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Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda

Gabon
Factors affecting the property in 2015*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Human resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Major linear utilities
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Lack of management structure to deal with the cultural values of the property
  • Need for training of conservation managers
  • Road Development
  • Project of optical fibre
  • Poaching
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 2 (from 2002-2006)
Total amount approved : 38,600 USD
Missions to the property until 2015**

January 2015: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property from 10 to 17 January 2015. Subsequently, on 31 January 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report. Both reports are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1147/documents.

These reports provide the following information:

  • The State Party acknowledges that work to upgrade National Highway 3 through the property could impact adversely on its integrity. The mission was informed of an agreement to abandon upgrading of the national road across the property and instead to create a diversion to the north. Four alternative routes have been considered, one on the edge of the buffer zone and all in archaeologically sensitive areas. The mission considered that this critical decision will ensure the preservation of the dense cluster of archaeological and rock art sites along the cultural landscape of the Ogooué River valley; 
  • The mission considered that impacts from the fibre optic project on unidentified archaeological sites are limited;
  • Surveillance efforts are concentrated in sensitive areas, mainly associated with infrastructure (both existing and under development) in the Northeast of the property and with forest concessions to the West. However these efforts are constrained by the limited number of forest guards (14) ;
  • Surveillance also takes into account all archaeological sites in the buffer zone of the park. The State Party planned to assign three archaeologists in the property to enhance the management capacity for cultural heritage. These staffs were not yet appointed at the time of the mission.

The mission made the following additional observations:

  • Poaching and ivory trade are the primary threats to the property’s fauna, especially to the Northeast of the property and near forest concessions where logging roads have facilitated access to previously intact forests;
  • A draft management plan for 2013-2017 is pending approval;
  • On average five elephants and/or buffalos get killed in train accidents each year;
  • Latest available data from 2006 indicate abundant and stable populations of the key species of the property, i.e. elephants, apes and duikers;
  • The lack of jobs in the property and in the surrounding forestry concessions are contributing to a rural exodus, which exacerbates conflicts between conservation of the park and the activities of local communities;
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

The decision to create a bypass for National Highway 3 to the north of the property is to be welcomed. This should ensure the protection of the extensive archaeological and rock art sites along the cultural landscape of the river Ogooue Valley. Given the highly sensitive archaeological areas through which one of the four route options might pass, it is essential that a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) is carried out to evaluate the best route and identify measures to mitigate impacts. There is also a need for a detailed database and active protection of archaeological and other cultural sites.

Furthermore, the mission recommended that the existing road should be rehabilitated, as a secondary road for local traffic, to maintain transport connections for local communities, and measures put in place to limit the use by heavy traffic of the road crossing the property.

The mission considered that although the threats from the fibre optic project to unidentified archaeological sites are limited, surveillance measures for cultural property should be undertaken and a high priority should be given to staff training. Both the fibre optic and the road projects will require particular management attention during their implementation. However, it should be noted that the number of staff has significantly reduced between 2006 and 2014. This lack of personnel, which is already preventing adequate surveillance to respond to the threat of poaching, should be addressed before the commencement of these projects, as their implementation would increase the risk of poaching. It is therefore recommended that the World Heritage Committee urge the State Party to ensure that adequate professional staff are in place and that existing staff are given adequate training in cultural heritage matters. Furthermore, the pending Management Plan for 2013-2017 needs to be approved and implemented as soon as possible and its recommendations addressed – particularly those related to staff structures.

The economic situation in the region around the property, which is marked by a rural exodus and a lack of jobs, further aggravates the threat of poaching. It is therefore recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to formulate a comprehensive economic development project for the property and its surroundings.

In relation to the observed regular occurrence of elephant and/or buffalo deaths from train accidents, it is recommended that the National Parks Agency (ANPN) is encouraged, in collaboration with the railway company, to urgently put in place a mechanism to prevent these accidents.

Available data on wildlife populations and trends are out-dated, and will require updating in order to enable a more accurate assessment of wildlife numbers and trends in the property to better track and respond to impacts of poaching.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7B.32
Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda (Gabon) (C/N 1147rev)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.59, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Commends the decision of the State Party to progress a bypass for National Highway 3 to the north of the property; however, notes that the four possible route options might pass through sensitive archaeological areas, and urges the State Party to undertake a detailed Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) in line with ICOMOS’ guidance on HIAs, including an assessment of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, as a means of exploring the optimum route and ways to mitigate impact, and to submit this HIA to the World Heritage Centre as soon as it is available;
  4. Also urges the State Party to identify options to rehabilitate the existing road through the property as a secondary road for local traffic to maintain adequate transport connections for local communities, to assess potential impacts on OUV, and to put in place measures to limit the use of this road by heavy traffic;
  5. Considers that both the road and the fibre optic projects increase the risk of poaching, which is the primary threat to natural values of the property, and further urges the State Party to address the lack of personnel in order to ensure adequate surveillance;
  6. Notes with concern that little progress has been made in increasing cultural heritage staff, and requests the State Party to provide training in cultural heritage management to existing staff, and to establish a detailed database and active protection of archaeological and other cultural sites;
  7. Urges furthermore the State Party to finalize and approve the 2013-2017 management plan and implement it as soon as possible, in particular its provisions related to staff structure;
  8. Also notes with concern that the economic situation at the property, which is marked by a rural exodus and a lack of jobs, is aggravating conflicts between the park and local communities, and encourages the State Party to develop a comprehensive economic development project for the property and its surroundings;
  9. Also requests the State Party to update wildlife monitoring data in order to assess current populations and trends of key species, and to better monitor and respond to the impacts from poaching;
  10. Also encourages the National Parks Agency (ANPN), in collaboration with the railway company, to urgently put in place a mechanism to prevent recurring train-wildlife accidents;
  11. Further requests the State Party to implement all the other recommendations of the 2015 mission, in particular:
    1. Implement the recommendations for the development of the engravings at the Doda Site and the eco-museum, and continue to reflect on the valorisation of other cultural sites,
    2. Undertake a mission to sites with rock engravings to examine any change and the conditions of their preservation,
    3. Put in place a mechanism to systematically control the movements of people and vehicles during the entire duration of the works on the optic fibre project, and foresee awareness raising session and communication sessions to raise the awareness of project staff about the fragility of the area;
  12. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 41st session in 2017.
Draft Decision: 39 COM 7B.32

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.59, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Commends the decision of the State Party to progress a bypass for National Highway 3 to the north of the property; however, notes that the four possible route options might pass through sensitive archaeological areas, and urges the State Party to undertake a detailed Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) in line with ICOMOS’ guidance on HIAs, including an assessment of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, as a means of exploring the optimum route and ways to mitigate impact, and to submit this HIA to the World Heritage Centre as soon as it is available;
  4. Also urges the State Party to identify options to rehabilitate the existing road through the property as a secondary road for local traffic to maintain adequate transport connections for local communities, to assess potential impacts on OUV, and to put in place measures to limit the use of this road by heavy traffic;
  5. Considers that both the road and the fibre optic projects increase the risk of poaching, which is the primary threat to natural values of the property, and further urges the State Party to address the lack of personnel in order to ensure adequate surveillance;
  6. Notes with concern that little progress has been made in increasing cultural heritage staff, and requests the State Party to provide training in cultural heritage management to existing staff, and to establish a detailed database and active protection of archaeological and other cultural sites;
  7. Urges furthermore the State Party to finalize and approve the 2013-2017 management plan and implement it as soon as possible, in particular its provisions related to staff structure;
  8. Also notes with concern that the economic situation at the property, which is marked by a rural exodus and a lack of jobs, is aggravating conflicts between the park and local communities, and encourages the State Party to develop a comprehensive economic development project for the property and its surroundings;
  9. Also requests the State Party to update wildlife monitoring data in order to assess current populations and trends of key species, and to better monitor and respond to the impacts from poaching;
  10. Also encourages the National Parks Agency (ANPN), in collaboration with the railway company, to urgently put in place a mechanism to prevent recurring train-wildlife accidents;
  11. Further requests the State Party to implement all the other recommendations of the 2015 mission, in particular:
    1. Implement the recommendations for the development of the engravings at the Doda Site and the eco-museum, and continue to reflect on the valorisation of other cultural sites,
    2. Undertake a mission to sites with rock engravings to examine any change and the conditions of their preservation,
    3. Put in place a mechanism to systematically control the movements of people and vehicles during the entire duration of the works on the optic fibre project, and foresee awareness raising session and communication sessions to raise the awareness of project staff about the fragility of the area;
  12. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 41st session in 2017.
Report year: 2015
Gabon
Date of Inscription: 2007
Category: Mixed
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(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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