A detailed report was received from the State Party on 16 January 2008, with information on the implementation status of the corrective measures and on the implementation of other recommendations of the 2006 mission.
On 12 May 2008, the World Heritage Centre received a letter from the State Party requesting a postponement of the monitoring mission requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007). The letter states that although there is progress in the implementation of the corrective measures, lots of work remains to be done and the State Party therefore considers it premature for a monitoring mission to visit the property.
The report and the letter present the following information concerning the implementation of the corrective measures:
a) Finalize the extension of SMNP with the interlinking corridors
The report mentions that the extension to include the Silki Yared – Kiddis Yared Mountains and the Ras Dejen Mountain has now been demarcated in the field, with over 300 beacons being erected. Local communities and village elders as well as the local authorities were directly involved in the process. However, the relocation of the Arquazye village, which is located in the corridor connecting the extension to the property, has not yet started. The 2006 mission noted the importance of the corridor for the integrity of the extended national park. So far, a steering committee, which includes all stakeholders and a task force with relevant local authorities, has been established, a database with detailed information on the 130 people living in the village created and an alternative location 5 km away from the current location identified. The State Party submitted a request for International Assistance to support this process, which is currently being processed. It is expected that the relocation can be completed before the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2009, if funds can be made available in time.
b) Re-gazettment of the new park boundaries
The newly proposed boundaries for the National Park, including the realignment and the two extensions, have been described in detail, using GPS coordinates, and maps have been produced. A re-gazettment proclamation has been drafted but still needs to be submitted to the regional government for approval before it can be submitted to the national parliament.
c) Develop a strategy and action plan to significantly reduce the impact of livestock grazing on the conservation of the property and secure funding for its implementation
A draft strategy to reduce grazing pressure in the park was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in September 2008. The document includes a detailed analysis of livestock husbandry practices in and around the park, food availability and stocking rates. The strategy itself is composed of five components:
i) Introduction of a zoning system with areas in which grazing will no longer be tolerated in the ecologically most sensitive parts of the park and with controlled or limited grazing areas,
ii) Introduction of optimum stocking rates for the controlled grazing zones and the restriction of access to these zones to eligible users of the local communities,
iii) Reduction of livestock numbers through the introduction of more intensive livestock systems with feed production,
iv) Improvement of animal health care and veterinary services, and
v) Improvement of the cooperation between the park and communities to address conflicts.
The strategy also includes a proposal for a 3 year action plan for implementation. The total cost to implement the strategy is estimated at more than USD 11 million. The main challenge now is to mobilize this funding. The strategy will also be included in the management plan, which is currently under preparation (see below).
d) Develop a strategy and action plan to support the development of alternative livelihoods for the people living within the park as well as its immediate vicinity and secure funding for its implementation
As mentioned in last year’s report, a detailed and comprehensive proposal for an alternative livelihood project was developed with financial support from the World Heritage Fund. The cost of implementation of the project is estimated at USD 8.7 million. Implementation of the project has not yet started, due to lack of funding.
The State Party report further provides information on progress in implementing some of the other recommendations of the 2006 mission.
On the Bwahit – Dilyibza road, the report confirms that after the conclusion of the technical design studies and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the alternative route through the valleys outside the proposed extension has been approved. The report also notes the efforts to mitigate the impact of the Debark – Mekane Birhan road which is crossing the park, in particular measures to control soil erosion and the closure of the road to traffic at night. In addition, the regional government has in principle approved the opening of a new road from Debark to Mekeneberhan, which would provide a shorter alternative for much of the traffic currently using the road through the park and could greatly reduce its impact on the property. However, funding still needs to be mobilized to realize this project.
On 4 May 2008, a new draft of the management plan was submitted to the World Heritage Centre. This new draft was prepared with financial assistance from the World Heritage Fund and with technical assistance from Frankfurt Zoological Society. The management plan presents a 10 year vision for the park and a detailed action plan for the first 3 years of its implementation. At the time of preparation of this report, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN had not yet been able to review the new draft but comments will be provided to the State Party as soon as possible. It is expected that the management plan will be finalized in the coming months.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN received information that the property has now been brought back under the direct control of the central government. No reference is made to this in the State Party report and it is unclear what the impact on the management of the property will be.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the State Party has made progress in the implementation of the corrective measures and other recommendations of the 2006 monitoring mission. Important strategies and planning documents are currently being finalized and the major challenge ahead is to start their implementation as soon as possible, in order to address the remaining key threats, namely the grazing pressure and the impacts of the communities remaining in the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN support the assessment expressed by the State Party in its letter of 12 May 2008 that it is difficult to solve these long standing issues in a short timeframe and that the monitoring mission should be postponed for a year. As funding is currently the main bottleneck, it is proposed that a donor conference be organized by the State Party to mobilize the necessary resources. The Austrian Development Cooperation, which has provided substantial support for the management of the property in the past is also reported to support a new “livestock programme” for the wider North Gonder Zone, which will include the property but it is not clear how far that project can contribute to the implementation of the strategy to reduce grazing pressure in the property. As part of its report, the State Party also submitted initial drafts of a revised Statement of outstanding universal value and Desired state of conservation. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN propose that these drafts will be reviewed before the planned monitoring mission and discussed during the mission. The Desired state of conservation is required to provide a clear basis to decide on the potential removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.