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Lake Malawi National Park

Malawi
Factors affecting the property in 2014*
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Illegal activities
  • Invasive / alien freshwater species
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Oil and gas
  • Surface water pollution
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Need for a new management plan 
  • Growing population within the Park, heavily dependent on fish and wood as principal resource (issue already mentioned and resolved in the past) 
  • Oil exploration/exploitation
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2014
Requests approved: 6 (from 1986-2012)
Total amount approved : 126,344 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

On 1 February 2014, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report. Subsequently, a joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission visited the property in March/April 2014. Both the State Party’s report and the mission report are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/documents.  A number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions are presented in those reports, including details of the following:

  • Progress with the preparation of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for an oil exploration concession covering the northern part of the lake (outside the property) awarded to the company Surestream, based in the United Kingdom;
  • Award of an additional oil exploration concession to a company based in the United Arab Emirates, RAKGAS, covering the southern portion of the lake, including the entire property;
  • The state of existing knowledge of biodiversity in the lake, including an important (2004) publication arising from a Lake Malawi/Nyasa Biodiversity Conservation Project, as well as publications in the aquarium literature;
  • Considerations and scope for extension of the property to ensure a more complete representation of the lake’s unique biodiversity and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Some other issues are also reported by the State Party and the mission, including the following:

  • Expansion of human populations within the enclave villages and associated pressures on terrestrial and aquatic resources in neighbouring parts of the property;
  • Land degradation in the lake’s catchment, leading to increased rates of siltation, nutrient loading and ecological change;
  • Overfishing in the near shore fisheries of the lake, including illegal fishing within the property;
  • Impacts of tourism infrastructure development and activities;
  • Pollution of lake waters with domestic waste and excessive nutrient loads originating from commercial fish-farming operations;
  • Inadequate enforcement of protection measures due to resource constraints affecting the management authority, particularly in respect of the aquatic zone of the property;
  • Persistent risk of intentional introduction of non-native fish species which could permanently alter the ecosystem of the lake.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2014

The possible long-term consequences of oil exploration and exploitation anywhere within the lake are of significant concern, with its associated risks of pollution and the potentially devastating impact this could have on the ecology of this unique evolutionary system. It is especially important to note that due to the size and great depth of the lake combined with its relatively small catchment and annual through-flows, any pollution would take a very long time to be flushed out of the lake, increasing the likelihood of permanent ecological damage should an accidental oil spill or other pollution occur. It is understood that no exploration will commence until appropriate Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) have been carried out and exploration activities will initially not involve any test drilling.

It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its position on the incompatibility of oil and mineral exploration and exploitation with World Heritage status and urge the State Party to revise any exploration licences overlapping the property in order to exclude the property from these licences. Furthermore, it is recommended to call upon the companies that have been awarded concessions on the lake to make a commitment not to explore and/or exploit oil or gas within World Heritage properties, as has been done by Shell and more recently TOTAL. It is also recommended that the Committee reiterate its concerns about the potential impacts of oil exploration throughout the lake and ensure that the planned ESIA assesses the impact on the OUV of the property.

The introduction of exotic fish species to the lake would also have disastrous consequences for the unique and highly endemic biodiversity of the entire lake, including the property. It is therefore recommended that the Committee urge the States Parties of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania to ensure that an introduction of any exotic fish species is avoided at all cost, and to take urgent measures to eradicate any exotic fish species that are identified in the lake.

As recognised by the mission, management of the property needs to be strengthened and additional resources allocated to ensure that threats are contained. Some of the pressing management issues that require attention to safeguard the property’s OUV include the need for measures to curb illegal fishing within the aquatic zone of the property, strengthen work with local communities, better regulate tourism and develop an efficient monitoring programme which includes the fish, water quality and other aspects of the aquatic ecology. The Committee is therefore recommended to urge the State Party to update the 2007-2011 management plan for the property, and to ensure that provisions are made within the revised management plan to address the above-mentioned issues.

There is clearly scope to extend the property to encompass a more fully representative sample of the lake’s unique species, biodiversity and evolutionary processes. This might involve the States Parties of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania (which share the lake’s shoreline) and should build on existing scientific knowledge of species distributions and ecology. It is thus recommended that the Committee encourage each of the States Parties to initiate a process to identify important localities for possible future incorporation into an extended trans-national serial property, and recognise the potentially important role that international conservation non-governmental organisations and scientific experts could play in facilitating necessary research and dialogue towards this objective.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2014
38 COM 7B.92
Lake Malawi National Park (Malawi) (N 289)

The World Heritage Committee

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.5, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Reiterates its concern over oil exploration activities throughout the lake, noting that an accidental spill would pose a potentially severe risk to the integrity of the entire lake ecosystem including the aquatic zone and shoreline of the property
  4. Notes that an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for oil exploration in the northern part of the lake is being carried out, and requests the State Party to ensure that this ESIA includes a specific assessment of potential impacts of oil exploration and subsequent exploitation on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  5. Urges the State Party to cancel the oil exploitation permit which overlaps with the property and reiterates its position that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
  6. Calls on Surestream and RAKGAS, who have been awarded oil exploration concessions on the lake, to make a commitment to not exploit nor explore for oil or gas in World Heritage properties;
  7. Also requests the State Party of Malawi to implement all the recommendations of the 2014 joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission:
    1. Demarcate the boundary of the outer limits of the aquatic zone of the property with floating buoys,
    2. Deploy patrol boats, other equipment and personnel to ensure enforcement of fishing restrictions and other measures aimed at protecting the OUV of the property,
    3. Design and implement an effective monitoring protocol to provide a basis for assessing changes in fish diversity and populations, other fauna, water quality and management parameters that could be used in adapting management interventions for better protection of the property’s OUV,
    4. Closely engage with communities in the village enclaves and in the periphery of the property to develop suitable resource management programmes,
    5. Promote low-impact eco-tourism ventures that comply with appropriate environmental and social impact standards;
  8. Also urges the State Party to revise the 2007-2011 management plan for the property, provide an electronic and three printed copies for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN as soon as it is available and to ensure that the revised management plan includes provisions for the implementation of the above-mentioned mission recommendations;
  9. Encourages the States Parties of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania to collaborate in identifying important localities for the protection of endemic fish and evolutionary processes with a view to incorporating such areas into an extended trans-national serial property, in cooperation with international conservation non-governmental organizations and scientific experts;
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
Draft Decision:            38 COM 7B.92

The World Heritage Committee

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.5, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Reiterates its concern over oil exploration activities throughout the lake, noting that an accidental spill would pose a potentially severe risk to the integrity of the entire lake ecosystem including the aquatic zone and shoreline of the property
  4. Notes that an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for oil exploration in the northern part of the lake is being carried out, and requests the State Party to ensure that this ESIA includes a specific assessment of potential impacts of oil exploration and subsequent exploitation on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  5. Urges the State Party to cancel the oil exploitation permit which overlaps with the property and reiterates its position that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
  6. Calls on Surestream and RAKGAS, who have been awarded oil exploration concessions on the lake, to make a commitment to not exploit nor explore for oil or gas in World Heritage properties;
  7. Also requests the State Party of Malawi to implement all the recommendations of the 2014 joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission:

a)         Demarcate the boundary of the outer limits of the aquatic zone of the property with floating buoys,

b)         Deploy patrol boats, other equipment and personnel to ensure enforcement of fishing restrictions and other measures aimed at protecting the OUV of the property,

c)         Design and implement an effective monitoring protocol to provide a basis for assessing changes in fish diversity and populations, other fauna, water quality and management parameters that could be used in adapting management interventions for better protection of the property’s OUV,

d)         Closely engage with communities in the village enclaves and in the periphery of the property to develop suitable resource management programmes,

e)         Promote low-impact eco-tourism ventures that comply with appropriate environmental and social impact standards;

8.   Also urges the State Party to revise the 2007-2011 management plan for the property, provide an electronic and three printed copies for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN as soon as it is available and to ensure that the revised management plan includes provisions for the implementation of the above-mentioned mission recommendations;

9.   Encourages the States Parties of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania to collaborate in identifying important localities for the protection of endemic fish and evolutionary processes with a view to incorporating such areas into an extended trans-national serial property, in cooperation with international conservation non-governmental organisations and scientific experts;

10.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.

Report year: 2014
Malawi
Date of Inscription: 1984
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 38COM (2014)
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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