1.         Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (China) (N 1083bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2003

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1083/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1083/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Proposed hydro-power and dam development;

b) Boundary definition;

c) Tourism development.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1083/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2006

In response to the decision of the 29th session of the Committee (Decision 29 COM 7B.7), the State Party submitted a report on the status of dam planning and construction along the Three Parallel Rivers watersheds, adjacent to the World Heritage property, on 25 January 2006.

The State Party report notes there are no plans for dam projects in the eight areas of the World Heritage serial property. However, plans have been developed for constructing hydropower stations in adjacent areas outside the property.

According to the State Party report, 17 hydropower stations are currently planned, with a total installed capacity of 34.66 million KW. The details of the proposed dams are as follows:

a) in the middle and lower reaches of the Jinsha River, nine cascade hydropower stations are planned. Before the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003, eleven hydropower stations had been planned, but since then two of the hydropower stations in the original proposal have been dropped due to their potential adverse impact on the property;

b) in the upper reach of the Lancang River, two optional schemes were originally planned: one for five power stations and another for six power stations. In 2003, when the property was inscribed, the five dam option was selected (i.e. the proposed dam site at Guonian, inside the World Heritage property was eliminated);

c) in the middle reach of the Nujiang River, three hydropower stations are planned.

According to the State Party report of January 2006, relevant national ministries and commissions were reviewing the Reports on the Hydropower Development Planning on the Nujiang, Jinsha and Lancang Rivers and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) of the Development Plans included in these reports were under preparation. The Central Government has not yet ratified the Development Plans; accordingly, none of the dam construction projects has started.

In conclusion, the State Party report stated its intention to enhance its efforts for the protection of natural resources and environment; but at the same time noted that only science-based utilization and rational use of the hydropower in the three rivers can contribute to the common goals of natural resource protection and regional sustainable development.

A joint IUCN/UNESCO reactive monitoring mission to the World Heritage property took place from 5 to 15 April 2006 as requested by the 29th session of the World Heritage Committee (29 COM 7B.7). The objective was to evaluate progress made on the conservation of the property as per the recommendations of the Committee at the time of its inscription and to assess the impacts of planned hydro-powerdams on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, its integrity and downstream communities.

The mission noted various measures taken to strengthen the management and protection of the property. Among these are the review of China’s national protected areas legislation and policy framework; completion of management plans for each of the eight protected areas making up the World Heritage serial property (though not all are as yet approved); the development of new management structures and regulations; enhanced funding commitments; reforestation initiatives; and the halting of a marble quarrying enterprise in the Bingzhongluo Area of the property.

The mission was informed that large scale projects, such as hydro-power developments of a river basin, require national level approvals and the preparation of a basin level plan. Plans for development on the three rivers are under review within Government ministries and have not as yet been released publicly. The mission received assurances from officials that any future dams would not affect the World Heritage property. However, the mission was not provided with the EIAs or hydro-development plans so this information could not be corroborated. In addition, evidence from maps, the inspection of hydro-power development exploratory works, unclear boundaries and advice on proposed dams in the vicinity of the World Heritage property suggest that direct and indirect impacts of dam construction on the property may be considerable. Until plans are confirmed and EIAs become available for review, therefore, it is impossible to state categorically that dams on the Nujiang, Lancang and Jinsha Rivers will not impact the World Heritage property.

At the time of inscription on the World Heritage List, IUCN noted that refinement of the boundaries was necessary, especially to include other areas of high natural value and to expand core zones. The mission was however particularly concerned at unclear boundary definition and proposed changes which could significantly alter the originally inscribed property. The mission learned that while two serial sites are being proposed for addition to the property, significant boundary modifications are proposed which in total may reduce the size of the existing property by 20%. Related concerns include the proposed splitting of the Gaoligong Mountains protection regime along the Myanmar Border from continuous protection into two separate protected areas. The mission noted that at present the boundaries of the World Heritage property are confusing and there is a lack of on-ground boundary demarcation through signage or other means.

The mission was also made aware of mining activity affecting the World Heritage property. According to the document entitled “Protective Standards for the ‘Three-River-in-Parallel’ World Heritage Site of Yunnan Province” adopted by the Yunnan People’s Congress on 24 October, 2005, the Red Mountain cluster of the property contains a number of small operating mines. The document also suggests a significant change of boundaries of the World Heritage property primarily to avoid conflict with its World Heritage status and conservation values. In addition, there is a proposal currently under review by authorities for a large copper, lead and zinc mine that may impact on the property depending on the final boundaries.

A number of additional management issues are affecting the property including stalled implementation of management plans due to delays in approval, and a lack of coordinated and strategic tourism planning.

In summary, the IUCN/UNESCO monitoring mission found that the positive conservation measures advanced by the State Party are regrettably overshadowed by the grave concerns about the, as yet unreleased, plans for hydro-development; the status of mining activities within the World Heritage property and the integrity of the property’s boundaries.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 30 COM 7B.11

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 7B.7, adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),

3. Commends the State Party for its continued efforts to improve the management and conservation of the World Heritage serial property and encourages further efforts to develop strengthened legislative and policy frameworks; strategic tourism planning; participatory approaches and work with NGO partners;

4. Urges the State Party to provide sufficient funding for the management of the property at national, provincial and local levels, in particular the provision of adequate funding to support conservation efforts to be made at the local community levels;

5. Reiterates its continuing serious concern over the potential significant impact from proposed hydro-power and dam development on the property and downstream communities and considers that any dam construction within the World Heritage property or significantly impacting the property would provide a case for inclusion of the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger;

6. Notes with grave concern the findings of the mission in relation to proposed changes to the boundaries of the property which could significantly alter the values for which the property was inscribed, and mining operations within the property which threaten its integrity and values;

7. Notes that additional information from the State Party on the potential impacts of dam construction, boundary changes and mining are essential, in order to fully assess the state of conservation of the property;

8. Requests the State Party to submit a report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2007 for examination by the Committee at its 31st session, in response to the findings of the 2006 World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission, and in particular including:

a) Detailed plans for hydro-power and dam construction in the Nujiang, Lancang and Jinsha River Valleys, including the Environmental Impact Assessments, as well as information on the dams which are finally approved for construction (also shown on a topographical map at an appropriate scale) and any anticipated direct and indirect impacts on the World Heritage property;

b) Topographical maps showing the boundaries of the serial property and detailed information on proposed changes to those boundaries, and how these changes will affect each of the criteria for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List;

c) Detailed information on how ongoing and proposed mining operations within and near the World Heritage property, and their incompatibility with World Heritage property management objectives, will be addressed; and

d) Copies in English or French of the following:

(i) A summary of the approved management plans for each component of the serial property;

(ii) The 2005 Yunnan Provincial regulations affecting the property; and

(iii) "Protective Standards for the "Three-River-in-Parallel" World Heritage Site of Yunnan Province" adopted by the Yunnan People's Congress on 24 October, 2005.