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Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve

Honduras
Factors affecting the property in 2013*
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Illegal activities
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
  • Land conversion
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water infrastructure
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

a)         Illegal settlements;
b)  Illegal livestock grazing and agricultural encroachment;
c)  Illegal logging;
d)  Illegal commercial fishing;
e)  Poaching;
f)  Alien invasive species;
g)  Management deficiencies;
h)  Potential impacts from hydroelectric development projects Patuca I,II and  III;
i)  Lack of law enforcement;
j)  Lack of clarity regarding land tenure and access to natural resources.

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • Illegal logging;
  • Illegal occupation;
  • Reduced capacity of the State Party;
  • General deterioration of law and order and the security situation in the region.
Corrective Measures for the property

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4439

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures
To be established
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2013

Total amount granted: USD 80,000 (in addition to approximately USD 100,000 of in-kind technical assistance) under the management effectiveness assessment project “Enhancing our Heritage”. 

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2013
Requests approved: 7 (from 1982-1996)
Total amount approved : 198,000 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

The State Party submitted a report on the property’s state of conservation on 18 January 2013. Responses to the corrective measures identified at the time of inscription of the property onto the List of World Heritage in Danger are as follows:

a)  Establish permanent and systematic monitoring to identify encroachment and land use changes of the entire protected area, and if possible the broader region, and relocate illegal occupants who have recently settled on the property, in particular in the core zone of the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve

The State Party reports on a number of initiatives contributing to this measure, based on satellite imagery, aerial surveys and a series of checkpoints and patrols operated by the armed forces (200 soldiers in 13 detachments).  It recognized the need to coordinate these efforts, and is currently setting up a monitoring platform to systematize and integrate different monitoring approaches.  Results from recent monitoring indicate a loss of 39,763 hectares of forest cover between 2007 and 2011.  However, because the study area encompasses the Biosphere Reserve boundaries as per the 1997 expansion decree, which is larger than the World Heritage property (850,000 ha vs. 350,000 ha), it is difficult to gauge to what extent the property itself is affected. The State Party notes that the core zone of the Biosphere Reserve, which is clearly within the property boundaries, has suffered relatively little deforestation (29 hectares per year), though new illegal settlers were once again observed, despite recent State Party success in removing previous illegal settlers last year. The State Party indicates that it is currently taking action to remove them. 

b)  Continue efforts to negotiate and clarify access to land and natural resources while enforcing existing land tenure and access arrangements and explore opportunities for more meaningful co-management with a particular focus on the indigenous communities of the cultural zone

The State Party reports that 107,683 hectares of land have been organized through community forest management contracts, giving 12 neighbouring communities (indigenous and other) access to resources for economic, environmental and social benefits.  It also reports that forest management plans have been approved for 9 cooperatives affecting lands within the Biosphere Reserve, along with the granting of 5 business licenses for commercial extraction of precious woods. Maps provided illustrate that a significant part of these permits and plans are granted for activities located clearly within the World Heritage property. Therefore, there is the potential of a conflict between resource extraction permits and the conservation of the property’s OUV. 

c)  In cooperation with the indigenous communities concerned, complete land tenure and resource access arrangements adapted to their historical and cultural contexts

With continuing support from German government aid, a land titling procedure specific to the needs and cultural contexts of indigenous communities was developed and officially recognized by law in August 2012.  According to information from the State Party, the process is reported to have been fully discussed with affected communities, with free prior and informed consent having been obtained. The State Party expects to grant titles to at least 3 communities in 2013.

d)  In coordination with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, review in a timely manner, any projects for the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Patuca River until it has been clearly demonstrated to the World Heritage Committee that they will not negatively impact the property's OUV;

Though the Committee indicated in Decision 36 COM 7A.17 that it considered the Patuca III dam did not pose a threat to the property’s OUV, the State Party reports that the 40 natural resource conservation mitigation measures recommended by the environmental impact assessment had been fully met. Both the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the dam’s distance from the property and the presence of several tributaries of the Patuca River downstream of the dam, could potentially mitigate negative impacts. Nevertheless, IUCN recalls that indirect or long-term impacts, such as displacement of local communities, in particular as a result of potential loss of livelihood of downstream communities due to changes in water flow, further complicating the land tenure issue, and impacts on aquatic migratory species downstream from the dam should also be noted. Furthermore, recalling the Committee’s request that the State Party redefine the property’s boundaries so that its Outstanding Universal Value can be better conserved (Decision 35 COM 7B.31, 36 COM 7A.17), IUCN notes that the dam may impact areas that could be considered for inclusion in the property and also recalls that other protected areas in the region may be impacted.

e)  Provide the necessary human resources and logistical capacity to the agencies responsible for the protection and management of the property to enable them to regularly monitor and deal with illegal activities affecting the property;

The State Party reports on the strengthening of the legal and oversight framework for the conservation of the property, along with the formulation of strategies regarding government involvement.  It states that it is actively seeking international support for additional help in carrying out activities necessary for the management of the property.  No specific information is provided on any actual institutional strengthening in terms of human or material resources.

f)  Using the on-going management planning process, seek to coordinate the many actors, various institutions and external supporters involved in Río Plátano in order to significantly improve coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of future management in addressing the issues affecting the property;

The State Party does not specifically address this measure in its report.  The inter-ministerial ad-hoc committee for the property is reported to have been strengthened.

 

Beyond the corrective measures identified by the World Heritage Committee, additional issues were requested to be addressed:

i) Property boundary design

The updated International Assistance request was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in late 2012 and discussions on its content and budget are on-going. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the revised request is exclusively to support illegal logging control work. However, given that there are several active projects endeavoringto address this issue there is little to demonstrate post-project longer term outcomes for a small project on illegal logging that is not linked in with the other ongoing projects. They are of the view that the priority would be to establish clarity on the property’s boundaries, with a focus on re-nomination, as recommended by the World Heritage Committee inDecisions35 COM 7B.31 and 36 COM 7A.17, and as referred in the 2011 UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission. IUCN notes that it would be able to support the preparation of a revised request. Currently, the property boundaries as officially recognized under the World Heritage Convention by a clarification in Decision 36 COM 8D, no longer coincide with the actual boundaries as recognized under Honduran legislation.  This issue should be resolved to guarantee that the OUV of the property will be protected over the longer term. 

ii) Increase in illegal drug trans-shipment activities in and near the property

No reference is made to any targeted effort on this issue.  The State Party reports the presence of 200 members of the military in the region, occupying check points and monitoring for illegal activities.   

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2013

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that gradual progress is being made in regards to several of the corrective measures, particularly in terms of systematic monitoring, land titling and the formalization of resource use agreements (measures a, b and c).  The State Party is implementing mitigation measures for the Patuca III dam, however IUCN recalls that indirect or long-term impacts, such as displacement of local communities, further complicating the land tenure issue, and impacts on aquatic migratory species downstream from the dam as a result of changes in water flow, should also be noted. IUCN also recalls that the dam may impact areas that could be considered for inclusion in the property, as well as other protected areas in the region. The property appears to remain seriously under- serviced on the part of relevant government institutions.  The State Party’s indications that it is seeking international support to help it deal with this issue is encouraging, but no explicit progress is reported.  It is not clear if the Committee’s request to ensure greater coordination amongst the various agencies and supporters of the property’s conservation is being adequately met by the inter-ministerial ad-hoc committee on the Biosphere Reserve.

Little substantive information has been provided in regards to the efforts undertaken to end the use of the property as a drug trans-shipment area. This activity had been noted in the 2011 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission report as a serious long term threat to the property, undermining the rule of law and challenging the security of government representatives in the area.

Of overarching importance in addressing the above-noted issues is the need to reassess the property boundaries in light of significant changes to the original Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve boundaries and zonation scheme. The State Party approved the modification of limits by national legislation but no consultation was undertaken with the World Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee urge the State Party to submit a revised International Assistance request on this issue. Until this issue is addressed to the satisfaction of the World Heritage Committee, the property’s integrity cannot be guaranteed nor can the corrective measures be put in place. In light of the above, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.  

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2013
37 COM 7A.18
Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) (N 196)

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A;

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.17 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012);

3.  Welcomes progress made towards the land titling for communities surrounding the property and in the provision of instruments designed to provide managed access to natural resources, and encourages the State Party to put in place further measures to provide greater tenure and livelihood security for indigenous communities and to ensure respect for their rights;

4.  Also welcomes the establishment of a systematic monitoring platform, ensuring a systematic and integrated monitoring effort on land use and land use changes in and around the property, and the efforts undertaken to control illegal activities;

5.  Notes with concern that new illegal settlements appeared on the property and urges the State Party to continue to deal swiftly and effectively with such incursions in full observance of the rule of law;

6.  Requests the State Party to increase its efforts to implement the corrective measures identified in Decision 35 COM 7B.31 , in particular the measures listed in paragraph 8 items b, c, e and f;

7.  Strongly urges the State Party to advance on the proposal for the property’s boundary modification, without which the corrective measures cannot be adequately implemented and the property’s Outstanding Universal Value remains at risk;

8.  R eiterates its request to the State Party to finalize, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

9.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, with a particular focus on the advances related to the corrective measures and on the clarification of the property’s boundaries, particularly measures b, c, e and f mentioned above;

10. Decides to retain Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

37 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger (retained properties)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-13/37.COM/7A, WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add and WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add.
  2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 37 COM 7A.29 )
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 37 COM 7A.30 )
  • Belize, Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Decision 37 COM 7A.16 )
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.1)
  • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 37 COM 7A.37 )
  • Colombia, Los Katíos National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.17 )
  • Côte d'Ivoire, Comoé National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.2 )
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.3 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.4 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.5 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.6 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Salonga National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.7 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.8 )
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 37 COM 7A.23 )
  • Ethiopia, Simien National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.10 )
  • Georgia, Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery (Decision 37 COM 7A.32 )
  • Georgia, Historical Monuments of Mtskheta (Decision 37 COM 7A.33 )
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.18 )
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 37 COM 7A.14 )
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 37 COM 7A.24 )
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 37 COM 7A.25 )
  • Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (Decision 37 COM 7A.26 )
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 37 COM 7A.11 )
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 37 COM 7A.19 )
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 37 COM 7A.20 )
  • Niger, Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 37 COM 7A.12 )
  • Palestine, Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Decision 37 COM 7A.27 )
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 37 COM 7A.36 )
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 37 COM 7A.38 )
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.13 )
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 37 COM 7A.34 )
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 37 COM 7A.21 )
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara (Decision 37 COM 7A.22 )
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (Decision 37 COM 7A.35 )
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.15 )
  • Venezuela, Coro and its Port (Decision 37 COM 7A.39 )
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 37 COM 7A.28 )
Draft Decision:  37 COM 7A.18

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A;

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.17, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012;

3.  Welcomes progress made towards the land titling for communities surrounding the property and in the provision of instruments designed to provide managed access to natural resources, and encourages the State Party to put in place further measures to provide greater tenure and livelihood security for indigenous communities and to ensure respect for their rights;

4.  Also welcomes the establishment of a systematic monitoring platform, ensuring a systematic and integrated monitoring effort on land use and land use changes in and around the property, and the efforts undertaken to control illegal activities;

5.  Notes with concern that new illegal settlements appeared on the property and urges the State Party to continue to deal swiftly and effectively with such incursions in full observance of the rule of law;

6.  Requests the State Party to increase its efforts to implement the corrective measures identified in Decision 35 COM 7B.31, in particular the measures listed in b, c, e and f therein;

7.  Strongly urges the State Party to advance on the proposal for the property’s boundary modification, without which the corrective measures cannot be adequately implemented and the property’s Outstanding Universal Value remains at risk;

8.  Reiterates its request to the State Party to finalize, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

9.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, with a particular focus on the advances related to the corrective measures and on the clarification of the property’s boundaries, particularly measures listed in b, c, e and f heading of this report;

10.  Decides to retain Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) on the List of World Heritage in Danger. 

Report year: 2013
Honduras
Date of Inscription: 1982
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Danger List (dates): 1996-2007, 2011-present
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 37COM (2013)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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