Natural Properties - Lakes of Ounianga (Chad)
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Documents WHC-12/36.COM/8B and WHC-12/36.COM/INF.8B2,
2. Inscribes the Lakes of Ounianga, Chad, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion (vii);
3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
Located in North-Eastern Chad, in a hot and hyperarid desert setting with less than 2mm rainfall per year, the Lakes of Ounianga comprises a total of 18 lakes, in two groups, displaying a variety of sizes, depths, colorations and chemical compositions. The property covers 62,808 ha and has a 4,869 ha buffer zone. The Lakes of Ounianga property is located in a basin which, less than 10,000 years ago, was occupied by a much larger lake and has a globally unique hydrological system, sustaining the largest permanent freshwater lakes system in the heart of a hyperarid environment.
The property also displays a range of striking aesthetic features, with varied coloration associated with the different lakes and their vegetation, and the presence of dramatic natural desert landforms that all contribute to the exceptional natural beauty of the landscape of the property. The shape and distribution of the lakes, combined with the effect of the wind moving the floating vegetation in the lakes, gives the impression of “waves of water flowing in the desert”.
Criterion (vii): The property represents an exceptional example of permanent lakes in a desert setting, a remarkable natural phenomenon which results from an aquifer and associated complex hydrological system which is still to be fully understood. The aesthetic beauty of the site results from a landscape mosaic which includes the varied coloured lakes with their blue, green and /or reddish waters, in reflection of their chemical composition, surrounded by palms, dunes and spectacular sandstone landforms, all of it in the heart of a desert that stretches over thousands of kilometres. In addition, about one third of the surface of the Ounianga Serir Lakes is covered with floating reed carpets whose intense green colour contrasts with the blue open waters. Rock exposures which dominate the site offer a breathtaking view on all the lakes, of which the colours contrast with the brown sand dunes separated by bare rock structures. The shape and distribution of the lakes, combined with the effect of the wind moving the floating vegetation in the lakes, gives the impression of “waves of water flowing in the desert”.
The boundaries of the 62,808 ha property have been designed to ensure its integrity. The property includes the area situated below the 450m contour line within the immediate lake watershed. The 4,869 ha buffer zone includes the village of Ounianga Kebir beside Lake Yoan. Zoning for management of the site takes into account pressures which are now mainly concentrated on Lake Yoan. Ounianga Serir, the smallest village (population of c. 1,000 in 2012) is next to the lake Teli, inside the property.
The hydrological system of the Lakes of Ounianga is functioning and the water level is stable apart from a slight seasonal variation, thanks to a groundwater supply which compensates evaporation losses.
The beauty and aesthetic values of the property have been well conserved. Although a good number of people live around lakes Yoan and Teli, local initiatives are assuring the compatibility between human activities and conservation of the site’s values. Activities planned in the management plan strengthen and complement these initiatives. In addition the recently adopted Decree No. 095 which aims to maintain traditional agricultural practices in the property instead of intensive agriculture will enhance the conservation of the property.
Protection and management requirements
Decree n° 1077/PR/PM/MCJS/2010 of 15.12.2010 designated the Lakes of Ounianga as a “Natural site”; the protected area system of Chad, as established in Law n°14/PR/2008, focuses on fauna and flora conservation and, alone, is not fully suited to Ounianga; thus, responsibility for the property is vested in the Ministry of Culture. There is high level political support for the protection and management of the property at national and local levels.
Under the decree, all activities that could threaten the integrity of the property, including mining, are forbidden. The national designation is similar to IUCN Category III for protected areas. This decree is complemented by the Decree No. 630 which regulates the need to prepare Environmental Impact Assessments for development projects.
The property has an effective management plan in place for the short and long term, and there are adequate resources and staffing provided its implementation and monitoring.
Wetlands such as the Lakes of Ounianga are also protected by Law 14/PR/98. An action plan is implemented through local associations to avoid negative impacts on the site. Conservation efforts focus on factors that could impact the site’s integrity, which include effective measures to regulate urban development, address litter and waste management, support sustainable agriculture and ensure that traffic, tourism and other uses is maintained at levels that do not impact the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Several local associations created at the initiative of the local governmental authorities and the local communities are also responsible for the conservation of the property. These activities are implemented with the support of a Local Management Committee, which provides input for improving the existing management plan.
4. Commends the State Party, and the local communities associated with the property, for their efforts to conserve this property and to maintain the sustainable traditional use of resources in the region;
5. Requests the State Party to implement in full the commitments to both short-term and long term requirements to substantially revise and enhance the management plan for the property, and to provide adequate staffing and resources for its implementation, as noted during the evaluation of the nomination;
6. Also requests the State Party to:
a) Increase further the involvement and representation of local and indigenous communities in the future conservation and management of the Lakes of Ounianga in recognition of their rich cultural heritage, the legitimacy of their rights to maintain sustainable traditional resource use and their rich local knowledge, including through providing effective and enhanced mechanisms for consultation and collaboration,
b) Enhance the authority and effective work of the Local Management Committee and use it as platform by which the government, agencies and indigenous peoples will discuss, analyze and resolve land use and/or management actions that could represent threats to the property whilst sharing and making the best use of local and traditional knowledge to improve the existing management plan for the property,
c) Provide the necessary human and financial resources to ensure the effective enforcement of the recently approved Decrees No. 095 and 630 for ensuring the conservation and sustainable traditional use of the property;
7. Further requests the State Party to provide a report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2014 on the establishment and resourcing of the management plan and the progress in implementing the above recommendations, for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.