VII.26 Canaima National Park (Venezuela)
The Committee at its twenty-first session expressed its concern with regard to the integrity of the Canaima National Park due to considerable threats posed by a proposal to erect a series of power transmission lines across the Park. At its twenty-second session, the Bureau was informed that the Director-General of UNESCO had transmitted the Committee's concerns and recommendations to the President of Venezuela. In his response, the President of Venezuela had re-affirmed the commitment of his Government to protect the World Heritage site and welcomed the possibility of a UNESCO mission to the site to evaluate the project and determine the boundaries of the World Heritage site. An IUCN-Centre mission to Venezuela, including a site visit to Canaima, planned for late August 1998, had to be postponed upon instructions from the Resident Representative of UNDP in Venezuela. In the meantime, IUCN has received several reports from indigenous people living in the Gran Sabana and the Imataca areas expressing their strong concerns over the future of the Canaima National Park. Although the Committee's deliberations have revolved around the construction of the power line, IUCN has pointed out that serious attention should be given to plans to open up the fragile ecosystem of this Park and the Imataca rainforest to large-scale mining, tourism and logging concessions.
On 28 September 1998, the Permanent Delegation of Venezuela to UNESCO invited the Centre and IUCN to field a site visit as soon as possible. The Bureau was informed that the UN Resident Representative in Caracas, Venezuela, is unable to provide clearance for the mission until 9 December 1998. A mission is foreseen for early 1999. IUCN has suggested that the Committee's recommendation, made at the time of inscription of the site (December 1994), that the Government of Venezuela cooperate with the Centre and IUCN to "initiate a process to review the boundaries of the site, taking into consideration the interests of the local people and the need to focus the nomination on the Tepui portion (approximately 2 million ha) of the Park", be used as a basis for establishing the terms of reference for the mission.
The Committee called upon the Centre and IUCN to field a mission to Canaima as soon as security clearance from the UN Resident Co-ordinator for Venezuela is available. The Committee agreed with IUCN that the terms of reference for the mission be derived from the recommendations of the Committee made at the time of the inscription of this site on the World Heritage List in 1994. The Committee requested that the findings of the mission and its recommendation concerning whether Canaima needs to be included in the List of World Heritage in Danger be submitted to the twenty-third session of the Bureau in 1999.