1.         Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region (Albania,North Macedonia) (C/N 99quater)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (i)(iii)(iv)(vii)

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/99/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1986-2011)
Total amount approved: USD 20,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/99/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 20 000 (UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice)

Previous monitoring missions

September 1998: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN mission; December 2013: Joint ICOMOS/UNESCO Advisory mission; April 2017:  Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/99/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

On 14 March 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/99/documents and detailing progress in a number of conservation issues as follows:

The following additional information was provided to the World Heritage Centre in May 2017: An environmental analysis of the Lagadin Beach landscaping project, a draft version of the Tourism Development Strategy for Ohrid Municipality (both in Macedonian), a report from the Hydrobiological Institute outlining factors affecting the current situation of pollution and changes to the water level in Lake Ohrid and a number of inventories and maps prepared by the National Institution for the Protection of Monuments of Culture and Museum – Ohrid with cultural attributes located within the boundaries of the property.

From 9 to 14 April 2017, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property. The report is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/99/documents/.

The mission discussed with the authorities the overall state of conservation of the property and provided technical assistance on the scope and development of a SEA, which should comprehensively assess the potential individual and cumulative impacts of all above-mentioned projects on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies

Some useful steps have been undertaken by the State Party in implementing the 2016 Committee’s recommendations (preparation of the Draft Plan for Integrated Protection, establishment of the management committee), however, some important milestones are still pending such as the adoption of the revised Management Plan, pending the completion of a SEA, and the preparation of 19 detailed urban plans which were still at a preliminary stage at the time of the 2017 mission. As the Management Plan is not yet in force, several infrastructure and tourism facility projects have been approved or are being elaborated without a comprehensive, specific assessment of their cumulative impacts on the OUV of the property and its supporting attributes, and solid waste and waste water are still inadequately managed. A comprehensive SEA and Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for all these projects and plans was requested by the Committee in 2016 but is yet to be prepared. The State Party stated during the mission that this will be included in the SEA process of the Management Plan.

The mission expressed concern about increased traffic and tourism pressure and related inappropriate infrastructure projects, including the proposed development of the Galičica ski resort, and the incremental and uncoordinated urban developments. These pressures could deteriorate key attributes of the natural and cultural values of the property (such as the overall form of the monumental urban ensemble and the lake region’s biodiversity), if no immediate measures are taken. In addition, inadequate treatment of wastewater and solid waste may cause eutrophication and pollution, undermining the oligotrophic quality of the lake water, on which its outstanding biodiversity depends.

The mission also reviewed the railway construction project that connects Kičevo (outside of the property) with the Albanian border, and which has reached its executive phase, and concluded that it could be acceptable if the mission recommendations are fully implemented.

It should also be noted that some large-scale infrastructure projects, which are part of the Pan European Corridor VIII, have been developed and agreed upon with international entities (European Union). However, no early information was provided to the World Heritage Centre, as stipulated in Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, to allow for a preliminary assessment of the potential negative impacts on the property. Additionally, for the railway and road connection project within European Corridor VIII, although an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was elaborated, their potential negative impacts on OUV and related attributes were not specifically assessed.  

Taking into account that the World Heritage Committee, at its 38th session (Doha, 2014), urged the State Party to identify alternative routes that do not cross the property, the mission visited several locations and received information about the chosen location. While the construction of the railway that connects Kičevo (outside of the property) with the Albanian border passing through the property could be considered acceptable in principle, if properly planned and implemented with all the precautionary measures, the Mission recommended that the authorities submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, first, a comprehensive comparative study of alternative routes including those that do not pass in close vicinity of the lakeshore, and in particular avoiding one of the last well-preserved stretches of the lakeshore on the Albanian-Macedonian border.

The 2017 mission concluded that some of the proposals for large-scale infrastructure and construction projects, such as sub-sections (a) and (e) of the A3 road and the Galičica ski resort within the property could lead to irreversible changes to the property, in combination with the developments and transformations that have already occurred in the urban settlements and lakeshore since its inscription.

The mission strongly recommended to completely abandon the Galičica ski centre project, keep the internal national park zoning as is, and consider developing ecotourism options that would not negatively impact the property.

Therefore, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to halt the construction projects of the Galičica ski resort, as well as the sub-sections (a) and (e) of the A3 road.

It is also recommended that the Committee reminds the State Party that all projects including those submitted to major donors such as the European Union which may have potential negative impacts on the OUV of the property, should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

Considering the level of threats to the property, the mission identified a set of recommendations, some of which need to be prioritized and fulfilled over the next two years, in addition to those adopted in 2016 that still need to be fulfilled. The findings of the mission suggest that the overall state of conservation can be considered as vulnerable, and if the priority recommendations are not implemented within the suggested two-year timeframe (i.e. in 2019), the property may meet the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2018, a progress report on the implementation of these priority recommendations for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies. If in their assessment insufficient progress is being made, the property will be examined by the Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.34

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.68, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Notes with appreciation the steps taken by the State Party in relation to:
    1. The finalization process of the Management Plan for the property, and the preparation of the Draft Plan of Integrated Protection for the Old Town Nucleus of Ohrid,
    2. The establishment of the management committee to coordinate natural and cultural heritage activities, as a management structure to control development pressures and interventions at the property,
    3. The development of detailed urban plans for each of the 19 complexes, which are part of the monumental ensemble, in line with the existing regulatory framework, to ensure the enforcement of provisions and the control of activities that might impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  4. Reiterates the request to the State Party to develop a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) that comprehensively assess the cumulative impacts of all infrastructure and development plans and other major projects on the property’s OUV based on the recommendations and advice provided by the 2017 mission, as well as any necessary Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA), and to submit them to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, before any further work is undertaken;
  5. Requests the State Party to halt the construction projects of the sub-sections (a) and (e) of the A3 road and the Galičica ski resort within the property, which may have negative impacts on its OUV;
  6. Also requests the State Party to urgently undertake a comprehensive comparative study of alternative routes for the railway of the Pan European Corridor VIII, including those that do not pass in close vicinity of the lakeshore, and in particular avoiding one of the last well-preserved stretches of the lakeshore on the Albanian-Macedonian border;
  7. Further requests the State Party to fully implement all the recommendations of the 2017 mission;
  8. Encourages the States Parties of Albania and of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with the support of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to continue to cooperate in the framework of the Upstream Process towards the preparation of a transboundary extension of the property to include the Albanian part of Lake Ohrid, in order to strengthen the protection of the OUV of the property, including its conditions of integrity;
  9. Considers that the overall state of conservation of the property is increasingly vulnerable, and if the priority recommendations are not implemented within the two-year timeframe (i.e. in 2019) suggested by the mission, the property may face potential danger, in line with paragraphs 179-180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, a progress report on the implementation of the above for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and if in their assessment insufficient progress is being made, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit, 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.