This report was requested by the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 32 COM 7B.22at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), in relation to the threat from the planned gas pipeline development.
The State Party report, received on 30 January 2009, outlines progress achieved on the conservation and management of the three protected areas included within this serial property. It is reported that in the Altai Reserve patrolling has been strengthened by increasing the number of staff to 43 and better equipping them for field work and communications. A check point has also been established to better control vehicular transit through the property. A fire fighting and control station has been established and is fully operational. A system to monitor ecological impacts from tourism has been put in place, as pressures from visitors are increasing.
A management plan for the Katunskiy Reserve and Ukok Quiet Zone National Park was developed in 2008 to guide management actions for the period 2009-2013; however no information is provided in the report on the status of implementation of this plan. In the Katunskiy Reserve and Belukha National Park, a series of studies initiated in 2007 on impacts from climate change to biodiversity has continued, while studies are also underway to assess the impacts from pollution on the rivers and glaciers within the property.
In relation to the implementation of recommendations from the 2007 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission, the State Party reported the following progress:
- Plans to construct a gas pipeline that could eventually cross the World Heritage property have been stopped because the project’s documentation was not ready to be submitted to State Ecological Environmental Assessment. However from the State Party report it is not clear whether or not there is a definitive decision to stop this project, or whether the issue could be re-opened once all technical documentation is available for the State Ecological Environmental Assessment.
- A common strategy for the development and management of the Golden Mountains of Altai World Heritage property has been developed and specific management plans (2009-2013) for its 3 component parts were developed in 2008. However, as noted above, no information has been provided on overall management framework for the property as a whole, or on the status of implementation of this strategy and the specific management plans.
- Tourism and Visitors Plans for the Katunskiy Reserve and Belukha National Park were prepared and an Environmental Tourism Information Centre for the Altai Republic was established with support from a UNDP/GEF project. Agreements with local communities and authorities have been developed to promote and guide public involvement in tourism and monitoring activities. However there is no information on the status of implementation of the Tourism and Visitor Plans.
- A draft Federal Law “On the Protection of the Teletskoye Lake” was approved in November 2008 by the Altai Republic and submitted to the Russian Federation for final approval, but the outcome has not been reported.
- Collaboration has been actively promoted between the Katunskiy Reserve (Russian Federation) and Katon-Karagayskiy National Park (Republic of Kazakhstan) as a practical step towards the establishment of transboundary cooperation between Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China on the management of the Altai Mountains.
Apart from these positive developments, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN also received some reports on illegal activities occurring in the area. In this context, in January 2009, the World Heritage Centre requested clarification from the State Party on the reported crash of a helicopter that had been chartered by officials of the Government of the Altai Republic in the Ulandryk Canyon, near the Mongolian border. It was reported that seven people were tragically killed and two injured in this accident and that carcasses of Altai mountain sheep (Argali), a protected species according to Russian Law, were found in the helicopter wreckage, indicating that the helicopter had been involved in illegal hunting. No response to the World Heritage Centre’s request had been received at the time of the preparation of this report. Whilst this one-off incident received a high level of media attention, there are also several other reports noting increasing illegal hunting activities within the property, including helicopter hunting, that have been received by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN.
Reports received also note that despite the increase in the number of staff dealing with patrolling and control activities, these staff do not have permission to take action against violators. Thus regulations in relation to most violations and illegal activities even if detected remain unenforceable. This problem also contributes to the increasing number of illegal activities associated with growing tourist activities, which are especially affecting the Belukha National Park.
Whilst the State Party reported that works connected with construction of the “Altai” gas pipe-line through the territory of the Ukok Quiet Zone National Park have been stopped, reports from the media indicate that the exploration works in the framework of the “Altai” gas pipe-line construction project will be continued in 2009 and no decision to reconsider this project has been made. In addition, it has been reported that there is the potential threat to Teletskoye Lake linked to the development of mining activities to exploit the Pyzhinskoye coal deposit that is located in the upper streams of the rivers Pyzha and Bolshoy Tchiri that flow into the lake. (http://www.sibcrisis.ru/?p=729).
NGOs and experts also note that there is increasing interest in tourism development in the Ukok Quiet Zone National Park, and if tourism development is to proceed, the possibility of a highway construction via the Ukok plateau still exists (http://www.regnum.ru/news/1116248.html), which could lead to impacts on the values and integrity of the property.