The State Party submitted a report on 15 February 2008. This report presented information on the status of the buffer zone and boundaries, Lagonaki plateau, management plan, management and use zoning, Biosphere Scientific Centre, roads, and Sochi 2014 Olympic Games developments.
As requested by the Committee (Decision 31 COM 7B.32)a joint UNESCO World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission was carried out from 21 to 25 April 2008. The mission team assessed the state of conservation of this property and the factors affecting the outstanding universal value and integrity including: (a) management planning; (b) legislation; (c) potential impacts of tourism infrastructure development for the Olympic Games; (d) other developments underway and planned, including in Lunnaya Poliana and Lagonaki Plateau; and (e) logging activities. The mission report will be available at http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2008. The mission findings include concern over the following issues:
a) Lack of management plan
The State Party noted in its report that the management plan is due for completion in 2008. However, this covers only the Kavkaizky Biosphere Reserve and not the other protected areas comprising the property. Hence, it is imperative that a comprehensive management plan be developed covering all the six components of the property.
b) Weakening of conservation controls and laws
The buffer zone of the property in the Kavkazsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve of the Adygea Republic was established through Decree 322 in 1996. However, this decree was repealed by Decree 174 in 1998. The mission discussed the issues surrounding the status of this buffer zone and there is an urgent need to reinstate its legal protection, as it is a part of the inscribed property. There is also a need to strengthen the legal protection of those parts of the Sochi National Park which were formerly designated as the buffer zone of the Kavkaizky Biosphere Reserve and also to consider designating them as the buffer zone of the property.
c) Impact of tourism infrastructure development, particularly for the Olympic Games
While the 2008 State Party report stated that the 2014 Olympic Games development plans would have no effect on the property, the mission found that developments plans including the Sliding Centre (luge-bobsleigh), mountain Olympic village, and related infrastructure would affect some areas within the property, the boundary of the property, and winter wildlife feeding grounds and migration corridors of wildlife from the property. The Sliding Center as well as the road facilities for its access, located in the adjoining Sochi National Park and in the immediate proximity of the Southern boundary of the property, would adversely affect the biological processes that guarantee the integrity of the property and place it under potential danger. Alternative locations for the Olympic village outside the national park were discussed but no decisions have been made on the alternative sites.
IUCN and the World Heritage Centre note that there are extensive threats to the property in the northern area governed by the Adygae Republic and near Grushevy Ridge related to the Olympic Games developmentsas well as construction of a road and bridge at its Southern boundary. Also, future infrastructure plans for roads and tourism development would seriously degrade the integrity of the property and threaten the outstanding universal value of the property.
d) Developments, underway and planned, including in Lunnaya Polyana and Lagonaki Plateau;
A road to Lunnaya Polyana in the Northern section of the property is currently planned to be extended and developed. While Decree 274 of 1997 prohibits any activity leading to the disturbance of integrity of nature monuments, the existence in old plans of a forestry road dating back to the 1920s is being used to allow the rebuilding of a road to the Biosphere Scientific Center across the Pshekha and Pshekhashkha Riverheads Nature Monument. The road would fragment habitat and disturb wildlife populations if further developed and if its use intensifies. In accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines the State Party should provide prior information to the World Heritage Committee of its intention to undertake restoration or construction works that may affect the outstanding universal values and integrity of the property.
e) Logging activities
Illegal logging has been identified in several locations associated with the upgradation of the old forestry road. Satellite imagery showing some of the areas logged, were provided to the State Party authorities accompanying the mission.
Based on the threats identified by the mission specific priority recommendations are included in the draft decision.
The following additional other recommendations of the mission should also be implemented by the State Party to strengthen protection and management of the property:
i) Complete the on going delimitation process of the property by the end of 2008;
ii) Finalise and implement a Management Plan for the property by December 2009, to ensure the six protected areas comprising the Property are effectively managed in line with a common vision and objectives;
iii) Strengthen the legal protection of those parts of the Sochi National Park which were formerly designated as the buffer zone of the Kavkaizky Biosphere Reserve and also consider including them as the buffer zone of the property. The State Party should submit a proposal of designation of this buffer zone for approval of the World Heritage Committee;
iv) Develop a tourism strategy and comprehensive plan to address the current and future impacts of tourism on the outstanding universal value of the property; all signs and publicity that promote the development of ski and tourism facilities inside the property, should be immediately removed from the field;
v) Deny approval for the construction of roadway or railway lines, whether related or not to the 2014 Winter Olympics, whose alignment is proposed to pass through the Property or on its immediate proximity;
If development continues, as planned in the proposal reviewed by the mission, the impact on the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property will need to be reviewed. Conditions may exist for addition of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Finally, in addition to the recommendations to the State Party, the mission recommends that a position statement be adopted, based on the example of the 2003 ICMM statement on mining and protected areas. The World Heritage Committee should request the International Olympic Committee to develop principles and guidelines to enhance the preservation of the World Heritage properties when the Olympic Games venues are located close to World Heritage properties. It should also invite the International Olympic Committee to work with relevant international organizations, in particular IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM, on this task.