1.         Iguazu National Park (Argentina) (N 303)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1984

Criteria  (vii)(x)

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/303/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2001-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 20,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/303/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

September 2006: UNESCO mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Proposed development of hydropower dams;

b) Uncoordinated developments;

c) Lack of transboundary cooperation;

d) Lack of sustainable financing;

e) Problems associated with public use;

f) Lack of a comprehensive public use plan. 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/303/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

As requested by Decision 31 COM 7B.38, the State Party of Argentina provided on 19 March 2008 an invitation in coordination with the State Party of Brazil for a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission.

From 7 to 14 April 2008, the joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission visited the property.  It met State Party representatives, a variety of stakeholders and protected area staff and was able to visit both properties. The mission report is available online at the following web address: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2008/

The monitoring mission found that the outstanding universal value for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List are still present, though materially impaired, and facing severe threats. Scenic and biological values have been degraded by the marked weekly variations in water volumes of the Iguazú River and Waterfalls, caused by the Salto Caxias Dam in Brazil. The severity and extent of biological impacts has not yet been quantified. Scenic values have been compromised by public use infrastructure on both the Argentinean and Brazilian sides, and the visual integrity of the natural setting is impaired by regular visitor use activities that cater to thrill-seeking rather than appreciation of World Heritage values. Of most immediate concern on the Argentinean side are the negative impacts of high visibility remains of a previous elevated walkway to the Garganta Overlook that have never been removed. Threats include the possibility of construction of new hydroelectric dams on the Iguazú and Paraná Rivers and agricultural development in the Argentine Peninsula, an area outside the properties in Argentina and Brazil, but which is a key biological corridor between them.

a) Trans-boundary cooperation

Management of both the Iguazú National Park (Argentina) and the Iguaçu National Park (Brazil) would greatly benefit from a permanent and efficient mechanism for trans-boundary co-operation, especially with respect to resource protection, research, and public use. While informal consultation and cooperation takes place at the level of the Parks, it has proven difficult to develop formal mechanisms.

b) Up-to-date management and public use plans

The management plan for Iguazú National Park is out-of-date and requires total revision. A public use plan drafted in 1988 and partially revised in 1996, has never been officially approved or put into effect. A similar situation exists for the property in Brazil. The monitoring mission was pleased to note that the two Parks will launch coordinated but separate revisions of the two management plans, including public use issues, starting with a series of informal joint meetings. A first joint workshop will reportedly take place during the first week of August 2008.

c) Public Use

The mission observed that, while the current general level of visitor flows is managed efficiently, the Park faces occasional unmanageable peaks in visitation, and an upward trend in numbers.  A strategy is required to smooth out these peaks in space and time, and deal with the ever-increasing numbers of visitors. It was further noted that there are yet no clear policies or standards on visual and audio impacts on the integrity of the property's aesthetic values from tourism infrastructure, or with respect to architecture styles, sighting of infrastructure, or the choice and location of tourism activities.  Of particular concern are the visual and audio impacts from infrastructure and adventure sport water craft and infrastructure developments encroaching on the scenic quality of the overall falls sector landscape. The tendency toward visitor experiences geared to thrill seeking rather than the appreciation of World Heritage values is of particular concern.

The monitoring mission was pleased to note that the hot air balloon concession has been firmly rejected and the issue is resolved. The property designated for the balloon concession is now overgrown with natural vegetation, and no visual impact exists.

d) Hydroelectric dams

The monitoring mission considers the greatest current degradation of the scenic qualities of the property to be the fluctuation of the volumes of water flowing over the falls, changing their visual quality. A key factor is the hydroelectric dams on the Iguaçu River, the closest of which is the Salto Caxias dam, in Brazil. The dam is closed on the weekend when there is less demand for energy, and results in a drop in the volume of water in the Falls.  This action already degrades the visual qualities of the visitor experience during the first part of the week, and if combined with a dry season and the possible effects of climate change, could dramatically reduce the amount of water in the falls in the future.

Evidence regarding the intention to move ahead with the construction of the proposed Corpus Christie Hydroelectric Project on the Paraná River of Argentina and Paraguay is mixed. It was learned from a newspaper article that the Bi-National Commission for the Paraná River of Argentina and Paraguay is issuing contracts for a feasibility study for the construction of the Corpus Christi Dam. However, the Mission Team was received by the Argentinean National Committee for World Heritage on 11 April 2008 and presented with a document stating again that no action would be taken on this project until the outstanding issues existing at the hydroelectric dam Yacireta were completed and that no studies had taken place for the execution of the project. If the project were to be undertaken, assessments would be needed to determine both economic and environmental impacts, particularly those which have the potential to affect the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property. A letter to the World Heritage Centre from the Argentine Permanent Delegation, dated 7 May 2008, reiterated that all studies on the Project have been suspended and that to date there has been no decision by the governments on the project.

e) Biodiversity

There is a lack of data on many of the species for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List.  Thus, there is a need for research and subsequent data sharing between the two properties to determine baseline data for assessing the status and trends of these populations. The monitoring mission took note of the importance of the "Argentine Peninsula Bottleneck" a stretch of private land in Argentina that serves as a biological corridor between the two properties.

 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.31

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7B.38, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3. Notes that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is present though degraded, but also notes with serious concern the various specific threats which the property currently faces in particular threats due to biodiversity and visual impacts;

4. Notes with satisfaction the rejection of the hot air balloon concession;

5. Urges the State Party, in coordination with the State Party of Brazil, to implement the following recommendations of the 2008 World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission in order to the strengthen the management and protect the biodiversity values of the property:

a) create a permanent and effective mechanism for transboundary co-operation, in particular for research, resource protection, and public use oriented to the appreciation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

b) continue joint efforts with the State Party of Brazil toward a coordinated revision of the management plans for the two adjacent properties, including development of shared indicators and standards for minimising visitor impacts, and establishing acceptable limits of change for biological and aesthetic values, including visual and audio impacts for all tourism and public use activities and associated infrastructure;

c) carry out a study of the short-term oscillation of water levels in the Iguazú River and Falls to quantify biological and visual impacts, and develop a monitoring process to track change and regularly inform decision-making;

d) carry out a study of the economic benefits of tourism to the local economies and an inventory of those local attractions that could aid in diverting visitation away from the Falls area and that would contribute to building local constituencies;

e) remove as soon as possible the unsightly remains of old elevated walkways that affect the visual integrity of the Garganta del Diablo overlook and vicinity, and restore the natural riverscape;

f) develop and implement a research and monitoring strategy for the key species that were speficially listed when the site was inscribed;

6. Recommends that the State Party carry out a study to determine the technical and economical feasibility of acquiring the lands of the Argentine Peninsula Bottleneck for inclusion to the Iguazú National Park;

7. Also urges the State Party through its National World Heritage Committee to implement an early warning system to alert the World Heritage Committee in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines to any plans for the development of a hydroelectric project on the Paraná River of Argentina and Paraguay that would impact the property;

8. Requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

9. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2008 mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.