Rwenzori Mountains National Park (Uganda) (N 684)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1994
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 116,739
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
January 2003: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Staffing and budgetary deficiencies (issue resolved)
- Degradation of buffer zone (issue resolved)
- Climate change
- Management systems/ management plan
- Impacts of tourism
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018
On 3 December 201, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/documents, which reports the following:
- A chimpanzee survey in the property was conducted in 2016, which estimated a population size of 231 individuals. An elephant census is anticipated for 2019/2020 subject to availability of funds;
- No mineral exploration or mining exists within the property, and any future proposals will undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA);
- A new General Management Plan for the property has been in place since 2016;
- Insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has not allowed for coordinated patrols between the States Parties, but the State Party of Uganda has been undertaking patrols along the border with the army and the police;
- In October 2015, the States Parties of DRC, Rwanda and Uganda signed a Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration Treaty on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Development (GVTCT) to coordinate the conservation of biodiversity and to develop tourism in the Greater Virunga Landscape, in which the property is located;
- The 2013-2018 sustainable financing project is underway, and the Rwenzori Landscape Marketing Strategy has been developed to further increase the number of visitors through proposals to develop new trails, mountain huts, visitor centres, a cable car, and to habituate chimpanzees;
- Two hydropower projects – Sindila (5MW) and Nyamwamba (9.2MW) – located outside of the property are at advanced stages of construction, and potential impacts on the property are being closely monitored;
- Other ongoing efforts by the State Party include: review of the Uganda Wildlife Act, staff training and provision of equipment, enforcement of tourism infrastructure, livelihood and community engagement projects, habitat and infrastructure restoration of flood-hit areas, activities to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, notably crop-raiding, and monitoring of climate change impacts.
On 12 December 2017, the State Party reported that it has cancelled the license that had been awarded to Tibet Hima Limited for the proposed exploration and mining of copper at Kilembe Mine.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The increased transboundary cooperation between the three States Parties of Uganda, DRC, and Rwanda through GVTCT is appreciated. Continued insecurity in DRC has precluded the organization of coordinated patrols along the DRC/Uganda border, which is of concern, but the GVTCT could nevertheless provide a mechanism to strengthen their collaboration.
It is noted that the Kilembe Mine license has been cancelled, which is positive, considering that its subterranean mining shafts could have extended underneath the property, possibly contaminating water downstream, thereby posing a risk to Virunga National Park World Heritage property in DRC. It is recommended that the World Heritage Centre be kept informed of any new developments with regards to the mine. The two new hydropower projects are located in the downstream foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains outside of the property. According to the reports published through the GET FiT Uganda Programme, which oversees the work, both projects are of run-of-river hydroelectricity design without associated water storage, and hence environmental impacts are likely to be small. Nevertheless, close monitoring during the construction and operational phases are considered necessary, and it is recommended that the World Heritage Centre be kept informed of these developments.
The finalization and implementation of the 2016-2026 General Management Plan, as well as the overall investments made by the State Party with its partners in improving the management and conservation of the property are appreciated. However, the plan to construct a cable car inside the property is of concern as it could have a negative visual impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property as recognized under criterion (vii), as well as criterion (x) through the potential ecological impacts of construction works. It is recommended that the project’s pre-feasibility report be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and that an EIA be undertaken on the potential impacts of the project on the property in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment before any decision is taken.
Although the 2016 chimpanzee census is appreciated in principle, it is regrettable that the census used direct chimpanzee sighting, rather than the standard line transects using nest counts as per the 2011 census. The data are therefore uncomparable, and another census should be undertaken to assess the population status. It is critical to emphasize that all future chimpanzee population censuses must use the line transect methodology, unless a population has been habituated, to ensure data are comparable across the years. Monitoring of other key large mammal species in the property has not yet been undertaken, and hence the State Party should be encouraged to secure funding to undertake a census of elephants in 2019/2020 as planned.
An increasing number of projects and initiatives are being undertaken and planned within and close to the property, with potential impacts on the property. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the state of conservation of the property, including the threat arising from the various tourism-related and other development projects on the OUV of the property, and to provide recommendations for its effective conservation and management.
Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.95
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.82 adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
- Appreciates the signing of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration Treaty on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Development (GVTCT) by the States Parties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda, in order to coordinate biodiversity conservation and tourism development in the Greater Virunga Landscape, and encourages the States Parties of DRC and Uganda to continue to strengthen their collaboration in organizing coordinated patrols along the international border between the property and Virunga National Park World Heritage property in DRC;
- Notes that the State Party cancelled the license that had been awarded to Tibet Hima Limited to reopen the Kilembe copper mine with potential impact on the property and Virunga National Park in DRC, downstream from the mine’s proposed location, and requests the State Party to inform the World Heritage Centre of any new developments with regards to the mine;
- Appreciates the finalization of the 2016-2026 General Management Plan and overall investments made by the State Party with its partners in improving the management and conservation of the property;
- Also welcomes the State Party’s efforts to undertake the 2016 chimpanzee census, but also notes that the 2016 data are not comparable with the previous 2011 data due to the use of different methodologies, and therefore urges the State Party to ensure that all future chimpanzee censuses adopt the standard line transect methodology using nest counts;
- Expresses its concern on the proposed cable car project inside the property, which could impact its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and also urges the State Party to submit the cable car pre-feasibility report to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN before any decision is taken, and to ensure that an Environmental Impact Assessment is undertaken in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, including a specific assessment of impacts on the OUV of the property;
- Further notes the two run-of-river hydropower projects (Sindila and Nyamwamba) located outside of the property, which are at advanced stages of construction, and also requests the State Party to closely monitor potential impacts on the property and keep the World Heritage Centre updated on these developments;
- Also encourages the State Party to secure the necessary funding to undertake the elephant census anticipated in 2019/2020, and to assess the population trends for other key large mammal species in the property;
- Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the state of conservation of the property, including the threat arising from the various tourism-related and other development projects on the OUV of the property, and to provide recommendations for its effective conservation and management;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, 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 44th session in 2020.