In February 2007, the State Party submitted a detailed report on the conservation and management status of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP) covering the following issues:
a) Park operations and maintenance of infrastructure:
RMNP offices have been established with support from Hima Cement Factory Ltd., WWF, MacArthur Foundation and UNESCO. The outstanding issues are the construction of outposts, staff accommodation, gates, signage, visitor information, education centres and a museum. UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority), PAMSU (Protected Area Management and Sustainable Use Project), UNESCO and WWF have supported transport facilities for the park. The park has 72 staff members, and further training and capacity building is required.
RMNP collaborates with the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and other security agencies in intelligence, information gathering, and joint patrols to maintain security in the mountains. This collaboration has reportedly improved the involvement of communities, local government and other stakeholders in site conservation activities.
The revenue internally generated by the UWA currently meets about 47% of recurrent costs. A business plan developed with the help of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) will help to address the issue of sustainable financing for this property.
b) Resource conservation and protection:
The main threats to the area remain illegal logging, wildlife poaching for domestic consumption, and illegal resource harvesting, especially of bamboo.
During 2006, 62% of the scheduled patrols were executed, covering about 70% of the park’s patrolable areas. These activities intensified protection of park resources resulting specifically in a 20% increase in confiscated items.
Other threats include pollution along the central circuit due to poor waste disposal facilities, and the destruction of bogs due to a lack of boardwalks. A comprehensive waste-management plan is being developed. The number of tourists in the park has steadily increased by about 20% since its re-opening in 2003, and has reached about 40% of the level before the closure of the park. Tourism in the park is managed under concession by Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS).
Kilembe Mines Ltd. has a land title for kaolin mining in the park. The State Party requests the assistance of UNESCO to negotiate with Kilembe and encourages the company to honour the commitment of the International Council for Metals and Minerals (ICMM) not to mine in World Heritage properties, made at the World Parks Congress 2003 (Durban).
Park boundary marking has been accomplished, and encroached areas have been reclaimed. However, no Environmental Impact Assessments have been carried out for developments inside and around the park.
UNDP, in collaboration with UWA, UPDF and Anti-mine Trust, is planning to remove mines in the southern sector of the park and the affected locations have been identified.
c) Local community and conservation:
RMNP conducts outreach programmes on soil conservation, water and environmental protection, and income generating projects such as bee keeping and fish farming, in collaboration with relevant government departments, community-based organisations and institutions. The park is cooperating with Wildlife Clubs of Uganda to encourage and support schools in the Rwenzori region to assist forest restoration.
Communities are demanding access to resources such as bamboo, smilax, acalpha, honey and medicinal plants. According to UWA policy, resources up to 3km inside the park boundaries can be used sustainably by the communities. Experts are conducting surveys to determine sustainable levels of resource use, in order to prepare MOUs to be signed with local communities. Five Collaborative Community – Park Boundary Management Agreements have been negotiated and signed by 200 farmers, who are permitted to sustainably utilize the live boundary markers Eucalyptus grandis and Spathodea campanulata.
RMNP has engaged in a deliberate attempt to involve local political leadership in park management.
d) Transboundary collaboration:
WCS has supported a trans-boundary collaboration initiative, which holds quarterly coordination meetings and joint coordinated patrols with Parc National des Virunga (in DRC) along 50 km of the contiguous boundary. Problems include language barriers, movement restrictions at the border, failure to interpret the respective wildlife laws and suspicion because of the security situation.
e) Monitoring and Research:
Data collected by rangers is stored and analysed using a tailor-made program called the Management Information System (MIST). A number of independent research projects have been carried out since 2005. The State Party has identified a need to develop an ecological monitoring plan for the park.
IUCN and the World Heritage Centre appreciate the significant progress made by the State Party in dealing with various threats to the property and in implementing the management plan.
Recently, considerable media attention has been drawn to the melting of glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains which are reportedly under threat due to global warming. The State Party should consider working with appropriate scientific organisations to monitor this process.