactive monitoring mission approximately 10 sq km (of a total of 11 sq km) of the invasive plant Prosopis juliflora had been removed by local communities through agreements to use the up-rooted plants after their removal, and work was continuing on the removal of last stands. Though widely considered as a conservation success at the national level, the State Party provided no new information on progress in removal of Prosopis or on the systematic plan for regular monitoring of its status. Other information sources indicate that a 10 year dedicated workplan was being prepared to ensure continual control of the plant, which was reported to be sprouting again in many areas.
c) Wildlife monitoring programme
A bird count was organized on 27 January 2009 which identified 65 of the total 364 species of birds identified in the IUCN Evaluation report. The total count was 33,562 individual birds. However, the State Party did not provide time-series data, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 29th session (Durban, 2005) to be able to assess bird species diversity and population trends. This continued absence of data critical to establishing the state of conservation of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value is a barrier to a clear understanding on the level of threat to which it is exposed.
d) Management and finance
A draft management plan for the property is reported to have been prepared by the State Party in consultation with stakeholders for the period 2008-2012 but has not been provided.
In recognition of the difficulties that the reduction in the quality of the property’s wetland habitats poses to supporting the avian biodiversity values of the property, the World Heritage Centre/ IUCN/UNF Enhancing Our Heritage project completed in 2007 on management effectiveness assessment identified satellite wetlands outside the boundaries of the property that are used by both migratory and resident waterbirds. These wetlands play an important support role in assuring the property’s integrity, and the World Heritage Committee recommended in Decision 32 COM 7B.13, following the recommendations of the 2008 World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission, that more attention be given to this issue The State Party report does not comment on this matter.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN conclude that the property remains in a delicate state of conservation and is particularly fragile given its very small size. Several years of lower than normal water supply have resulted in important ecosystem changes as reported in previous state of conservation reports. Whilst the average 2008 monsoon has reduced the immediate threat to the property, the possibility of further weak monsoon rains and the absence of the necessary water diversion infrastructure means that there is a sustained threat to the property. Changes have already resulted to the property and there is a significant concern over the continued conservation of the integrity of the property, and its capacity to maintain its Outstanding Universal Value. As long as the infrastructure necessary to maintain regular and adequate water supply to the property is not in place, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN believe that the property faces an ascertained danger and should therefore be considered for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with the relevant provisions of the Operational Guidelines.