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Lake Malawi National Park (Malawi) (N 289)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1984
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/289/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 147,423
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: USD 50,000 in 2015 through the UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism programme (Flanders Funds-in-Trust)
Previous monitoring missions
March/April 2014: joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
- Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
- Illegal activities
- Invasive / alien freshwater species
- Management systems/ management plan
- Surface water pollution
- Oil and gas exploration/exploitation
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018
On 2 March 2017, the State Party submitted a progress report and on 3 April 2018 an updated report on the state of conservation of the property; both reports are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/289/documents/, and provide the following information:
- A technical team is considering the options and risks of oil exploration techniques;
- The property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) is maintained, and the policy framework for protection is strong, but there are a number of challenges, including illegal use of natural resources, a fast-growing human population outside the property, lack of a buffer zone, limited equipment to ensure systematic monitoring and research, risk of inappropriate tourism developments, commercial fishing and fish farming, overfishing, fish trade for aquariums, tourism-related and household waste and pollution, deforestation, land degradation, erosion and siltation in the catchment area, and lack of resources to ensure effective management;
- Vegetation is being cleared under a power line passing through the property;
- A water supply tank has been constructed inside the property;
- Enclave settlements in the property continue to expand and are now believed to include 25 000 inhabitants;
- The demarcation of the property’s terrestrial boundary was completed and is ongoing for the aquatic zone;
- Patrol efforts and equipment have been improved, fishing restrictions have been enforced and illegal fishing settlements have been removed from the property;
- An ecological monitoring protocol for the property is being established to support management;
- 25% of the revenue collected by the national park is shared with the local communities, who also participate in monitoring resource use;
- A sustainable tourism strategy has been adopted and is being implemented;
- An international expert contracted by UNESCO visited Malawi in March 2018 to support the on-going International Assistance project to update the property’s management plan and establish the fish monitoring protocol.
On 10 August 2017, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party in response to the progress report, and encouraged it to pursue close dialogue with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, particularly on the possible oil exploration activities.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The conservation efforts that are underway, notably to demarcate the property’s boundaries, improve monitoring, enforce fishing restrictions and support local communities, are welcomed. The State Party’s assurance that the property’s OUV is maintained and that the policy framework for protection is strong is also acknowledged. However, the State Party provides very limited information on how the major conservation concerns outlined in the report are being addressed. It is also unclear whether the overhead power line is a new construction within the property. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to provide up-to-date monitoring data and detailed information on management activities and any recent and planned constructions, including copies of their Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN in order to enable an informed assessment of the property’s current state of conservation.
The International Assistance project to update the property’s management plan provides an important opportunity to identify and reinforce the required management responses to known threats. The project also supports the establishment of a comprehensive fish monitoring protocol, which is a welcome initiative, and continued close cooperation between the park, communities, and the competent research and government institutions should be secured to ensure its effective implementation.
The potential impact of the growing resident population inside the property is a matter of increasing concern, and the State Party should develop strategies on how to address this issue as part of its reflections on developing the management plan.
As the State Party has noted, the absence of a buffer zone and the small size of the property hinder effective conservation. In line with the 2014 mission recommendations, the State Party should examine, in consultation with the States Parties of Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania, the feasibility of establishing a buffer zone and extending the boundaries of the property, particularly within the aquatic zone.
While noting the State Party’s request to liaise with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN regarding the technical options for oil exploration in the lake, it is regrettable that no update is provided on the status of the oil exploration permits and on the activities carried out to date by the companies involved. The Committee has repeatedly expressed its concern over the oil exploration activities in Lake Malawi, which pose a potentially severe threat to the OUV of the property, including its conditions of integrity, and called on Surestream and RAKGAS, which have been granted oil exploration concessions on the lake, to make a commitment to neither exploit nor explore for oil or gas in World Heritage properties. All development projects, including for oil exploration, infrastructure and tourism, which could have a potential impact on the property’s OUV should be subject to an EIA, conducted in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN, prior to any decisions being made that would be difficult to reverse. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are prepared to provide, through their respective networks, technical assistance to the State Party in undertaking such EIAs if such assistance is requested.
Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.93
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7B.92 and 40 COM 7B.81, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014) and 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) sessions respectively,
- While welcoming the State Party’s efforts for the property’s conservation and the implementation of the 2014 mission recommendations and acknowledging the State Party’s assurance that the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) is maintained and that the policy framework for protection is strong, requests the State Party to provide up-to-date monitoring data and detailed information on management activities and any recent and planned constructions, including clarification regarding whether or not the overhead power line is a new construction, in order to enable an informed assessment of the property’s current state of conservation;
- Welcomes the progress to update the property’s management plan and to establish a fish monitoring protocol with support from the World Heritage Fund, and also requests the State Party to take this opportunity to identify and reinforce the required management responses to the various threats faced by the property, including the growing population pressure inside the property, and to ensure continued close cooperation between the park, communities, and the competent research and government institutions;
- Further requests the State Party to examine, in consultation with the States Parties of Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania, the feasibility of establishing a buffer zone and extending the boundaries of the property to strengthen its integrity;
- Reiterating its position that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, reiterates its utmost concern over oil exploration activities in the lake, which pose a potentially severe risk to the OUV of the property including its conditions of integrity, and urges the State Party to confirm by 1 February 2019 the status of any oil exploration permits and activities, and reiterates its call on the companies Surestream and RAKGAS, which have been granted oil exploration concessions on the lake, to make a commitment to neither exploit nor explore for oil or gas in World Heritage properties;
- Reiterates its request to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, on all development projects, including for oil exploration outside the property’s boundaries and any infrastructure and tourism developments that may impact on the property’s OUV, and submit them to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN as soon as available, and prior to making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, a report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.