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Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas

China
Factors affecting the property in 2017*
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Mining
  • Water infrastructure
  • Other Threats:

    Apparent decline in wildlife populations

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Apparent decline in wildlife populations
  • Water infrastructure (Major dams and related infrastructure)
  • Mining
  • Management systems/management plan (Inadequate management planning, including tourism planning; Unclear property boundaries)
  • Illegal activities (issue resolved)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2017
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2017**

April 2006 UNESCO/IUCN joint Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2013 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

On 3 December 2016, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1083/documents and includes a discussion of rural poverty as a fundamental challenge underlying conservation challenges.

Acknowledging that local livelihoods have been affected by conservation, the coincidence of protected areas and local communities is suggested as a “contradiction”. Laws and regulations are offered as the primary means to limit economic activities in an effort to minimize harm to the natural values in the property and its buffer zones, jointly referred to as “commitment area”. Development outside is allowed as long as it does not affect the “relative integrity” of the property.

The State Party also states its intention of moving towards a more meaningful consideration of a broader range of stakeholders, including additional governmental levels and agencies, non-governmental organizations, local communities and the private sector.

Furthermore, the report responds to Committee Decision 39 COM 7B.9 (Bonn, 2015), as summarized hereafter:

  • Significant investments since inscription are highlighted and the strong commitment to the property is reaffirmed;
  • Legal mining is categorically excluded in the “commitment area” according to national and provincial legislation, including specific subnational regulations for the property, and said to not occur anymore. Strict management measures are reported to apply elsewhere;
  • Hydropower development and associated infrastructure, including the West-East Electricity Transfer Project (WEETP) are reported to not have any direct impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) due to their physical location outside of the “commitment area”. It is further stated that all works require previous approval of applicable Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA);
  • Stressing the unusual scale, complexity and limited experience, preliminary achievements are reported as regards the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) at the level of Yunnan Province;
  • Stressing the extraordinary biodiversity importance of the property, the need for better wildlife protection is recognized and a combination of law enforcement, research and monitoring is stated to have resulted in “obvious achievements”;
  • The State Party endorses the necessity of a systematic approach to an encompassing Management Effectiveness Assessment, requiring refinement of the legal, policy and management frameworks; multiple activities at various governmental levels are reported to this effect.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2017

The recognition of linkages between poverty, development and nature conservation is welcomed, while noting that a spatial separation of conservation and development is increasingly regarded as simplistic, and that effective conservation requires the best possible realization of the social and economic benefits of protected areas sustaining development and the integration of conservation into wider development planning.

Pressure on the property primarily stems from infrastructure development. Spatially separating conservation and development is not, in and of itself, an effective strategy to “harmonize the coexistence and relationship between development and the nature”, as the State Party puts it in one of its fundamental objectives. The highly significant modification of the river systems, which gave the property its name, amounts to a profound landscape change, with additional threats from large-scale water diversion programmes. While the projects may be located outside of the “commitment area”, the effects of disturbance, loss of connectivity, improved road access facilitating illicit activities and species invasions inevitably accompany large infrastructure projects beyond their spatial footprint. Besides, there are linkages between freshwater biodiversity and processes affected by dams and terrestrial ecosystems. Although located outside the property, the massive hydropower projects and the associated infrastructure objectively change the natural beauty and aesthetic importance of the valleys and their numerous important views, which contribute to the property’s OUV under criterion (vii), and cannot be restricted to selected elements of a landscape. Therefore, the visual impact of these infrastructure projects is considered to exert a direct negative impact on the OUV. 

Given the serial nature of the property, considerations beyond individual protected areas are particularly pertinent. An increasingly comprehensive consideration of the linkages between conservation and development is recommended and the related broadening of stakeholder involvement is most welcome.

The reaffirmation of the State Party’s commitment to consider the property and its buffer zones off limits with regard to mining is welcomed, as are the State Party’s rigorous efforts to close illegal mining operations. In line with Decision 37 COM 7B.12 (Phnom Penh, 2013), it is encouraged that any mineral exploration and extraction that would impact the OUV of the property is explicitly included in this commitment. Given past challenges with illegal mining, comprehensive monitoring and law enforcement responses, as required, are strongly encouraged.

Wildlife monitoring and protection efforts are noted, although they focus on selected wildlife species in selected areas, rather than on biodiversity at the scale of the property. As for the requested management effectiveness assessment, the State Party mostly refers to management planning activities, which do not amount to a comprehensive approach at this stage. Despite laudable signs of progress, the same holds true for the requested SEA. While fully acknowledging the scale of the challenges and investment needed, further strengthening of all related efforts is strongly recommended, including as regards tourism planning.

Even though no specific information was provided concerning the implementation of the recommendations of the 2013 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission, the State Party’s considerable efforts to translate a strong commitment into effective conservation and management on the ground in a large and complex serial property are acknowledged. Reconciling conservation and development according to the national, provincial and local circumstances is a long-term task and the World Heritage Centre and IUCN continue to stand ready support the State Party as desired.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2017
41 COM 7B.27
Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (China) (N 1083bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.9, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Notes with appreciation the State Party’s reaffirmation of its commitment to consider the property and its buffer zone off limits with regard to mining and the closure of mining operations incompatible with this commitment, and encourages the State Party to expand its commitment so as to explicitly encompass any mineral exploration and extraction that would impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and to rehabilitate all closed mines within the property and its buffer zones;
  4. Welcomes the progress achieved so far with the development and conduct of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), and also encourages the State Party to consolidate and broaden these efforts and to seek advice from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, as required;
  5. Commends the State Party on the conceptual recognition of poverty-environment linkages and its intentions of broadening stakeholder involvement, and further encourages the State Party to integrate the conservation of the property into wider development planning;
  6. Reiterates its concern that the information provided on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) continues to be incompatible with the scale and complexity of the planned hydropower development that may affect the property, in particular given that additional pressure is likely to result from planned water diversion programmes;
  7. Notes with concern that the increasing visual transformation of all three river valleys and the impacts of the hydropower and related infrastructure projects on connectivity between component parts of the property are likely to have a direct negative impact on the property’s OUV;
  8. Also reiterates its concern about the limited progress achieved with the implementation of all the recommendations of the 2013 mission, and urges again the State Party to strengthen its efforts in that regard, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre, IUCN and other partners as appropriate;
  9. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, an 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 43rd session in 2019.
Draft Decision: 41 COM 7B.27

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.9, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Notes with appreciation the State Party’s reaffirmation of its commitment to consider the property and its buffer zone off limits with regard to mining and the closure of mining operations incompatible with this commitment, and encourages the State Party to expand its commitment so as to explicitly encompass any mineral exploration and extraction that would impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and to rehabilitate all closed mines within the property and its buffer zones;
  4. Welcomes the progress achieved so far with the development and conduct of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), and also encourages the State Party to consolidate and broaden these efforts and to seek advice from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, as required;
  5. Commends the State Party on the conceptual recognition of poverty-environment linkages and its intentions of broadening stakeholder involvement, and further encourages the State Party to integrate the conservation of the property into wider development planning;
  6. Reiterates its concern that the information provided on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) continues to be incompatible with the scale and complexity of the planned hydropower development that may affect the property, in particular given that additional pressure is likely to result from planned water diversion programmes;
  7. Notes with concern that the increasing visual transformation of all three river valleys and the impacts of the hydropower and related infrastructure projects on connectivity between component parts of the property are likely to have a direct negative impact on the property’s OUV;
  8. Also reiterates its concern about the limited progress achieved with the implementation of all the recommendations of the 2013 mission, and urges again the State Party to strengthen its efforts in that regard, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre, IUCN and other partners as appropriate;
  9. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, an 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 43rd session in 2019.
Report year: 2017
China
Date of Inscription: 2003
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2016) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 41COM (2017)
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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