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Virunga National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Factors affecting the property in 1995*
  • Civil unrest
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Mining
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Political uncertainties,
  • New settlements in the Park,
  • Gold mining,
  • Livestock grazing,
  • Destruction of vegetation,
  • Poaching,
  • Agricultural encroachment,
  • Over-exploitation of fish populations,
  • Lack of financial resources
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1995
Requests approved: 7 (from 1980-1994)
Total amount approved : 177,160 USD
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1995

Virunga National Park, inscribed under criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv) in 1979, was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive arrival of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated at the border between Rwanda and Uganda has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees causing deforestation and poaching at the sites. The Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee approved a total of US$ 50,000 emergency assistance for both Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Virunga National Park. The project is carried out by WWF and the World Heritage Centre is awaiting a detailed report on the site by 15 June 1995. Preliminary reports indicate that the Park is a primary source of fuelwood and construction wood for the refugees and that 30 to 40,000 people are entering the Park daily. The Centre is cooperating closely with the IZCN (Institut Zaïrois pour la Conservation de la Nature), and obtained the information that the European Cooperation, in the framework of a special rehabilitation programme for the neighbouring countries to Rwanda, provided 3.2 Million ECU to Virunga and Kahuzi Biega National Parks, out of which 2 Million ECU are earmarked for Virunga National Park. Through the Centre's cooperation with UNDP, a detailed report on the "Emergency response to the refugee-driven biodiversity crisis in Zaire" has been obtained from UNDP/GEF in February 1995 which includes an environmental impact study for Virunga National Park. UNDP/GEF informed the Centre on 6 April 1995 that an environment coordinator will be based in Goma to provide monitoring, coordination and leadership as well as technical support.

Action Required

The Bureau commends UNDP/GEF for its support for the protection of the site and encourages continuous cooperation between the newly-appointed environmental coordinator and the World Heritage Centre. It recommends that the site be retained on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1995

Virunga National Park, inscribed under criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv) in 1979, was included on the List of World Heritage in Danger at the last session of the World Heritage Committee in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive influx of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated on the border between Rwanda and Uganda, has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing deforestation and poaching at the site. The Bureau recalled that the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee approved a total of US$ 50,000 emergency assistance for both Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Virunga National Park. The project is carried out in cooperation with IUCN, WWF and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. A report on the project was received at the time of the Bureau session indicating the World Heritage Fund project was effective and crucial to help in maintaining the Park's management activities and to support the staff. However, the ecological situation at the Park is not improving, the bamboo forests have been cut and the number of elephants and hippos within the site are much reduced. The buffalo population is also threatened. The report indicated that the Park is a primary source of fuelwood and construction materials for the refugees and that 30 to 40,000 people are entering the Park daily.

The Bureau discussed the situation at length and recommended several actions to be taken, including letters to the Government of Zaire for greater operational support and the payment of salaries of the staff of the site. No response on these letters has been received so far. On 8 August 1995, the Centre received information that six Italian citizens were killed by poachers in Virunga National Park. The Centre wrote to the authorities to request that the World Heritage Committee be informed about any action to be undertaken to stop illegal poaching operations within the site and to improve control in the Park.

 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 1995

Taking into account the presence of thousands of refugees, the Bureau expresses its concern about the degradation of the Park and recommends to the Committee to retain the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1995
19 BUR VI.20
Virunga National Park (Zaire)

Virunga National Park, inscribed under criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv) in 1979, was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger at the last session of the World Heritage Committee in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive arrival of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated at the border between Rwanda and Uganda, has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing deforestation and poaching at the sites. The Bureau recalled that the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee approved a total of US$ 50,000 emergency assistance for both Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Virunga National Park. The project is carried out in cooperation with IUCN, WWF and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. A report on the project was received at the time of the Bureau session indicating the World Heritage Fund project was effective and crucial to help in maintaining the Park’s management activities and to support the staff. However, the ecological situation at the Park is not improving, the bamboo forests have been cut and the number of elephants and hippos are much reduced within the site. The buffalo population is also threatened. The report indicates that the Park is a primary source of fuelwood and construction wood for the refugees and that 30 to 40,000 people are entering the Park daily.

The report recommends:(1) a long-term-political solution, including the evacuation of refugee camps within the site and (2) that IZCN should pay the salaries of their staff at the Park.

The Bureau discussed the situation at length and recommended: (1) to prepare a press release jointly with IUCN to raise awareness of the need for repatriation and re-location of the refugee camps; (2) to write a letter to the Government of Zaire for greater operational support including the payment of salaries of the staff of the site; (3) that the Centre arranges a meeting between the Director-General of UNESCO with the Ambassador of Zaire to discuss these issues, and (4) that, at the request of the Delegate of Senegal, all possibilities should be explored within the UN system, in particular with UNHCR and UNDP, to find a solution. The Bureau furthermore, requested the Centre to write a letter commending UNDP/GEF, the European Union and the GTZ for their support for the protection of the site and encourages continuous cooperation between the newly-appointed environmental coordinator and the World Heritage Centre.

19 COM VII.A.1.10
SOC: Virunga National Park (Zaire)

VII. 10 Virunga National Park (Zaire)

The Committee recalled that Virunga National Park was included on the List of World Heritage in Danger at the last session of the World Heritage Committee in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive influx of refugees from that country. It noted that the site is seriously threatened by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing deforestation and poaching at the site.

The Committee took note of the reports provided both by the Secretariat and IUCN, as well as the responses received by the Ministry for the Environment of Zaire on the concerns raised by the Bureau at its nineteenth session. The Committee also took note that the European Union, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and UNHCR are currently carrying out projects mainly to strengthen the management of the site.

The Committee, taking into account the presence of thousands of refugees in and adjacent to Virunga, expressed its serious concerns about the continuing degradation of the Park and decided to retain the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee requested the Centre to support the work of IGCP and other organizations and asked both the Centre and IUCN to continue to liaise with various donors and agencies. It requested the Centre to organize a mission to the site and asked that a report be provided to the twentieth session of the World Heritage Bureau.

The Bureau recommends the Committee to examine the information contained in the working document and the oral report provided by the Secretariat/advisory body. The Bureau recommends the Committee to adopt the following:

"The Committee, taking into account the presence of thousands of refugees in and adjacent to Virunga, expresses its serious concerns about the continuing degradation of the Park and decided to retain the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee requested the Centre to support the work of IGCP and other organizations and asked both the Centre and IUCN continue to liaise with various donors and agencies. It requested the Centre to consider organizing a mission to the site and asked that a report be provided to the twentieth session of the World Heritage Bureau."

Report year: 1995
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(x)
Danger List (dates): 1994-present
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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