The State Party submitted its reports on the state of conservation of the property on 27 February 2008, the 2006-2007 scientific monitoring report, and the meeting notes for phase 1 of the study on the application of the management and forecasting models for the property, as well as a copy of the final version of the management plan, approved at the end of 2007 as the outcome of a GEF project, which has been implemented since 2003.
The main features of the management plan are: the progressive establishment of an autonomous management structure for the Park; zoning proposals within the Park; management of water resources through consultation with the authorities responsible for the dams and through use of a mathematical model; participatory management with local communities; and valorisation through sustainable ecotourism.
The State Party has implemented the following recommendations of the 2006 reactive monitoring mission and recommendations of the World Heritage Committee:
a) Management structure
The management plan identifies a three step procedure for establishment of a management structure endowed with powers of decision and financial autonomy. As the first step, a Committee was set up by ministerial decision on 24 September 2007, and will meet regularly in 2008. The institutional members have been identified and plan to meet during 2008 to prepare step two for the establishment of the management structure.
b) Water management
The management plan identifies water management as an essential element of the management of the lake-marshes ecosystem, through a process of consultation with the authorities responsible for operation of the dams. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the State Party continues to recognise Ichkeul as a net consumer of water, on par with agriculture, with the consequence that the property is included in the Ministry of Agriculture’s planning documents.
Studies to update the 1996 mathematical model for predicting and managing water resources, a crucial issue for the proper management of the property, began in 2007, and a first test application was carried out in January 2008. The 2006-2007 scientific monitoring study reported on the management of water resources of the property and concluded that despite low water supply the modelling used to aid water resource management had resulted in improvements of the aquatic ecosystem and its dependent flora and fauna.
c) Scientific research and monitoring
A detailed report on scientific research and monitoring at Ichkeul is annexed to the State Party’s report. This points out that the assemblage of ecosystems has recovered to a condition very close to that when it was first accepted on the World Heritage List. Thus, although inflow of water in the 2006/07 hydrological year was relatively limited, increased areas of submerged vegetation (notably Potamogeton) was recorded. Thanks to careful manipulation of the sluice, the marshes had extensive area of rushes Scirpus, numbers of water birds were comparable to the years before the dams were built, fish catches, notably of eels, resumed, and reed-beds around the edges of the lake began to reappear.
d) Social aspects
During 2007, several awareness raising activities were carried out including the production of documents on ecotourism, distributed to institutions, schools and visitors. Four schools surrounding the property created environmental clubs and two national workshops were organised. A first draft of a national strategy for public education and communication was also produced.
The establishment of an Agenda 21 programme for Ichkeul began in January 2008 in association with the town of Tinja, the administrative centre in which the Park is situated and where the first Agenda 21 Committee has been established.
However, some of the recommendations of the 2006 reactive monitoring misson relating to water management and scientific monitoring, although planned, are not fully implemented and include:
(i) Ensure the careful use of any water discharging from the Sidi Barrak Dam;
(ii) Assess the effects on Ichkeul of the planned construction of three additional dams;
(iii) Ensure that measures are put in place to restore the ecological functioning of the Joumine Wadi inside the Park; and
(iv) Collect and store scientific data and reports relating to Ichkeul in a central location to enable their analysis; in particular, for the census of winter waterfowl and for mountain birds;
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recognise the significant achievements of the State Party in implementing the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee and in restoring the values of the property. The operation of the sluice has made it possible to overcome the potential problems of limited rainfall and water intake in the last year, and the State Party is to be congratulated on its continued policy of recognising the property as a net consumer of water.