1.         The Sundarbans (Bangladesh) (N 798)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

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/798/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2008-2008)
Total amount approved: USD 75,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

USD 32,590 from Switzerland following a Special Appeal by the Sector for External Relations of UNESCO. 

Previous monitoring missions

2007: World Heritage Centre mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 31 March 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides concise comments on the implementation of the Committee recommendations adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009).

a) Repair of damage caused by cyclone Sidr

In November 2007, Bangladesh was hit by cyclone Sidr, which passed directly over the eastern component of the property, causing severe damage to the environment and park infrastructure. The State Party reports that work to restore damaged or destroyed infrastructure is currently on-going, and that the UNESCO funded project “Support to Essential Management Capacity in the Sundarbans WH Site following the passage of cyclone Sidr” is in its final stage. It also reports that under said project, besides the procurement of boats and building of staff housing in phase I, tiger darting equipment has been purchased and the Kochikhali jetty and Kokilmoni patrol post have been repaired. The State Party notes that wildlife sanctuary management training for the property’s staff will be given soon. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan (BTAP), a governmental policy level document, states that resources and infrastructure are insufficient for carrying out effective patrolling of the property. Although not provided by the State Party, the BTAP 2009-2017 contains relevant information about the conservation and management of the property, as the vast majority of Bangladesh’ tiger population is restricted to the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, which includes the property. The BTAP notes that some guard posts do not have boats, and that others have slow boats and inadequate budget for maintenance or fuel. It also notes that drinking water, food supplies and medical facilities are limited, and that no budget is set aside to cope with emergency situations, such as cyclones.

b) Ecological monitoring and climate change

The State Party reports that its Forest Department is starting the project “Sundarbans Environmental and Livelihoods Security” (SEALS), which includes logistic support for ecological monitoring and documenting the impact of climate change on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. This 5-year - 10-million euro project begun in January 2011. The State Party provides no further detail. The BTAP also states that the expansion of the coastal greenbelt through mangrove afforestation is part of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. The BTAP identifies potential impacts from climate change through sea-level rise, increased cyclone frequency and altered fresh-water flow into the property.

 

c) Other conservation issues – resource extraction and poaching

The State Party reports that unauthorised resource extraction and any sort of illegal activities are strictly controlled within the property. The BTAP notes that the increasing human population surrounding the Sundarbans Reserve Forest depends on the forest for their survival and has few alternative livelihood options. It states that the most immediate threat to the Sundarbans Reserve Forest is unsustainable harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products. It also notes poaching of tiger and prey species occurs, though it is unclear to what extent. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that, although it is unclear to what extent resource extraction and poaching affect the wildlife sanctuaries that make up the property, the damage caused by cyclone Sidr is likely to have increased the property’s vulnerability to these threats. They are concerned that, as long as resources and infrastructure are inadequate to efficiently patrol the property, it will be a major challenge to protect it against these and other illegal activities. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that while infrastructure restoration is ongoing following the destruction caused by cyclone Sidr in 2007, progress appears to be slow. There is a need to continue restoration works and improve management capacity and resources, in order to address potential threats from poaching, resource extraction and other illegal activities. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note that the Sundarbans Environmental and Livelihoods Security project includes logistic support for ecological monitoring and documenting the impact of climate change on the OUV of the property, as requested in Decision 33 COM 7B.12.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.11

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.12, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Notes with satisfaction the initiation of the Sundarbans Environmental and Livelihoods Security project, which includes support for ecological monitoring and documenting the impacts of climate change on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and welcomes the State Party's commitment to expand its coastal greenbelt zone through mangrove afforestation as a mitigation measure to climate change;

4. Also notes that in the absence of ecological monitoring data for the property, it is not possible to assess the status of its Outstanding Universal Value, and requests the State Party to submit the results of the ecological monitoring programme to the World Heritage Centre for review, as soon as these become available;

5. Further notes that inadequate resources and infrastructure are likely to limit the effective protection of the property against potential threats from poaching, resource extraction and other illegal activities, and invites the State Party to submit an International Assistance request to further support the ongoing restoration of infrastructure and the procurement of management resources;

6. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, a report on the state of conservation of the property, and progress achieved with regards to post-cyclone restoration, as well as of the results from the ecological monitoring programme.