Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (China) (N 640)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1992
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/640/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 60,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/640/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
September 1998: World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Air pollution
- Ground transport infrastructure
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Surface water pollution
- Site to be overrun with tourist facilities (issue resolved)
- Several parts of the site severely impacted by floods in 1998 (issue resolved)
- Plan for rehabilitation of damaged areas required (issue resolved)
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/640/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 29 November 2018, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, a summary of which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/640/documents/ and reports the following progress:
- In 2016, the Work Plan of Zhangjiajie City for implementing the Committee Decision 39 COM 7B.10 was issued;
- Pollution impacts continue to be managed through rural waste management systems, and a number of measures are implemented to prevent and control pollution as well as strengthened air and water quality monitoring;
- The third demolition phase of illegally constructed tourist facilities (2015 to 2018) resulted in the demolition of 233 illegal and unauthorised buildings in the property and buffer zone by 2017. Relocation of local residents from Tianzishan and Yuanjiajie into the buffer zone included public consultation and a remediation and resettlement plan to encourage voluntary relocation. Efforts are made to safeguard traditional cultures of those who are relocated;
- Operators of the cable car, elevator and electric railway were urged to minimize their negative impact on the property's Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), addressing the environmental impact of operations and annual World Heritage training for staff. No similar infrastructure has been developed in the property;
- Road development projects within and outside the property are developed in line with ‘top-level design’, with strict controls on approval. Any project that may have a serious negative impact on the property is to be rejected;
- The State Party confirmed its overall commitment to notifying the World Heritage Centre of any new development, in line with Paragraph 172 the Operational Guidelines;
- The State Party did not submit the Overall Plan of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (2005-2020) for review, as requested by the Committee, noting that the Plan is in its final two years of implementation and hence currently undergoing a national review. The new Plan will be submitted for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN when completed, in 2020;
- Visitation continues to increase (from 3.8 million persons in 2015 to over 4 million in 2017). An annual tourist management limit set at 5.56 million people will be revised with the review of the Plan;
- Measures to strengthen sustainable tourism include developing the Strategy for Sustainable Development of Tourism for Wulingyuan with a central focus on the property’s OUV, and inclusion of the property as a pilot site of a 2016-2020 UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism project implemented by the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region (WHITR-AP).
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The State Party’s continued implementation of new measures to manage impacts from pollution and to remove illegal tourist facilities and buildings from within the property and its buffer zone is welcomed. The inclusion of an environmental awareness campaign, revised Management Plans, strict controls on project approval with environmental protection requirements and multi-government compliance mechanisms to address violations are also welcome measures.
It is positive that measures have been implemented to minimise the impact of the existing tourism infrastructure within the property (i.e. cable car, elevator, electric railway), and that no similar projects have been constructed or are planned. However, it appears that certain projects considered as “conducive to the protection of the property” and “required to be built” may have been approved if they strictly abided by the relevant regulations for the protection of the property. No information regarding the type and scope of these projects has been provided. Furthermore, although the State Party reports that no new roads have been constructed within the property, it is concerning that new road developments are still reportedly approved to continue, despite the Committee’s request.
It is regrettable that the State Party has not submitted the Overall Plan of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (2005-2020) following the Committee’s 2015 request. Acknowledging that the Plan is currently undergoing national review, and given the State Party’s intention to submit the new Plan following its completion in 2020, it is critical that the review of the new draft Plan be completed as soon as possible and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN.
It is encouraging that the State Party is taking proactive measures to develop a sustainable tourism strategy for the property, including by engaging with the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme. However, tourism numbers continue to increase and the Committee has repeatedly expressed concerns over the impacts of growing visitor numbers on the property. As the current annual visitor limit is to be revised as part of the overall review of the Management Plan, it is critical to understand how tourism carrying capacity is calculated and to ensure that strict limits are implemented by the State Party to ensure sustainable tourism levels. It is therefore important that the sustainable tourism strategy is also submitted to the World Heritage Centre.
Finally, while taking note that the relocation of local residents was reportedly carried out by engaging of local communities through public consultation and included financial compensation incentives and social benefits to encourage voluntary relocation, it is important that the Committee reiterate the importance of ensuring that any relocation programme is in line with the 2015 2015 Policy Document on the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the Convention and ensures effective consultation, fair compensation, access to social benefits and skills training, and the preservation of cultural rights.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.6
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.10, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
- Welcomes the ongoing efforts by the State Party to manage impacts on the property, including through the demolition of illegal structures within the property and the development of plans to systematically address Committee decisions;
- Takes note of the reported positive measures implemented to minimize the impact of existing cable car, elevator and electric railway tourism infrastructure within the property and the confirmation by the State Party that no similar projects have been developed, yet notes with concern that other infrastructure projects appear to have been approved and requests the State Party to provide more information on these projects and their potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property; in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines before any decision is made that would be difficult to reverse;
- Also notes with concern that, although the State Party’s report indicates that no new roads have been constructed within the property and that road development outside the property is not impacting its OUV, road construction will continue to be allowed in principle, and urges again the State Party to ensure that no new road development is permitted within the property;
- Regrets that the State Party did not submit the 2005-2020 Overall Plan of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area and also requests the State Party to submit the revised draft Plan to the World Heritage Centre for review as soon as it is available;
- Also takes note of the measures undertaken by the State Party to develop a sustainable tourism strategy for the property, of the fact that visitation numbers continue to increase and that tourism carrying capacity limits will be revised with the Overall Plan, and requests the State Party to finalize the Strategy for Sustainable Development of Tourism for Wulingyuan, in alignment with other management documents, and to submit a draft to the World Heritage Centre for review as soon as possible;
- Notes the efforts to positively engage with local communities during relocation programmes and further requests the State Party to ensure that any such programmes are in line with the with the 2015 Policy Document on the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the Convention and ensure effective consultation, fair compensation, access to social benefits and skills training, and the preservation of cultural rights;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, 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 45th session in 2021.