1.         Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya) (N 801bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

Criteria  (viii)(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/801/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2000-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 35,300
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

March 2012: Joint reactive monitoring mission World Heritage Centre/IUCN

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

On 31 January 2014, the State Party of Kenya submitted a short progress report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/documents.

The report refers to a high-level meeting which took place in January 2014 between the States Parties of Kenya and Ethiopia to discuss the modalities of sharing information and preparing a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) relating to developments on the Omo River in Ethiopia. It was agreed that:

The State Party of Ethiopia did not invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to review the impacts of the Gibe III dam and related developments as previously requested by the Committee at its 35th, 36th and 37th sessions.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

Initial bilateral discussions have been held between the States Parties of Kenya and Ethiopia and it is recommended that the Committee welcome this development. While the reports states that the Strategic Environmental Assessment of developments in the Omo River basin and their impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property were discussed, the report provides no clear timeline for the preparation of this study.

The construction of the Gibe III dam and development of large-scale irrigation schemes in the lower Omo Valley seem to have continued uninterrupted despite the Committee’s earlier requests to the State Party of Ethiopia to suspend developments until the SEA had been completed and to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission. It should be recalled that the Committee decided not to inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger on two previous occasions, to allow the mission to take place and consider its findings, and before the likely severe ecological and social consequences for Lake Turkana, the property, and the livelihoods of surrounding communities have been adequately considered in the planned SEA

News reports, which indicate that the filling of the reservoir is scheduled to commence this year, are noted. A letter was sent to the State Party of Ethiopia on 31 March 2014 to verify this information but at the time of writing this report no reply was received. In addition, it should be recalled that ongoing development of large-scale irrigation schemes could significantly amplify the severe impacts of filling the reservoir, as these would further reduce the flow of water to the lake. The most important one, Kuraz Sugar Scheme is developed by the state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corporation. According to the website of the Corporation, 175000 ha of sugar cane will be planted and the irrigation of these fields will be ensured through a water diverting scheme from the Omo River.

Recent publicly available satellite imagery of the lower Omo valley clearly shows newly-built irrigation channels and large-scale agricultural development.

A number of new studies confirm the likely hydrological and other changes that dam filling and irrigation schemes will cause. According to these studies, the filling of the dam will result in a drop of the water level of the lake of 2 m. The Kuraz Sugar Scheme could deprive Lake Turkana of 50% of its water inflow, which experts consider would result in a lowering of the lake level by an estimated 20 metres and a recession of the northern shoreline by as much as 40 km. The ambitious agricultural development plan for the lower Omo, if fully implemented, could cause the waters of the Omo River to no longer be able to replenish Lake Turkana at all, and undoubtedly lead to the loss of the OUV of the property, and have detrimental impacts on the livelihoods of local communities who depend on the lake.

In view of the severity of the potential impacts, and the immediacy of the threat, with the imminent filling of the dam and the diversion of water for the irrigation schemes, it is recommended that the Committee immediately inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7B.90

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.4 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Welcomes the initiation of bilateral discussions between the States Parties of Kenya and Ethiopia on the potential impact of the Gibe III dam and associated agricultural irrigation projects on the property, and the stated intention to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the developments on the Omo River, the completion of which is expected in December 2014;
  4. Notes with concern that construction of large scale irrigation schemes has continued, and that initial filling of the reservoir of the Gibe III dam is reported to start this year, i.e. prior to the expected completion of the SEA, and prior to the identification and implementation of appropriate mitigation measures;
  5. Considers that the imminent completion of the Gibe III dam and initial filling of its reservoir, and the ongoing development of associated large-scale irrigation projects in the Omo River Valley could lead to an irreversible loss of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and represent a clear potential danger to the OUV of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  6. Welcomes the invitation by the State Party of Ethiopia for a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to review the impacts of the Gibe III dam, other planned hydro-electric developments and associated large-scale irrigation projects in the Omo region on the OUV of the property;
  7. Decides to re-examine this issue at its 39th session in 2015, with a view to considering in the case of confirmation of the ascertained or potential danger to its Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  8. Urges the State Party of Ethiopia not to start the filling of the dam and to halt the construction of the large scale irrigation projects before the SEA is completed and appropriate mitigation measures are identified to guarantee sufficient inflow of water to Lake Turkana and sufficient seasonal variations to preserve the OUV of the property;
  9. Requests the States Parties of Kenya and Ethiopia, with the support of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, to develop, a set of corrective measures, which should include actions and indicators to ensure that impacts to OUV from the filling of the dam and irrigation projects will be avoided, for examination by the Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
  10. Recalls its request to the State Party of Kenya, in consultation with the State Party of Ethiopia, to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2012 monitoring mission, as well as those contained in the report of the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission mentioned in paragraph 6 above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.