The Bureau recalled that the Committee inscribed Ichkeul on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1996 and requested the Tunisian authorities to provide a programme of corrective measures to reverse the degradation of the site. It alerted them to the possibility of the deletion of Ichkeul from the World Heritage List, if rehabilitation of the site were not possible. Following discussions on a "Report on the action programme for the safeguarding of Ichkeul National Park", submitted by the "Ministère de l'environnement et de l'aménagement du territoire", which had been critically reviewed by IUCN and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, the Committee, at its last session, urged the State Party to implement the recommendations of a Ramsar mission undertaken earlier in 1997 and submit a threat-mitigation status report to the twenty-third session of the Committee, in 1999.
The Bureau received a report from IUCN, which provided technical data to indicate that the salinity of the water in the lake may have reached excessively high proportions and that the chances for the recovery of the World Heritage values of the site may be fast receding. IUCN expressed its concern at the pace and the effectiveness of the implementation of the rehabilitation programme by the State Party.
The Bureau was informed by the Observer of Tunisia of several measures undertaken by his Government to retain freshwater in the lakes on a year-round basis and thereby reduce salinity of the lake. In particular, he spoke in detail of the repairs done to sluice gates controlling the entry of fresh water into the lake, and the supply of fresh water from a newly constructed reservoir to the lake to strengthen the lake’s conservation, as well as providing irrigation and water supply needs of people, and several economic incentives to reduce the dependence of the people on the resources of the nearby mountain which constitutes part of an area from where the waters drain into the lake. The Observer of Tunisia also pointed out that his Government was closely monitoring the number of migratory birds arriving at Ichkeul during the European winter in order to assess the extent to which Ichkeul continues to retain its value as a site of international importance for migratory birds. The Observer also disagreed with some of the data presented by IUCN to the Bureau.
The Bureau recommended that the Committee retain this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger and expressed its concerns regarding the feasibility of effectively rehabilitating this site. The Bureau urged the State Party to take all necessary measures to ensure rapid and effective implementation of the programme for rehabilitating Ichkeul The Bureau recommended that the Committee allow time for the implementation of the programme and reiterated its recommendation that the State Party submit a comprehensive report on the results of the implementation of the rehabilitation programme to the twenty-third session of the Committee in 1999.
Furthermore, the Bureau requested the Centre to co-operate with the State Party to field an expert mission to the site, similar to the one organised to the Galapagos in 1995, to undertake a thorough review of the state of conservation of the site. The Bureau noted the observation made by one of its members that the original nomination of Ichkeul, submitted in 1979, lacked adequate baseline data for evaluating the outcome of the programme of rehabilitation currently underway. The Bureau therefore recommended that the expert mission establish the necessary baseline data and information, and prepare a report on the adequacy of conservation measures undertaken and propose additional measures that may be needed for the conservation of the site. It also recommended the preparation of a statement of significance on the World Heritage values of the site, which could provide a framework for an objective evaluation of the success or failure of the rehabilitation programme currently being implemented by the State Party. In the event it is determined that the rehabilitation programme has failed to restore Ichkeul’s World Heritage values, steps for the eventual deletion of Ichkeul from the World Heritage List should be set in motion, as per paragraphs 89(iii) and 50(d) of the Operational Guidelines. However, the Bureau’s intention in suggesting an expert mission was based on the intention to give equal consideration to the possibility for developing an improved rehabilitation programme for Ichkeul and retain its status as a World Heritage site.