1.         Western Caucasus (Russian Federation) (N 900)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1999

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/900/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

April 2008: World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission; May 2009: High-level visit by the Director of the World Heritage Centre and the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee; May 2010: World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Lack of Management Plan

b) Weakening of conservation controls and laws

c) Impacts of proposed tourism infrastructure development

d) Road construction

e) Deforestation 

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

On 17 February 2012, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides some information on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property and responds to specific issues raised in previous decisions of the World Heritage Committee. 

a) Amendments to the legislative framework

As requested by the World Heritage Committee at its previous session, the State Party report provides information on changes to the Russian protected area legislation: it notes that through Federal Law No. 365-FZ dated 30 November 2011 a number of amendments and additions to the Federal Law No.33-FZ “On specially protected natural territories” dated 14 March 1995 have been made, making it possible to allow capital construction facilities and related infrastructure on specifically designated plots of Strict State Nature Reserves, following a list to be established for each site by the Government of the Russian Federation. The new legislation also provides for the possibility to lease out land plots for the above development activities to citizens and legal entities and establishes a federal executive body, which will be tasked with the development of a procedure for such leases.

b) Legal certificate and conservation regime of natural monuments that form part of the property

The State Party report recalls the three 2008 Orders of the Department of Natural Resouces and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Adygea, which legally approved the certificates of “Buinyi Ridge”, “Headwaters of the Tsitsa River” and “Headwaters of the Pshekha and Pshekhashka Rivers” and states that the certificates approved by these Orders established a strict regime, which excludes ”capital construction facilities” on their territories. However no further details are provided on the protection regime, or on the activities allowed.

The available information is insufficient to judge whether the conservation regime of the three Natural Monuments that form part of the property is effective in preserving the Outstanding Universal Value.

c) Infrastructure development for tourism facilities

The State Party reports that no infrastructure development is currently being carried out on the property’s territory but notes that in accordance with the Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 833 dated 14 October 2010 “On creation of tourism cluster in the North Caucasian Federal District, Krasnodar Region and the Republic of Adygea”, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the Republic of Adygea have decided to establish a special economic zone including touristic and mountain skiing facilities. It is planned that this special economic zone will include development of touristic and skiing infrastructure on parts of Lagonaki plateau inside the Caucasus Strict State Nature Reserve (CSSNR) and inside the property. The State Party notes that these planned projects will only be implemented subject to obtaining a positive conclusion of the State Environmental Expertise, which would take into account EIA documents and the results of public hearings. 

IUCN has received maps indicating that the proposed ski development overlaps considerably with the CSSNR and also with the “Headwaters of the Tsitsa River” Natural Monument, both of which form part of the property. At the time of inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, the legislation on Strict State Nature Reserves did not allow for such developments but that the establishment of the special economic zone has been made possible by Federal Law No. 365-FZ mentionned above. IUCN has further received reports about a draft Order of the Government of the Russian Federation, due to be signed in 2012, which lists types of infrastructure the development of which would be allowed on Lagonaki plateau within CSSNR, as required by Federal Law No. 365-FZ. This list comprises guesthouses, skilifts, cable cars, ski pistes, service buildings and information centres, as well as infrastructure necessary to operate the above facilities. The legal basis for development of the parts of the area on the territory of the “Headwaters of the Tsitsa River” Natural Monument is unclear, and appears to contradict the State Party’s information on the protection regime of the Nature Monument as reported under (b) above.

According to recent media reports, the French public investment group Caisse des Dépôts is the main partner of “North Caucasus Resorts”, which plans to develop the five projects envisaged under Resolution No. 833.

d) Implementation of the other recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission

The State Party reports that at the time of preparation of their report (beginning 2012), there was no on-going or approved development of infrastructure and tourism facilities, and therefore no Environmental Impact Assesments can be submitted. No further information is provided on the status of developments reported earlier such as the Lunnaya Polyana road and “Biosphere Centre”. The report also notes that there is no on going logging within the property.

Russian media reported in October 2011 that two tenders for the projecting of two separate sections of a road from a southerly direction to a planned metereological station within the Babuk-Aul section of the CSSNR, and in the immediate vicinity of the “Biosphere Centre” on Lunnaya Polyana, were published on a Government procurement site. One of these sections is reportedly located entirely inside the CSSNR. Since no maps or detailed information on these plans have been provided by the State Party, it is impossible to verify these reports. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that previous monitoring missions have clearly stated that the development of recreational facilities at Lunnaya Polyana and the development of road infrastructure are incompatible with the World Heritage status of the property. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that Federal Law No. 365-FZ dated 30 November 2011 is weakening the protection status of Strict State Nature Reserves and therefore could affect the Universal Value of several World Heritage properties in the Russian Federation; the protection status being one of the three pillars of the Outstanding Universal Value. They reiterate the request of the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session to the State Party to take appropriate legal measures to maintain a high level of protection of the property or other Natural World Heritage properties on its territory, in accordance with Paragraph 15(f) of the Operational Guidelines when establishing the list of allowed infrastructure in the Strict Nature Reserves that are part of a World Heritage property. They recall that the World Heritage Committee in the past has recommended developing a national law for all natural World Heritage properties in the Russian Federation to ensure that they meet the State Party's obligations to the Convention and consider that this issue could also be addressed through such a law.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the World Heritage Committee has repeatedly requested the State Party to immediately abandon any plans for recreational use and development of the Lagonaki plateau, including at its 32nd, 34th and (through reference to the recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission) 35th session. They note that the nearby developments of facilities for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games adjacent to the property may be a contributing factor to driving the demand for such facilities in the area, including whithin the property. They draw the attention of the International Olympic Committee to the need to consider this issue as part of avoiding impacts of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. They further reiterate the conclusions of previous monitoring missions to the property that the development of tourism and mountain skiing infrastructure at Lagonaki Plateau and Lunnaya Polyana, as well as road construction within the property would threaten the Outstanding Universal Value and in particular the integrity of the property. They stress the high ecological value of the Lagonaki plateau and Lunnaya Polyana and recall that the decision of the World Heritage Committee at its 23rd session to inscribe the property under both World Heritage criteria (ix) and (x) was largely based on its undisturbed character and inaccessibility. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee expresses serious concern about the plans to construct tourist and mountain ski facilities at Lagonaki and consider that a decision to proceed with plans to develop these facilities would affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and constitute a case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. They recommend that the Committee reiterates its request to the State Party to immediately abandon all plans to develop tourism and/or mountain skiing infrastructure on Lagonaki plateau and Lunnaya Polyana as well as any plans for road construction.

Regarding the project of two separate sections of a road from a southerly direction to a planned metereological station within the Babuk-Aul section of the CSSNR, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate the request by the World Heritage Committee to submit copies of Environmental Impact Assessments to the World Heritage Centre conducted for all proposed developments inside or adjacent to the property which could affect the Outstanding Universal Value, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the State Party did not provide an updated map of the boundaries of the property and the areas proposed for future inclusion in the Caucasus Strict State Nature Reserve, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session. They also note that the Party Report does not provide any information on progress in implementing the other recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission: (a) the establishment of a a comprehensive programme to monitor the impacts of all Olympic facilities and tourism facilities on wildlife populations, (b) the establishment a coordination body for the entire property, to ensure the implementation of the overall Management Plan, and develop and implement operational plans for its implementation and (c) the development of an overall sustainable tourism strategy and comprehensive plan for the property and adjacent protected areas.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee requests the State Party to invite a mission to the property to review the state of conservation of the property, progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission and to determine the status of the proposed tourism and ski development on the Lagonaki Plateau, to evaluate the possible impacts of the proposed development on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and to evaluate if the property meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.23

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B,

2.  Recalling Decisions 32 COM 7B.25, 34 COM 7B.24, and 35 COM 7B.24, adopted at its 32nd (Quebec City, 2008), 34th (Brasilia, 2010) and 35th (UNESCO, 2011) sessions respectively,

3.  Expresses its utmost concern about Federal Law No. 365-FZ dated 30 November 2011, which is weakening the protection status of Strict State Nature Reserves and therefore could affect the Outstanding Universal Value of several World Heritage properties in the Russian Federation and reiterates its request to the State Party to take appropriate legal measures to maintain a high level of protection of the property or other Natural World Heritage properties on its territory, in accordance with Paragraph 15(f) of the Operational Guidelines when establishing the list of allowed infrastructure in the Strict Nature Reserves that are part of a World Heritage property;

4.  Also expresses its serious concern about the plans to construct tourist and mountain ski facilities at Lagonaki and considers that a decision to proceed with plans to develop these facilities would affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and constitute a case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;

5.  Reiterates its request to urgently implement all recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission in order to protect the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, and in particular urges the State Party to immediately abandon any plans for recreational use of the Lagonaki plateau, Mt Fisht and Mt Oshten areas and to halt all road developments in the property;  

6.  Encourages financial institutions not to invest in any developments on the Lagonaki Plateau or other parts of the property, which might impact its Outstanding Universal Value;

7.  Regrets that the State Party has not submitted the updated map of the boundaries of the property and detailed information on the activities allowed in the Natural Monuments which are part of the property, and urges the State Party to submit the updated map, showing the exact location of all proposed or planned infrastructure and the special economic zone, as well as documentation of all EIAs conducted for projects inside or adjacent to the property that might affect its Outstanding Universal Value for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;

8.  Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission to the property to review the state of conservation of the property, progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2010 monitoring mission and to determine the status of the proposed tourism and ski development on the Lagonaki and to evaluate the possible impacts of the proposed development on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

9.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, 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 37th session in 2013, with a view to considering the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.