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Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

Costa Rica, Panama
Factors affecting the property in 2016*
  • 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 2016

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

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2016
Requests approved: 9 (from 1982-1997)
Total amount approved : 276,350 USD
Missions to the property until 2016**

February 2008: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; December 2011: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; January 2013: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; January 2016: IUCN Reactive Monitoring Mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 3 February 2016, a joint report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Parties of Costa Rica and Panama. In January 2016, a Reactive Monitoring mission to the property took place. Both reports are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/205/documents

The following information is provided in the joint report submitted by the two States Parties:

  • A new Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process for the property was initiated in Panama and will be undertaken in 2016. Options for applying the SEA at the bi-national level are currently under discussion with the State Party of Costa Rica;
  • The scale of impacts on freshwater biodiversity in at least two basins caused by the two already completed hydropower dams in Panama located in the vicinity of the property (Bonyic and Chan 75) need to be assessed through more long-term monitoring. A system is in place to monitor potentially affected freshwater fauna and mitigation measures have been developed for affected fish species at the dams in operation;
  • Social conflicts are reported to be resolved through meetings with the Commission of Naso peoples and with the communities affected by the CHAN75 dam;
  • A compensation plan and involuntary resettlement plan have been prepared for two indigenous communities who will be affected by the construction of the new dam Changuinola II (also referred to as CHAN140) located downstream from the property in the Palo Seco Protected Forest. Although the new hydropower plant is located outside the boundaries of the property, the States Parties note that it will result both in cumulative impacts on aquatic fauna and impacts on terrestrial areas;
  • In Costa Rica, measures have been undertaken to address the issue of cultivation of illegal crops within the property;
  • Other threats (mining, roads, agriculture) have not further increased;
  • The trans-boundary collaboration has improved; annual meetings of the Bi-national Executing Technical Unit for the management of La Amistad International Park (UTEB-PILA) have been resumed and there are frequent joint patrols in the property. In Costa Rica integration of the management plans of protected areas that make up the property is ongoing;
  • Staffing and budgets of the protected areas composing the property remain insufficient.

On 12 April 2016, the State Party of Panama submitted additional information, including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Improvement Plan for Changuinola II from 2014 and the report on baseline assessment of biodiversity and water quality in the area, which would be affected by its construction.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2016

The information provided by the State Parties that several factors affecting the property (agriculture, road construction, mining) have not further increased and that transboundary collaboration has improved is welcomed. Nevertheless, the management of the different protected areas that compose the property has not improved as well as the continued understaffing and underfinancing of its management authorities. Reports of increased cultivation of illegal crops in the Costa Rican part of the property cause serious concern: although affecting small areas within the property, it has direct implications for the security of inhabitants and rangers.

The fact that hydropower development has continued in the immediate vicinity of the property in Panama, while no comprehensive SEA for the property has been conducted, raises serious concerns. By Decision 39 COM 7B.28, the Committee noted 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”. The current preparation for the construction of a new hydropower dam on the Changuinola River (Changuinola II/CHAN140), close to the property's boundaries, clearly represents such development of new hydropower projects.

The reactive monitoring mission noted that the Ministry of the Environment had commissioned the development of an SEA for the Panamanian part of the property, which the mission noted has a good initial design, targets the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and is coordinated by a team of internationally renowned experts. However, the decision to build the Changuinola II/CHAN140 dam has already been taken and preparatory measures have been put in place, including resettlement arrangements for local communities that would be affected. The mission also noted that the construction of CHAN140 is scheduled to begin in mid-2016. Therefore, the completion and approval of the SEA before the start of construction of CHAN140 is highly unlikely. It is therefore recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party of Panama to halt the Changuinola II/CHAN140 project and any other ongoing hydropower projects in order to allow for the results of the SEA to be considered in these projects.

Both the mission and the States Parties further confirm that the hydropower dams already in operation have caused some localized irreversible damage to freshwater biodiversity, and concluded that damming and flooding of an additional area of the Changuinola River would have cumulative impacts on freshwater biodiversity.  

In line with the findings of the mission, it is considered that due to the fact that hydropower project development has continued, with a new dam having been approved while no comprehensive SEA has been conducted, the current and potential cumulative impacts of on-going development of hydroelectric power plants represent both an ascertained and a potential danger, respectively, to the OUV of the property in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. It is therefore recommended that the World Heritage Committee inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and request the State Party of Panama to implement the corrective measures recommended by the mission.  

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2016
40 COM 7B.72
Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park (Costa Rica/Panama) (N 205bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.28, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Commends the States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama for the progress achieved in strengthening transboundary cooperation and stabilizing the threats to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) originating from agricultural encroachment and cattle grazing, as well as potential road construction and mining development;
  4. Notes with concern the cultivation of illegal crops in the Costa Rican part of the property and its implications for the security situation and requests the State Party of Costa Rica to continue its efforts in addressing this issue;
  5. Deeply regrets that, despite the Committee’s previous decisions, a new hydropower project on the Changuinola river (Changuinola II or CHAN 140) has been approved and preparatory measures have already been undertaken, without prior finalization of the requested Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the entire property;
  6. Reiterates its position that any development of new hydropower projects prior to the finalization and adequate review of the SEA for the entire property would lead to its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  7. Noting the commencement of the SEA process for the property by the State Party of Panama and the commitment by the State Party of Costa Rica to potentially extend it to the entire transboundary property in line with national procedural standards and international best practice, including the IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment,  also requests both States Parties to submit the final joint version of the SEA to the World Heritage Centre for evaluation by IUCN;
  8. Taking into consideration the commitment expressed by the State Party of Panama to implement the recommendations made by the 2016 Reactive Monitoring mission and in particular to use the results of the SEA as guidelines for the planning and operation of any new large-scale infrastructure development projects in and around the property, including the recently approved CHAN 140 hydropower project, notes that a number of further additional steps will be required, as outlined in the SEA document, including preparation by 2018 of a comprehensive assessment of cumulative impacts;
  9. Further requests the two States Parties to develop appropriate mechanisms in order to fulfil their commitments and to avoid and mitigate any impact on the property OUV and to submit to the World Heritage Centre additional information on concrete actions that will be proposed in this regard;
  10. Also takes note of the commitment expressed by the State Party of Panama to renegotiate the concession contract with Hydroelectric Hidroecológica del Teribe S.A. (Bonyic) in order to comply with the results of the SEA, including by implementing the agreements achieved with the indigenous communities in the framework of the development of the SEA;
  11. Requests furthermore the State Party of Panama, in consultation with the State Party of Costa Rica, to develop a long-term biological monitoring program to implement mitigation measures that minimize the negative impacts caused by both hydroelectric projects on the freshwater biodiversity of the Changuinola and Bonyic rivers;
  12. Requests moreover the States Parties to implement all other recommendations made by the 2016 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  13. Finally requests the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, a joint updated report 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, with a view to considering, in the absence of significant progress in the implementation of these recommendations, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Draft Decision: 40 COM 7B.72

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.28, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Commends the States Parties of Costa Rica and Panama for the progress achieved in strengthening transboundary cooperation and stabilizing the threats to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) originating from agricultural encroachment and cattle grazing, as well as potential road construction and mining development;
  4. Notes with concern the increasing cultivation of illegal crops in the Costa Rican part of the property and its implications for the security situation and requests the State Party of Costa Rica to continue its efforts in addressing this issue;
  5. Notes the initiation of a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the property by the State Party of Panama and the bi-national discussions with the State Party of Costa Rica on potentially extending it to the entire transboundary property, but deeply regrets that, despite the Committee’s previous decisions, a new hydropower project on the Changuinola river (Changuinola II or CHAN 140) has been approved and preparatory measures have already been undertaken, without prior finalization of such an SEA;
  6. Reiterating its position 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, considers that the current and potential cumulative impacts of on-going development of hydroelectric power plants in the continued absence of an SEA represent both an ascertained and a potential danger, respectively, to the OUV of the property in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Decides to inscribe Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves/La Amistad National Park (Costa Rica, Panama) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  8. Also requests the State Party of Panama to implement, within one year, the following corrective measures:
    1. In consultation with the State Party of Costa Rica, finalize the SEA for the property, in line with national procedural standards and international best practice, including the IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and guaranteeing the participation of indigenous communities having (recognized or customary) territorial rights in and around the property,
    2. Ensure, through the development of appropriate mechanisms, that the results of the SEA are used to guide the planning and operation of any new large-scale infrastructure development project in and around the property and halt any ongoing projects, including the recently approved CHAN 140 hydropower project, to allow the results of the SEA to be considered in these projects;
  9. Further requests the States Parties to implement all other recommendations made by the 2016 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  10. Requests furthermore the States Parties, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, to develop a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), for adoption by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017;
  11. Finally requests the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, a joint updated report 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: 2016
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 (2016) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 40COM (2016)
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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