1.         Lake Malawi National Park (Malawi) (N 289)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1984

Criteria  (vii)(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/289/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1986-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 126,344
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports



Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

a)         Oil exploration in Lake Malawi

In August 2012, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN received information about oil exploration activities in Lake Malawi which may threaten the ecological integrity of the property and its unique endemic fish fauna. The State Party, in an email to the World Heritage Centre, subsequently provided clarification on the boundaries of the property and reassurances that the proposed oil exploration will take place outside the property in the northern part of the lake. Although further details were not provided by the State Party, media reports in November 2012 suggest that a contract for oil exploration was awarded in 2011 to British company Surestream Petroleum, and that the company has subsequently been undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to full-scale exploration drilling. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that, while the oil exploration might be outside the inscribed property, oil drilling anywhere in the lake might affect the OUV of the property due to the risk of an oil spill and other pollution which could impact of the entire lake ecosystem, including the property.

b)         Inadequate size of the property

IUCN notes that the property is a small serial site (94 km2), with 17 components clustered around the Cape Maclear Peninsula in the southern part of the lake. Less than 10% of its area covers aquatic habitats, which are the basis of its inscription on the World Heritage List, representing just 0.02% of the lake’s total area. The property is consequently small and geographically limited to protect the full range of unique endemic fish species, many of which are confined to individual islands or quite small areas of habitat throughout the lake.  Furthermore, the small size of each component of the serial site makes them vulnerable to threats from outside the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the three States Parties which share Lake Malawi (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania) should be encouraged to explore the opportunities to extend the property so as to protect a more fully representative area of the lake’s habitats, endemic species and associated evolutionary processes. They note that the State Party of Mozambique has made commendable recent efforts to protect its part of the lake by creating a major new reserve with designated zones to allow for total protection.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that, whilst the area where oil exploration activities have been approved lies outside the World Heritage property, the risks associated with oil drilling anywhere in the lake could affect the entire lake ecosystem and represent a significant threat to the unique assemblage of endemic fish species, other biodiversity and associated evolutionary processes, which are the basis for the property’s inscription on the World Heritage List.

Considering the ecological and geographical limits of the present property, the growing pressures on the lake’s resources, and the potential threat of oil drilling in the lake, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that the States Parties of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania should be encouraged to explore the potential for a transnational extension of the property. An extended property should include a larger and more representative area of the lake, including parts of the rocky lake-shore and islands that host unique endemic fish fauna and support associated evolutionary processes not yet represented, across the length and breadth of the lake.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the property has never been visited by a reactive monitoring mission since its inscription on the World Heritage List in 1984. With the oil exploration and integrity concerns, they consider it is appropriate to request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.5

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.  Expresses its concern about oil exploration activities in Lake Malawi, and considers that oil drilling poses a potentially severe risk to the integrity of the entire lake ecosystem, including the aquatic zone and shoreline of the property and reiterates that mining, oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;

3.  Urges the State Party of Malawi to ensure that no oil exploration or exploitation is carried out in Lake Malawi until a full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) has been carried out;

4. Requests the State Party to provide full details of the proposed oil exploration activities, including a map of the concession area and details of the activities, operations and environmental safeguards envisaged as well as copies of the ESIA mentioned above, for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

5. Commends the State Party of Mozambique for recently declaring its portion of the lake as a reserve, with designated zones providing total protection of species in some areas;

6. Encourages the States Parties of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania to initiate a technical study/studies to ascertain the most significant localities throughout the lake for endemic fish species, other biodiversity and evolutionary processes, with a view to protecting these localities and possibly incorporating them into an extended trans-national World Heritage property;

7. Also requests the State Party of Malawi to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to review the state of conservation of the property, in particular the potential impacts of oil exploration on the Outstanding Universal Value of Lake Malawi, other potential threats and concerns related to the integrity of the property;

8. Further requests the State Party of Malawi to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including the requested information on the oil exploration activities, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.