Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1985
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/340/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/340/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount provided to the property: USD 80,000 (Enhancing our Heritage project on management effectiveness assessment)
Previous monitoring missions
2005: World Heritage Centre site visit; March 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/340/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008
The report submitted by the State Party on 29 January 2008 was reviewed by the joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission that visited the property from 10 to 14 March 2008. The full mission report can be consulted at: https://whc.unesco.org/archive/2008. Current conservation issues include:
a) Threats to the water supply
The State Party advised the mission that the desirable annual inflow of water was 550 rather than 350 million cubic feet (MCft), as suggested during previous reports. The water availability in the property has worsened since 2005, due to the contrast between the good monsoon in 2005 which allowed adequate amounts of water to be released into the property, and the essential failure of the monsoons of 2006 and 2007 in the catchment areas that have historically fed the property. As a result, there had been little or no supply of water to feed wetland habitats in the property during 2006 and 2007, resulting in low numbers of both breeding and wintering water birds; furthermore, these dry conditions were conducive for the continued invasion of the property by the thorny scrub Prosopis which covered 11,000 hectares (40% of the total surface area of the property) of wetland and grassland areas of the property by 2007, rendering extensive areas inaccessible for water birds and grazing mammals, and out-competing indigenous vegetation.
In a response to the drought, the Government of Rajasthan State has reportedly earmarked funds for a series of remedial measures, involving both rehabilitation of existing hydraulic structures and design of new structures which will provide new sources of water, and better protection against drought. The three main remedial measures include:
i) Chiksana Canal: The Chiksana drain (which carries floodwaters) channels water away from sensitive lands, and passes directly through the property without diverting any of the floodwaters into it, thus presenting an opportunity to provide waters to the property’s wetlands. Disabled hydraulic structures on the Chiksana drain were repaired, and a 3km side canal (Chiksana canal) extending into the property was built to channel that water directly into the property’s wetlands. The canal, along with sluice gates were built and completed in early 2008 – these are now fully operational and await the June-July monsoon to demonstrate their effectiveness. This structure would provide up to 100 MCft of suitable surface water (containing fish and rich in nutrients) to the property during a normal monsoon.
ii) Piping water from the Govardhan Drain to the property: The large Govardhan drain passes 15 km from the property and was built to divert the Yamuna river floodwaters away from populated areas. Its floodwaters are generated from rains falling in huge catchment area and thus less susceptible to irregular rainfall patterns affecting supply from the Chiksana Canal. A diversion of water from this Drain will provide up to 350 MCft to the property in a monsoon season with average rainfall. The mission team was informed that budgets had been earmarked, and contractors selected to begin the engineering work on the diversion soon after the mission. These waters would also be rich in nutrients. According to statements by senior state government officials, the diversion was planned to become operational in time for the 2008 monsoon (end of June).
iii) The Dholpur-Bharatpur drinking water supply project: scheduled to be completed in 2009, this project will divert Chambal river water to Bharatpur for domestic purposes, with a proportion legally earmarked for diversion into the property (310 MCft for the first four years, then 62.5 MCft per annum). This water will not contain essential nutrients or aquatic organisms; however it could be mixed with other sources of water to provide suitable supplies for the property.
b) Invasive Species
The threat from invasive Prosopis scrub is being managed by funding local villagers, to remove trees and to use the timber for personal consumption (firewood and fence posts). The work involved is significant and is carefully supervised, ensuring that the entire root systems of the trees are also removed, preventing regeneration through coppicing. A regular flooding of the property in the 2008 monsoon season would guarantee the destruction of any seedlings and the seed-bank in the flooded area, as these do not tolerate water very well. However, a permanent control programme will be required to keep Prosopis from re-invading the property. The programme has also had the additional benefit of improving relations – often strained in the past - between the administration of the property and local villages. Some feral domestic cattle still graze in the property, but this issue is currently adequately managed.
In addition to Prosopis, Eichornia (a water hyacinth) is widespread in the property, and brought annually into the property by floodwaters. Water hyacinth impedes water flow, out competes native plants, and causes oxygen shortages and hence fish deaths. Anecdotal evidence points to water buffalo, previously permitted in the park, as being good control agents for this plant. There is currently no control programme in place to deal with the water hyacinth.
Lack of water and the invasive species have affected the original bird diversity. The flagship Siberian Crane, to which the property is closely identified, has not been reported since 2002, after several years of dwindling numbers. Despite several requests for bird monitoring data neither the mission team, nor the World Heritage Centre, has received information on the current bird biodiversity and abundance. Given the very poor conditions over recent years, and the lack of information on actual bird numbers and bird diversity, there is serious concern that the property’s outstanding universal value may have been compromised, raising the likelihood that the property may be a candidate for inscription onto the List of World Heritage in Danger.
In an effort to provide insurance against exclusive reliance of migratory birds on the property for the provision of nesting and wintering habitat, an effort has been made though the Enhancing our Heritage project (implemented through the World Heritage Centre, with the support of the University of Queensland, IUCN WCPA and the Wildlife Institute of India) to identify satellite wetlands within a radius of 30-40 km of the property. These wetlands have been inventoried, and plans to enhance their effectiveness as bird habitat are being developed. Providing a range of nesting and wintering sites for the birds will increase the overall resilience of their populations to temporary climatic or water regime fluctuations.
The mission considers that the two most urgent threats to the integrity of the property are the deficit in water supplies, and the problem of invasive plant species. Its principal recommendations therefore address these topics: the first recommendation emphasizes the importance of water supply, commends the State Party and the Rajasthan authorities for planning and funding the water supply projects and requests them to inform the World Heritage Committee of progress – particularly in time for these to be considered by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session; the second recommendation recognises the important effort in controlling Prosopis and calls on the relevant authorities to maintain this control in the future, and also to control invasive water plants such as Eichornia or Paspalum which may occur with the restoration of water supplies.
The mission welcomes the increasingly close relations between the KNP authorities and the local communities, as manifested by the establishment of ecodevelopment committees and by their participation in Prosopis control programmes. The mission also draws attention to the continuing influx of tourists and suggests that further investment on park infrastructure and tourism management is necessary, while suggesting a linkage in marketing between this natural World Heritage property and neighbouring cultural properties such as the Taj Mahal.
The mission team emphasises the critical on-going lack of quantitative information on the diversity and abundance of birdlife in this property inscribed onto the List of World Heritage precisely for this reason. The mission team recommends that this gap be urgently addressed.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.13
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7B.17, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),
3. Notes with concern the ongoing problems of water supply caused by reduced summer monsoon rains in the last four years and the resulting problems with invasive vegetation, notably Prosopis julifora and Eichhornia crassifes;
4. Also notes with concern the continuing absence of any information to gauge the effects of the repeated droughts on the diversity and abundance of birdlife in the property, placing in doubt its Outstanding Universal Value;
5. Further notes the efforts of the State Party to address the water shortage as manifested by its investment in the Chiksana Canal and in the Govardhan Drain diversion projects, and in the proposed Dholpu-Bharatpur water supply project;
6. Welcomes the increased involvement of local stakeholders in the management of the property and suggests that formal structures be established to enable local stakeholders to be consulted on management and to participate in the conservation of the property;
7. Requests the State Party to implement the recommendations of the 2008 Reactive Monitoring mission, notably to:
a) complete the Govardhan Drain diversion project in time to take advantage of the 2008 monsoon, and report on progress in the Dholpur-Bharatpur drinking water project;
b) complete the Prosopis invasive plant control measures and put into place a permanent control programme for this, and other invasive plants;
c) collaborate with local communities and stakeholders on management of the property in particular for the eradication of invasive vegetation;
d) implement a monitoring programme of breeding and wintering birds in the property and in the region as soon as possible, with special attention to the Siberian Crane, to enable monitoring of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property; and to make the results of such monitoring available to international conservation organisations, engaging with conservation organisations as appropriate;
e) continue to invest in the maintenance and improvement of the property's infrastructure, including tourism infrastructure;
f) carry out a public use planning exercise with the objectives of better defining management authority, state and central government investments in this regard;
g) support the efforts to identify and improve management of satellite wetlands surrounding the property as a strategy to enhance the resilience of bird populations to climatic and hydrological variations in the region;
8. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, including progress in implementing the above-noted recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009, with a view to considering, in the absence of substantial progress, the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.