1.         Lower Valley of the Omo (Ethiopia) (C 17)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

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/17/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1996-1996)
Total amount approved: USD 2,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/17/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Soil erosion

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/17/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 22 September 2011, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party raising its concern about development projects being undertaken within the property, which could affect its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) related to the discovery in the Rift Valley of hominid fossils, some of which date back four million years and have been of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution.

According to information brought to the attention of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, one of the development projects (Kuraz Sugar Cane Development projects) would be located in or near the northern part of the property. It is understood that this could result in irreversible changes to the landscape of the property and its setting, as a result of water runoff, air pollution and the utilisation of waste materials, and thus to the prehistoric hominid fossil sites for which the property was inscribed.

No response was received from the State Party regarding this issue, and neither the official position nor relevant documents have been provided to the World Heritage Centre.

On 25 March 2013, the World Heritage Centre sent another letter to the State Party further expressing its concern over the state of conservation of the Lower Valley of the Omo World Heritage property, following further information received on the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development projects, and solicited the State Party’s clarifications on this issue.

According to a September 2011 report entitled “Existing Challenges: Plantation Development versus Wildlife Conservation in the Omo-Tama-Mago Complex” prepared by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), information on government plans for the first phase of the plantations programme indicate that six sugar factories, sugar cane plantations, housing units, villages, canals and roads are to be constructed starting in early 2013. About 150,000ha of natural land will be converted to sugarcane plantations.  One bridge will be built over the Omo River; and a 250km long canal will be constructed on both sides of the Omo River. 750 km of internal roads and a 132 km main road are already under construction.

The EWCA report does not give clear indications of the location of the project in relation to the boundaries of the property; therefore, detailed maps and information on the exact location of these factories and other constructions are needed by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies. Moreover, no attempt has yet been made by the State Party to clarify the precise boundary of the property or its buffer zone.

 

The EWCA report, also states that officials were conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2011 for all of the project area so as to identify the predictable problems. However, the World Heritage Centre has not received a copy of this report; and furthermore, no information has been received on whether a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) has been carried-out to consider impact on the cultural attributes of the property that convey Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are concerned by the information that they continue to receive regarding the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development Projects and their potential impact on the OUV of the property as well as by the lack of response from the State Party regarding this issue. More detailed and official information is needed on the current development projects, especially the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development project, including a map indicating the location of the project in relation to the World Heritage property boundaries, and a proposed timeframe for its implementation.

The information obtained concerning the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development projects underscores the urgent need for a management plan, definition of boundaries and the buffer zone of the property as well as the finalization of the property’s Retrospective Statement of OUV. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recognize the extreme difficulties involved in mapping the property, but consider this as a priority and urgent activity, which will also contribute to determining the location of the projects in relation to the property, as well as evaluating the potential impact of the above-mentioned sugar cane development projects on the property and its setting.

 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the Committee requests a copy of the EIA carried-out by the State Party in 2011. A HIA should also be carried-out in order to evaluate effectively the impact of potential development on the OUV of the property.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.39

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 20 COM 7D.64/65 , adopted at its 20th session (Merida, 1996),

3.  Expresses its concern over the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development Projects, which may have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Lower Valley of the Omo, if located within or near the property;

4.  Regrets that the State Party has not replied to the World Heritage Centre’s letters regarding its official position and clarification on the projects and their location in relation to the boundaries of the property;

5.  Urges the State Party to provide details on all planned development projects, and documents on the Kuraz Sugar Cane Development Projects, including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) carried-out in 2011, to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2013 for review by the Advisory Bodies;

6.  Requests the State Party to carry-out Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), in particular for relevant roads and the sugar development projects, and submit them to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before work commences and before any irreversible commitments are made;

7.  Also expresses its concern over the absence of a management plan, and the lack of clarification of the boundaries and buffer zone for the property;

8.  Invites the State Party to carry-out the above as a matter of urgency, and encourages the State Party to request international assistance for this endeavour;

9.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a report on the state of conservation of the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.