1.         Lower Valley of the Omo (Ethiopia) (C 17)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

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/17/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1996-2015)
Total amount approved: USD 17,018
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/17/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: 400,000 euros from European Union (project launched in 2016)

Previous monitoring missions

April 2015: Joint UNESCO/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/17/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

On 26 January 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/17/documents and responds to some of the recommendations of the Committee at its last session and of the April 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission. It includes the following:

On 2 October 2017, the States Parties of Kenya and Ethiopia submitted a report on their bilateral talks on conservation of Lake Turkana National Parks World Heritage property in Kenya, and on 26 January 2017 the Terms of Reference for the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to address the cumulative impacts of developments within the Lake Turkana Basin.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

Although repeatedly requested by the Committee in 2014 and 2016, full details of the Kuraz sugar development project, including precise locations of the five sugar processing plants, the sugar plantations, the 1,000 km of canals and drainage canals, the four towns and 40 villages and the road network that will service this major industrial centre, are still to be provided.  Similarly, no information is provided on the relocation of pastoral communities, resulting from the Kuraz project, and which could change the landscape of the property. The project is now under way with one factory almost completed and with permission given for extensive development of sugar plantations.

It is of utmost concern that the project is advancing without sufficiently documenting the property as regards the known fossil-bearing outcrops and potential areas of archaeological importance, and without assessing the potential impacts of road networks, settlements and changes in water table and grazing patterns. Furthermore, the potential impacts of soil salinization and possible changes in river levels have so far not been considered.

The TOR to improve the HIA of the Kuraz project have been provided, but these do not currently address the main purpose of the HIA, which is to assess impacts on the attributes of the OUV, nor do they conform to the ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties. The HIA process can only be adequately carried out if full details of the Kuraz project are made available, if the boundaries of the property are adequately delineated and if the attributes of OUV are clearly defined.

Although requested by the Committee since 2012, little progress has been made on the SEA to assess the potential cumulative impacts of the Kuraz project and other major development projects in Ethiopia and Kenya. A joint report on bilateral talks between Ethiopia and Kenya and the draft ToR for the SEA focus only on protecting the OUV of Lake Turkana National Parks, rather than also considering impact on the OUV of the Lower Valley of the Omo. This appears to be contrary to the intentions of Decision 36 COM 7B.3, which requested assessment of cumulative impacts on the Lake Turkana basin where both properties are located, and Decision 40 COM 7B.80, which requested that the SEA identifies mitigation measures and the least damaging and most sustainable alternatives for all developments impacting on the basin. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 7B.4 and 40 COM 7B.80 in which the Committee requested a SEA to be submitted by 1 February 2018, the lack of progress, whilst project developments continue, is deeply concerning.

It is positive that two consultants started work on a baseline survey in 2016 under the three-year EU funded project. There is a clear need to prioritize the work on clarification and delineation of boundaries as the outcomes of that work are crucial to underpin both the HIA of the Kuraz project and the management plan of the property. Therefore, the timeframe for the completion of the boundary work, which is currently not set out, should be agreed upon as soon as possible.

Overall, given the large scale and scope of the Kuraz project, there remains an urgent need to clarify its extent, including associated infrastructure and the indirect as well as direct impacts it may have on the property, in order to understand how it can move forward in a way that recognizes and supports the OUV of the property as well as respects the needs of local communities. Until such adequate details have been provided to address these issues and a structure has been put in place relating to boundaries, protection and management, the property remains at considerable potential threat, as explained in the 2015 mission report.

In light of the above, it is recommended that the Committee welcome the launching of the EU project, which provides an opportunity to address many outstanding issues, but express its concern about the lack of sufficient documentation regarding the Kuraz project and the limited progress in the SEA, placing the property under considerable threat.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.68

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 7B.39 and 40 COM 7B.11 adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) sessions respectively,
  3. Reiterates its request to the State Party to provide adequate details of the Ethiopian Sugar Development Corporation Project (Kuraz project), including clear and precise information on its scope and location as well as information on the relocation of pastoral communities, in relation to the property as a matter of urgency and by 1 December 2017, as requested by the Committee at its 38th and 40th sessions, respectively in 2014 and 2016;
  4. Whilst welcoming the commencement of the EU-funded project that will address tourism development, property boundaries, legal protection and management, including risk preparedness and community involvement, urges the State Party to give priority to delineating boundaries as the outcomes of this work are needed to underpin the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the Kuraz project and the Management Plan, and to agree as soon as possible on a timeframe for the completion of the boundary work;
  5. Notes the late submission of the HIA of the Kuraz project and request the State Party to liaise with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in its review to ensure that the HIA is compatible with accepted international standards and with the ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties, and that the HIA is based on defined property boundaries and on clear and adequate and detailed information concerning the Kuraz project;
  6. Also noting the scale of the ongoing Kuraz project, its potential direct and indirect impacts on the property, reiterates its request to the State Party to finalize and submit the EIA on the Kuraz project;
  7. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 42nd session in 2018.