1.         Banc d'Arguin National Park (Mauritania) (N 506)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1989

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/506/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2004-2004)
Total amount approved: USD 35,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/506/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2013: World Heritage Centre mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/506/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 28 February 2013, the World Heritage Centre wrote a letter to the State Party to request more information about a number of ongoing developments that were brought to its attention, including offshore hydrocarbon exploration, the extension of the Taziast gold mine, an exploration permit for gold and related substances in the Tanoudert area, the possible expansion of the iron ore production site near Cap Blanc, various activities related to the construction of the Nouakchott – Nouadhibou road, the establishment of a new city north of Chami, and a number of developments in the municipality of Nouamghar within the property. On 28 March 2013, the State Party submitted a detailed report in response to this letter.

a)  Offshore hydrocarbon exploration

The State Party notes that the only currently active hydrocarbon exploitation site is the site of Chinguetti, which has been exploited since 2006 and is located 80 km offshore. It reports that its national production of hydrocarbons has decreased tenfold between 2007 and 2011, reducing the risk of environmental impacts. It also notes that any proposal for the development of a hydrocardbon exploitation project is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which has to be approved by both Ministries responsible for the environment and for energy. The State Party further notes that the biggest threat lies in the transportation of hydrocarbons, of which between 400 to 500 million tonnes are shipped through Mauritanian waters each year. It recognizes that an accidental oil spill would have major and possibly irreversible consequences for certain marine and coastal ecosystems, as well as for the Mauritanian economy which relies significantly on the income generated by fisheries. The State Party reports that, in an effort to address these concerns, the park management has recently (March 2013) started a process to classify part of the Mauritanian Exclusive Economic Zone as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), which is supported by the World Heritage Centre, through its Marine programme.

b)  Mining exploration and exploitation

The State Party reports that according to the 2013 National Environmental Profile of Mauritania (Profil Environnemental du Pays – PEP), all mining operations in Mauritania disturb the natural environment and use products that are often very toxic and damaging to the balance of ecosystems if used without sufficient control. The PEP also states that the annual (brackish) water consumption of the Taziast gold mine is estimated at 5.11 million cubic metres. The State Party states that an extension of this mine would result in an eight to tenfold increase in its activities, which could result in a water consumption of 36.5 million m3/annum by 2014. It notes that a study of the hydrographic network and its connections to the property is currently being prepared to mitigate the impacts of the infiltration of up to 100,000 m3/day of sea water in addition to the current situation. The EIA for phase 3 of the extension of the Taziast mine is on-going, and the public consultation process has recently been completed, including representatives of the park. The State Party considers that the drainage of sea water towards the extension of the Taziast mine contributes to reducing the pressure on the Bénichab water table, which is separated from the sea by only 7 km.

c)  Intensification of fishing activities

The State Party reports that the ever increasing fishing activities outside the property are resulting in the overexploitation of a majority of fish stocks. The increase is demonstrated by the increase in the number of canoes from 2000 in the early 1990s to 7000 in 2012, and the increase in catch sizes from 15,000 tonnes in 1994 to more than 180,000 tonnes in 2010. More than 40% of the artisanal fishing fleet in the Mauritanian Exclusive Economic Zone operate in the immediate proximity of the property, and artisanal fishing camps are increasingly contiguous with the North and South boundaries of the property. To address this situation, a national plan for the management and development of artisanal and coastal fisheries (PADPAC) has been adopted, in order to match fishing capacities and catch potential. The State Party also notes several measures to prevent illegal fishing, including an expected increase in surveillance activities through the procurement of two new speedboats in 2013 and 2014, and the construction of a new control post at Cap Saint Anne in the extreme North of the Park.

d)  Indirect impacts from the Nouakchott – Nouadhibou road, including the establishment of a new city north of Chami, and various developments in the municipality of Nouamghar

The State Party states that the impacts from the Nouakchott – Nouadhibou road have already been assessed upon its construction, and that they are being considered in the short term and long term management policies of the property. It notes that the EIA and subsequent studies have considered the opportunities for agglomeration offered by this road. The ongoing construction of a new city (la Moughataâ de Chami), which in future will house the administrative headquarters of the Park, is given as an example. The State Party indicates that among the positive impacts of this city will be the creation of development opportunities for the Imraguen people, in compensation for their current isolation in enclaves in the Park. It notes that for the same reasons, a road is currently being constructed to connect the village of Mamghar to the Nouakchott – Nouadhibou road. However, the State Party recognizes that the construction of this additional road has not been subject to an EIA. Following public outcry the road works have been stopped, in order to put in place all the necessary measures to reduce its environmental impacts, including the completion of an EIA.

The State Party emphasizes that the 2010 – 2014 Management Plan for the property foresees the construction of infrastructure to open up isolated communities.

Concerning other developments in the municipality of Nouamghar, including a wind farm, a low voltage electricity network, two desalination plants, a water reservoir, a drinking water distribution network, and two ice factories, the State Party notes that the park authorities have foreseen the reinforcement of their marine monitoring system in the Southern perimeter of the property, in light of expected impacts from these developments, particularly in terms of an intensification of fisheries. It also notes the implementation of environmental communication and education programmes in Chami, Cap Blanc and Mamghar, which are open to the public.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the information provided by the State Party, and recommend that the World Heritage Committee commend the State Party for its swift response. They note with appreciation that the State Party has taken a number of measures to address some of the issues raised by the World Heritage Centre in its letter. However, concern remains about the pressure of fishing activities, the mining as well as the reported intensification of exploration for hydrocarbons throughout the Exclusive Economic Zone of Mauritania.  They note that the additional 100 000 m3/day of water to be transported to the Taziast mine would reportedly be sourced far enough outside the property to avoid impacts, it would however end up its course in a hydrographic network that is intimately linked to that of the property, increasing the risk of cyanide poisoning. They also note that the State Party did not provide further information on the reported exploration permit for gold and related substances that was granted for the Tanoudert area, outside but immediately adjacent to the property. They are of the view that if prospecting activities commence, this would further increase pressure on the hydrography of the property, either directly through consumption of fossil water, or indirectly through the contamination of the water table with (possibly polluted) salt water. They further note that the State Party did not provide any information on the projected increase in the iron ore production capacity of the Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière (SNIM) by 2018, which would require the expansion of their production site near Cap Blanc. While the Satellite Reserve of Cap Blanc is not part of the property, the possible consequences of such an expansion (increased turbidity, changes in the physical and chemical composition of the marine environment, risk of red tides due to increased iron content) would clearly have a high impact on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), as it is noted in the Statement of OUV with regards to criterion (ix) that the ecological processes at PNBA are “the result of the permanent upwelling of the Cap Blanc”. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further note that it is not clear whether the various developments in the municipality of Nouamghar have been subject to EIAs, and they consider that the intensification of surveillance, while welcome, on its own is unlikely to mitigate all impacts from these developments. They note the importance for the State Party to improve living conditions of communities living in the park but conclude it is critically important to develop a strategic plan that clearly illustrates the socio-economic needs within the park and identifies the required infrastructure to meet those needs without negatively impacting the OUV of the property.

In light of the various developments and threats noted above, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee request the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, which should assess the potential impacts from the mining, fisheries and oil exploration on the OUV of the property and the measures taken to mitigate them, and make recommendations for the continued protection of the OUV of the property.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.8

Decision:       37 COM 7B.8

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.         Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.11, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3.         Commends the State Party for its rapid response to the letter from the World Heritage Centre and for the exemplary management of the property;

4.         Requests the State Party to take all necessary measures to ensure that the mining activities undertaken in the region of the property do not have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and reiterates that mining activities and oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;

5.         Welcomes the information provided by the State Party that work on the road that would connect the village of Mamghar with the Nouakchott – Nouadhibou road has been halted, pending the implementation of a number of ministerial conditions, and also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre copies of the Environmental Impact Assessments for this road and the other developments in the municipality of Nouamghar, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

6.         Further requests the State Party to notify the World Heritage Committee of any development that might negatively impact the property before any decisions are taken that are difficult to reverse, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

7.         Encourages the State Party to continue providing adequate financial and material resources to the park authorities in order to prevent illegal fishing within and in the immediate surroundings of the property;

8.         Requests furthermore the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, in order to assess the potential impacts from mining, fisheries and oil exploration on the OUV of the property and the measures taken to mitigate them and provide recommendations for the continued protection of its OUV;

9.         Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including a report on progress with the implementation of the above requests, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.8

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.11 , adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3.  Commends the State Party for its rapid response to the letter from the World Heritage Centre and for the exemplary management of the property;

4.  Requests the State Party to take all necessary measures to ensure that the mining activities undertaken in the region of the property do not have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and reiterates that mining activities and oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;

5.  Welcomes the information provided by the State Party that work on the road that would connect the village of Mamghar with the Nouakchott – Nouadhibou road has been halted, pending the implementation of a number of ministerial conditions, and also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre copies of the Environmental Impact Assessments for this road and the other developments in the municipality of Nouamghar, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

6.  Further requests the State Party to notify the World Heritage Committee of any development that might negatively impact the property before any decisions are taken that are difficult to reverse, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

7.  Encourages the State Party to continue providing adequate financial and material resources to the park authorities in order to prevent illegal fishing within and in the immediate surroundings of the property;

8.  Requests furthermore the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, in order to assess the potential impacts from mining, fisheries and oil exploration on the OUV of the property and the measures taken to mitigate them and provide recommendations for the continued protection of its OUV;

9.  Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015 , a report on the state of conservation of the property, including a report on progress with the implementation of the above requests, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.