The State Party submitted a report on 1 February 2008 on the management of the property, and the threats from the Lake Habema Road, mining, timber collection, poaching, and road construction. These issues were reviewed by a joint UNESCO / IUCN reactive monitoring mission, which visited the property from 26 March to 2 April 2008. The mission noted that although some earlier reported conservation issues have been either reduced (marine pollution) or are reportedly not currently active (illegal logging in swamp forests in Asmat region), serious threats to the outstanding universal values of Lorentz have increased markedly.
The mission identified three key issues requiring priority and immediate attention of the State Party: a) threats in the Lake Habema region; b) the functioning of the management agency; and c) Management of the southern lowlands region. The detailed recommendations and mission findings are available from http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2008
a) Threats in the Lake Habema region
The 2008 monitoring mission re-affirms the observations made in the 2004 mission report on the effects of threats to the property. Unauthorised road development in the Lake Habema glaciated landscape, under construction during the mission, is tangible evidence of the immediate threat now posed by a proposed major road construction programme in the alpine and montane regions of the property. The greatest potentially irreversible damage has been caused by the new road construction near Lake Habema and the disease driven forest die-back in the high altitude Gondwanan Nothofagus forest adjacent to the Lake Habema road. The new road construction has the potential to cause on-going impact as peatlands and a perched lagoon are eroded and drained. Only a substantial and rapid rehabilitation of the road will prevent on-going impact on fragile high-value natural heritage features.
The 2007 State Party report noted a “Study on the road development impact” and the 2008 State Party report noted that a draft executive summary has been produced and some consultation has taken place with stakeholders. However, the report and results of this impact study have not been provided to the World Heritage Centre or to the mission team, which learnt that there have been no pathogenic investigations of the Phytophthora disease as a possible cause of forest die-back. The evidence from the 2008 mission indicates that the die-back associated with roads is continuing to spread, killing the relict Nothofagus forest.
The lack of progress in implementing these two priority actions, the Lake Habema road construction and forest die-back research and management, raised by the World Heritage Committee each year since 2004 is regrettable and explains the concomitant increased threat to the property. The State Party report noted potential economic benefits of roads from potential increased tourism revenue and increasing access to economic activity for residents of the property. However, the negative impacts on the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property from habitat degradation, forest fires, illegal timber cutting and landslides and the additional threats of forest die-back, invasive species and potential for increased illegal activities noted previously by the World Heritage Committee and reaffirmed by the mission, outweigh such potential benefits.
b) Management agency functioning
The unauthorised road construction is also symptomatic of the apparent failure of the new management regime to effectively engage in on-ground protection of the property. The forest dieback in the high altitude Nothofagus cool temperate rainforests reported by the 2004 mission has not been further investigated and has been observed to have expanded since 2004. The integrity and outstanding universal value of the alpine and montane landscapes of the Lake Habema precinct continue to be significantly impacted in the absence of effective field management by the Park management agency (Balai Taman Nasional Lorentz). Unless there is immediate and significant improvement in field management performance of the park authority, important areas of “outstanding universal value will be (further) degraded or lost”.
The State Party has identified severe constraints to effective operation of the Park management including funding, limited monitoring and surveillance equipment, and limited staff capacity and technical expertise which deserves priority attention of the international community. The State Party reported that the budget for the Lorentz National Park Unit was only USD 710,000 in 2007, and not all activities planned were carried out. Further, the budget was to be increased to USD 1,000,000 in 2008, to cover salaries for 44 personnel (with the aim to increase this to 60 staff) and operating costs to manage more than 2 million hectares. The mission subsequently learned that all government programmes are to be reduced by some 30% in the next financial year.
c) Management of the Southern Lowlands Region
There are a variety of additional concerns and issues which have been raised in previous missions and still concern the effective management of the property including: boundary markings, lack of finality for the strategic plan, impacts of mining, invasive species (water hyacinth), and illegal fishing.
The boundary marking and mapping process is ongoing. The full extent of the park boundary has now been marked on the ground. However, the compilation map of the ground markers has not yet been completed and is expected to be completed later in 2008. The seaward boundary of the marine section remains unmarked and is a matter of concern.
The mission found no evidence of mine tailings entering or impacting on the marine section of the property, and considered that the monitoring programme maintained by Freeport Indonesia for periodically advising the Government agencies, including the Ministry of Forestry, represents a sound basis for the State Party to continue to monitor the situation in the property.
The Ministry of Forestry is encouraged to consider expanding the current monitoring in the marine part of the Lorentz property, in particular with regard to on-going discharge of effluents from mine tailings.
Given the immediacy of the road construction issue – one allegedly illegal road under construction at time of mission and many more planned – resolution of this serious threat to the alpine/montane section of the property is a matter of very high priority. Similarly, the related issue of forest die-back associated with roads needs to be dealt with concurrently and expeditiously.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that many threats are affecting the integrity of the property. While the outstanding universal value of the property is largely intact, unless a greater level of protection and management control is exercised in the immediate future, important vulnerable parts of the property could lose their integrity, and values could be seriously degraded or lost in the near future. Unless there is decisive management intervention in the immediate future, the current drift towards the whole property becoming threatened will continue. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the potential inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger be considered in 2010, if the priority and urgent recommendations of the 2008 monitoring mission have not been fully implemented.