1.         Białowieża Forest (Belarus,Poland) (N 33ter)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (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/33/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

Joint IUCN/UNESCO mission 15 to 20 March 2004.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illegal logging and excess commercial timber harvesting (Belarus); Uncoordinated initiatives between the two States Parties; Forest disease resulting from bark beetle infestation; Effect on forest biomes through drainage of agricultural land on the Belarus side and a reservoir on the Polish side; Presence of an artificial fence along the international boundary impeding large mammal movement.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2005

Following the joint IUCN/UNESCO mission to Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest from 15 to 20 March 2004, specific follow-up actions were requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004) (28 COM 15B.20).  The States Parties reports dated 3 March 2005 (Poland) and 4 March 2005 (Belarus), were submitted to the World Heritage Centre and transmitted to IUCN for review.

IUCN noted that the Polish report, indicates improvement in the conservation of the property and natural ecosystems on both sides of the border.  The meeting in March 2004 provided for the creation of a coordinating council for the transboundary property, although this council has yet to be constituted.  A substitute consultative council is currently coordinating scientific issues for the property and has been meeting regularly, with the next meeting planned for May 2005.  The report further indicates that joint actions aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of the entire property have commenced, including public awareness activities.

Concerning the State Party report from Belarus, IUCN noted that the area of Belovezhskaya has been enlarged from 88,700 to 152,200 hectares with the core area alone increased from 15,600 to 30,000 hectares.  All forest management activity has been banned within 500 metres of the core zone.

In 2004, the first stage of forest Management Planning was implemented with the second stage scheduled for 2005.  This planning process is expected to result in a forest Management Plan outlining three activities of priority importance: conservation and restoration of old growth and disturbed forest ecosystems (including bark beetle infestation); protection, regulation and restoration of the European Bison population, and the restoration of the hydrological conditions within the forest.  In April 2004, the two States Parties delegations met at a meeting in Brussels to agree on a common planning approach.  It is hoped that this will lead to the implementation of a common Management Plan.  Further details were discussed in March 2005 in Bialowieza (Poland). Other initiatives on this issue have taken place concurrently, including an agreement on cooperation on joint scientific studies as well as consultative meetings between the two parties.

In relation to the recommendations of the 2004 mission regarding the removal of the fence along the national boundaries, the Belarusian authorities report that during the first stage, the fence would be removed along areas where the migration paths of animals are concentrated.  Information exchange between the two countries is reported to be constrained by the closure of the Polish side of the border. 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the removal of the fence to allow for the migration of animals still remains contentious although the States Parties are intent on replacing the old fence with alternative means of border protection.  IUCN is however concerned about the reported destruction of the primeval forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus) and a comprehensive report of activities currently taking place within the forest, particularly in relation to forest extraction should be requested, as the property was inscribed principally for the presence of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 29 COM 7B.15

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-05/29.COM/7B.Rev,

2. Recalling its Decision 28 COM 15B.20 adopted at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004),

3. Commends the States Parties of Poland and Belarus for the preliminary efforts undertaken in attaining joint co-management of the property and inclusive  consultative processes;

4. Encourages both States Parties to continue the ongoing efforts on joint cross border initiatives;

5. Urges the States Parties of Belarus and Poland to adopt open participatory processes that involve all relevant stakeholders;

6. Requests the States Parties of Belarus and Poland to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2006, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including levels of logging, trends over time, and conversion of primeval forests to plantation for examination by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006).