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Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

Costa Rica, Panama
Factors affecting the property in 2015*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Land conversion
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Water infrastructure
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Construction of hydroelectric dams near the property in Panama and associated effects (greater human presence near the property, interruption of aquatic species migratory corridor)
  • Encroachment (settlements, cattle ranching)
  • Planned road construction, which would traverse the property on the side of Panama
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2015

Total amount granted: USD 30 000 from the Rapid Response Facility

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 9 (from 1982-1997)
Total amount approved : 276,350 USD
Missions to the property until 2015**

February 2008: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; December 2011: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; January 2013: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 4 February 2015, a joint report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/205/documents/

The report confirms that the construction of the Bonyic hydroelectric project continued and that the dam was completed in December 2014. The plant is currently in operation testing phase and the report notes its compliance with mitigation and compensation measures of the Environmental Management Plan. A system is in place to monitor potentially affected freshwater fauna in the long term and mitigation measures have been developed for some affected fish species. Progress is reported in resolving social conflicts associated with the project which was opposed by members of the Naso community. However, unresolved issues remain, which are not clarified further. Mitigation measures have also been developed for the CHAN75 hydroelectric project and monitoring of some migratory fish species is on-going.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a new hydropower plant (Chan II), also located on the Changuinola river, was approved in 2013. The report notes that the project is located within the Palo Seco Protected Forest and recognizes that the project would result in cumulative impacts to both aquatic and terrestrial fauna in the property, as well as involuntary resettlements of local communities. On 20 and on 30 March 2015, the State Party provided additional information on the project, stating that it has been provisionally suspended and is currently being reconsidered by the ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente) following changes in the design of the project proposed by EGESA (La Empresa de Generación Eléctrica, S.A.) that could potentially decrease negative impacts on the Palo Seco Protected Forest.

Further information is provided on progress with the implementation of other requests of the Committee:

  • The management plans of the Costa Rican and Panamanian components of the property are reported to have a high degree of harmony; however, further work is required to harmonize zoning systems;
  • Both in Costa Rica and Panama, on-going localized animal husbandry within the property is reported, but the situation has stabilized and no increase in these activities has been recorded;
  • No EIA for any road infrastructure that would run through the property have been registered;
  • The State Party of Panama acknowledges the lack of personnel caused by budget reductions and is working on strategies to involve the private sector, specifically the companies of the two existing hydroelectric projects, to increase the number of staff.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

The information provided by the States Parties which shows that several threats affecting the property (cattle grazing, road construction) have not further increased is encouraging. Progress in trans-boundary collaboration also needs to be commended, even though the States Parties note the lack of personnel to carry out regular joint patrols, as well as the need to involve other government agencies in the activities within the border area.

On the other hand, the on-going hydropower development in Panama raises significant concerns. Despite the Committee’s request to suspend the Bonyic project until a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the property has been prepared, which was expressed in Decision 34 COM 7B.32 and reiterated in Decision 37 COM 7B.31, the dam was completed in December 2014. Although a preliminary SEA was completed in 2012, no significant progress has been achieved towards development of a comprehensive SEA for the property. Furthermore, despite the Committee’s request “not to permit any further development of hydro-energy projects (…) within or directly adjacent to the property”, the Changuinola II project was approved in 2013. The additional information provided by the State Party of Panama in March 2015 states that the project is currently being reconsidered by ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente) following proposed changes in the project design which could potentially decrease negative impacts on Palo Seco Protected Forest. However, noting that the state of conservation report submitted by the States Parties concludes that this project would imply cumulative impacts on both aquatic and terrestrial fauna and would directly affect two indigenous communities, it is essential that such a review of the project is guided by a comprehensive SEA for the property which needs to be prepared as a matter of urgency and that all projects with potential impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) are suspended until it is completed. A clear need for a comprehensive SEA is even more evident when considering the 2014-2028 national electricity plan of Panama which not only includes the Changuinola II plant, but also mentions another potential hydroelectric project on Rio Teribe (currently an intact river, originating from the property) as "under study". It is recommended that the Committee urge the States Parties to develop such a SEA in order to guide the development of any hydroelectric and other large-scale infrastructure projects to ensure that such projects do not have a negative impact on the OUV of this transboundary property. Any development of new hydropower projects prior to the finalization of the SEA would represent a clear potential danger to the OUV and integrity of the property and should therefore lead to the consideration of the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Development of mitigation measures for existing hydroelectric projects is welcome; however, these measures, based on individual species, cannot compensate for the impact caused by damming of the rivers to the overall assembly of fresh-water species. Establishment of a long-term monitoring system for some freshwater species is a welcome initiative which should help evaluate the extent to which the mitigation measures are effective. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party of Panama to submit with its next state of conservation report the preliminary results of these monitoring programmes, as well as a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of mitigation measures. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7B.28
Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park (Costa Rica/Panama) (N 205bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.30, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Commends the States Parties for the progress achieved in strengthening transboundary cooperation and reducing the threats to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) originating from encroachment of agriculture and cattle grazing and potential road construction;
  4. Strongly regrets that, despite the Committee’s previous decisions, construction of the Bonyic dam has been completed without prior consideration of the results of a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), and urges the States Parties to develop such an assessment as a matter of priority, based on the results of the preliminary SEA completed in 2012, and in consultation with IUCN, if necessary;
  5. Notes with concern the impacts on freshwater biodiversity in at least two watersheds (Changuinola and Bonyic), and requests the State Party of Panama to ensure that the results of the developed monitoring programmes guide adequate measures to minimize biodiversity loss;
  6. Considers that any development of new hydropower projects prior to the finalization and adequate review of the SEA would lead to the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  7. Also notes with concern that a new hydropower project on the Changuinola river (Chan II) was approved in 2013 which the States Parties report would result in further cumulative impacts on both aquatic and terrestrial fauna and implies risks of social conflicts with local communities and, noting the reported current review and reconsideration of the project following the proposed changes in its design, also urges the State Party of Panama not to resume this project, until:
    1. the SEA for the property has been completed to guide the review of the project,
    2. the project has been subject to an independent Environmental Impact Assessment, including a specific assessment of potential impacts on the OUV of the property in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment,
    3. due process has been ensured to achieve Free, Prior and Informed Consent by indigenous communities having territorial rights in the affected lands;
  8. Also requests the States Parties to implement all other recommendations of the 2013 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission;
  9. Further requests the States Parties to invite an IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to evaluate the progress achieved with the development of the SEA and to provide necessary technical advice and to assess the effectiveness of the mitigation measures developed for Bonyic and CHAN-75 projects;
  10. Requests furthermore 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, including an assessment of the effectiveness of the developed mitigation measures for the existing hydroelectric projects, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016, with a view to considering, in case of the confirmation of ascertained or potential danger to Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Draft Decision: 39 COM 7B.28

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.30, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Commends the States Parties for the progress achieved in strengthening transboundary cooperation and reducing the threats to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) originating from encroachment of agriculture and cattle grazing and potential road construction;
  4. Strongly regrets that, despite the Committee’s previous decisions, construction of the Bonyic dam has been completed without prior consideration of the results of a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), and urges the States Parties to develop such an assessment as a matter of priority, based on the results of the preliminary SEA completed in 2012, and in consultation with IUCN, if necessary;
  5. Notes with concern the impacts on freshwater biodiversity in at least two watersheds (Changuinola and Bonyic), and requests the State Party of Panama to ensure that the results of the developed monitoring programmes guide adequate measures to minimize biodiversity loss;
  6. Considers that any development of new hydropower projects prior to the finalization and adequate review of the SEA would lead to the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  7. Also notes with concern that a new hydropower project on the Changuinola river (Chan II) was approved in 2013 which the States Parties report would result in further cumulative impacts on both aquatic and terrestrial fauna and implies risks of social conflicts with local communities and, noting the reported current review and reconsideration of the project following the proposed changes in its design, also urges the State Party of Panama not to resume this project, until:
    1. the SEA for the property has been completed to guide the review of the project,
    2. the project has been subject to an independent Environmental Impact Assessment, including a specific assessment of potential impacts on the OUV of the property in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment,
    3. due process has been ensured to achieve Free, Prior and Informed Consent by indigenous communities having territorial rights in the affected lands;
  8. Also requests the States Parties to implement all other recommendations of the 2013 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission;
  9. Further requests the States Parties to invite an IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to evaluate the progress achieved with the development of the SEA and to provide necessary technical advice and to assess the effectiveness of the mitigation measures developed for Bonyic and CHAN-75 projects;
  10. Requests furthermore 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, including an assessment of the effectiveness of the developed mitigation measures for the existing hydroelectric projects, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016, with a view to considering, in case of the confirmation of ascertained or potential danger to Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2015
Costa Rica Panama
Date of Inscription: 1983
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 39COM (2015)
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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