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Decision 44 COM 7B.73
The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities (Iraq) (C/N 1481)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 42 COM 7B.66 and 43 COM 7B.35, adopted at its 42nd (Manama, 2018) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively,
  3. Reiterates its concern over the continued high vulnerability of the three cultural component sites and the need for their conservation to prevent further irreversible erosion and collapse, and urges the State Party to resume maintenance work as soon as possible, give priority to completing site surveys, and develop conservation plans for each component as a basis for urgent conservation work, before further excavations are undertaken and before tourism is encouraged;
  4. Acknowledges that the 5.8 billion cubic metres (BCM) minimum flow level required for the natural components of the property was met in 2019 due to abundant flooding and rainfall, however notes with concern that flooding and rainfall events remain highly variable and the minimum level was again not met in 2020, and recalls that significant fluctuations in water flows may pose a major threat to the property and non-fulfilment of minimum water requirements could represent a potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  5. Requests the State Party to urgently implement management measures that demonstrate adequate flows to the property are ensured in the short and long-term as a matter of utmost priority;
  6. Also requests the States Parties of Iraq, of the Islamic Republic of Iran and of Turkey to strengthen and expedite their cooperation towards long-term sustainable transboundary water management measures, which are informed by science and can guarantee the provision of the minimum water supply required to sustain the OUV of the property, and encourages the States Parties to prepare a basin-wide Strategic Environmental Assessment in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessments, to assess cumulative and future impact on flows to the property;
  7. Noting with concern that different dam projects are planned or underway in Iraq, as well as in Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which could further exacerbate water scarcity and therefore negatively impact on the OUV of the property, further requests the States Parties of Iraq, of the Islamic Republic of Iran and of Turkey to:
    1. Provide full information on all existing and planned dam developments upstream of the property, including a clear and complete assessment of the potential for these developments to create impacts on the OUV of the property, both individually or cumulatively,
    2. Ensure that any potential developments that may impact the OUV of the property are fully assessed in line with the IUCN Advice Note on Environmental Assessments and the ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessment, and to submit the assessments to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, before any decision is taken to proceed further with planning or implementation,
    3. Not proceed with developments that would impact negatively on the OUV of the property;
  8. Reiterates its request to the State Party to complete the designation of all of the natural components of the property as protected areas, in order to provide effective protection under national legislative and management systems, as required in the Operational Guidelines;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party, as part of an integrated management approach, to further strengthen its monitoring, legal protection, enforcement and management capacity to control illegal activities such as bird hunting and overfishing, and to submit to the World Heritage Centre data on these activities;
  10. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to finalise the preparation of an updated Integrated Management Plan for the entire property, as a matter of priority, together with the development of updated Management Plans for each of the component sites of the property, and to submit drafts of these to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  11. Acknowledging the planned development of a comprehensive tourism management plan in 2020, further reiterates its request to the State Party to develop and implement an overall tourism plan for the whole property to regulate visitation, and to ensure visitor safety and sustainable tourism practices, infrastructure and facilities, and noting the development of tourism projects, including a proposed hotel and ecotourism complex within the marshes, requests moreover the State Party to assess the potential impacts of any infrastructure development on the OUV of the property through Environmental Impact Assessment processes in line with IUCN and ICOMOS guidance, prior to taking any decision to proceed, and to submit plans to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before any irreversible decisions are taken;
  12. Recalling its significant concern over the continued vulnerability of the natural components of the property to oil and gas developments and its established position that oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, notes with appreciation the confirmation by the Higher Committee in 2020 that oil companies are required to not carry out oil exploration activities within the boundaries of the property, and that any oil activities outside the property should not cause harm to the property; strongly urges again the State Party to make a permanent commitment to not explore or exploit oil and gas within the property, and to ensure that any such activities outside the property do not cause a negative impact on its OUV, and requests moreover the State Party to clarify the status of any oil and gas developments within or in the vicinity of the property, including the assessment of potential impacts on the OUV of the property in line with the IUCN and ICOMOS guidance;
  13. Requests moreover the State Party to continue to meaningfully engage with the local communities on a range of management issues, including matters concerning hunting and fishing, water usage, rights-based approaches to management and for the application of traditional ecological knowledge to any planned new constructions;
  14. Regrets that the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property could not yet be undertaken as a result of the prevailing security and global health situation, and reiterates furthermore its request that the mission takes place as soon as possible;
  15. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session.
Decisions adopted at the 44th extended session of the World Heritage Committee
Context of Decision