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Area de Conservación Guanacaste

Costa Rica
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
  • Commercial hunting
  • Crop production
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Human resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Mining
  • Renewable energy facilities
  • Subsistence hunting
  • Water (extraction)
  • Other Threats:

    fire

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources (weak control over commercial and artisanal fishing)
  • Ground transportation infrastructure (Pan-American Highway that bisects the property)
  • Human resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Renewable energy facilities (Las Pailas I and II geothermal and windpower projects development adjacent to the property)
  • Water extraction
  • Other Threats: fire (intentional and accidental fires, particularly affecting the dry forests); longstanding subsistence and commercial use of land and resources, prior to inscription on the World Heritage List, with impacts stemming from farming, ranching, logging, pesticide use, introduction of exotic species, sulphur mining, amongst others
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 3 (from 2000-2004)
Total amount approved : 80,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2019**

January 2018: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

From 24 to 29 January 2018, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property. On 30 November 2018, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report providing the following information (both the State Party report and the mission report are available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/928/documents):

  • Highlighting the policy to base the national energy matrix exclusively on renewable sources, the development of geothermal projects in the immediate vicinity of the property is described as a successful attempt to balance and harmonize biodiversity conservation and the promotion of renewable energy;
  • The legal framework excludes the possibility of productive activities or infrastructure inside protected areas for purposes other than conservation management;
  • Governmental funding constraints are acknowledged, and funding is supplemented by the legal option to enter into cooperation agreements with non-profit conservation organizations and efforts to access innovative conservation funding;
  • Capture of yellow-naped parrots (Amazona auropallita) for the pet trade is effectively addressed by a combination of law enforcement and environmental education;
  • While research on the mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is still not fully conclusive, there is no evidence that local factors play a major role in population dynamics. Monitoring and management strategies for the species are in place;
  • Costa Rica’s legal and policy approach to divide its terrestrial environment into 11 “conservation areas” is proposed as a suitable alternative to a buffer zone;
  • Additional activities include cooperation with fire-fighting brigades of neighbouring communities as part of the property’s Fire Management Program; environmental education in schools of neighbouring communities; and control of illegal activities in the transition to the adjacent agricultural-landscape.

On 11 December 2018, the State Party submitted the full text of a resolution (Resolución Ref. JD-CNC-002-2018) unanimously adopted by the Board of Directors of the governmental National Council for Concessions (CNC). The resolution refers to a private sector initiative to construct a transportation corridor between the two coasts of Costa Rica, known as the Interoceanic Dry Canal (or Canal Seco, in Spanish). The resolution declares the proposal null and void due to non-compliance with numerous mandatory procedural requirements designed to determine the legal, technical, economic and environmental feasibility and public interest.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2019

It became clear during the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission that the proposal to construct and operate the Interoceanic Dry Canal project within the property directly contradicted applicable legislation and basic World Heritage expectations. It is therefore welcomed that the administrative procedures have been declared null and void. Given previous proposals to modify the legal framework in order to permit excision of land from protected areas to enable infrastructure construction, it will be important for the State Party to continue to ensure that the property is off-limits to industrial development infrastructure, including renewable energy facilities and associated infrastructure, as foreseen under national legislation.

Noting that renewable energy can often conflict with conservation objectives, and while geothermal energy development in the immediate vicinity of a protected area may well be an acceptable societal trade-off, the decision-making process in the case of the property remains unclear. No impact assessments considering the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property appear to have been conducted for the existing and planned geothermal projects. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to assess actual and potential impacts of existing and planned geothermal development and associated infrastructure, and engage in systematic monitoring.

The State Party provides no information on wind energy development, despite the mission report’s reference to the projects near the property that have not undergone any assessment relating to the OUV. It is recommended that the State Party be reminded that any new project should undergo a comprehensive assessment of potential impacts on the OUV.

Similarly, the State Party provides no information on the Pan-American Highway crossing the property. Options to reduce the impacts of this existing road should be considered, including the improvement of National Road 4 as an alternative route and any upgrade would require careful assessment of possible impacts on the OUV.

It is further noted that the existing impact assessments on the different renewable energy projects and other projects in the surrounding landscape fail to capture their cumulative impacts of development. It is therefore recommended that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) be undertaken in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.

Promising avenues to broaden and diversify conservation funding include Payment for Environmental Services (PES) schemes and further negotiation with renewable energy actors. The State Party should be encouraged to continue pursuing adequate and reliable funding to support further consolidation of the commendable management and protection efforts.

The surface area of the inscribed property is smaller than the wider area referred to as the Conservation Area (or “protected block”) in the Management Plan. The submission of a Minor Boundary Modification is recommended in order to add a consistent layer of protection. The recently designated Bahía Santa Elena Marine Management Area could likewise be incorporated into the property via the same procedure and for the same reasons.

The State Party’s approach to embed protected areas in much larger spatial management units is acknowledged as compatible with the understanding of buffer zones in the Operational Guidelines. However, the mission report noted that the full potential of the legal and policy framework remains to be realized on land and to be extended to the marine parts of the property. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to increase the investment in the implementation of its exemplary framework to increase the effectiveness of a de facto buffer zone.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
43 COM 7B.24
Area de Conservación Guanacaste (Costa Rica) (N 928bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.12, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Notes with satisfaction that the proposal for the Interoceanic Dry Canal project, which would have been incompatible with World Heritage status, was not approved;
  4. Requests the State Party to ensure that the property in its entirety remains off-limits to industrial development infrastructure as provided for under the national legislation, including renewable energy projects and any associated infrastructure, and to bring any legislative changes that could facilitate such development or proposed projects to the attention of the Committee, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  5. Regrets that the State Party did not provide detailed information concerning the implementation of the recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission and also requests it to fully implement all the mission recommendations;
  6. Further requests the State Party to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for any proposed infrastructure projects including renewable energy projects, and associated infrastructure, in the wider Conservation Area or “protected block” with a specific assessment of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  7. Requests furthermore the State Party to develop a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) before the development of any further renewable energy projects in order to identify the best means to harmonize renewable energy initiatives and biodiversity conservation objectives, considering the multiple existing and proposed projects and development pressures near the property;
  8. Requests moreover the State Party to consider all options to reduce the impacts of the Inter-American Highway, including the improvement of National Road 4 as an alternative route, and to inform the Committee of any plans for the possible future enhancement or expansion of the sections of the highway within and bordering the property, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  9. Encourages the State Party to consider the development and submission of a Minor Boundary Modification for approval by the Committee in order to harmonize the boundary of the property with the management unit of the larger “protected block” bearing the same name, also considering the newly designated Bahía Santa Elena Marine Management Area;
  10. Also encourages the State Party to further invest in land use planning at the level of the wider Conservation Area and marine spatial planning to consolidate the integration of conservation considerations into the wider landscape and seascape to ensure effective buffering of impacts on the World Heritage property;
  11. 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.
Draft Decision: 43 COM 7B.24

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.12, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Notes with satisfaction that the proposal for the Interoceanic Dry Canal project, which would have been incompatible with World Heritage status, was not approved;
  4. Requests the State Party to ensure that the property in its entirety remains off-limits to industrial development infrastructure as provided for under the national legislation, including renewable energy projects and any associated infrastructure, and to bring any legislative changes that could facilitate such development or proposed projects to the attention of the Committee, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  5. Regrets that the State Party did not provide detailed information concerning the implementation of the recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission and also requests it to fully implement all the mission recommendations;
  6. Further requests the State Party to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for any proposed infrastructure projects including renewable energy projects, and associated infrastructure, in the wider Conservation Area or “protected block” with a specific assessment of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  7. Requests furthermore the State Party to develop a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) before the development of any further renewable energy projects in order to identify the best means to harmonize renewable energy initiatives and biodiversity conservation objectives, considering the multiple existing and proposed projects and development pressures near the property;
  8. Requests moreover the State Party to consider all options to reduce the impacts of the Inter-American Highway, including the improvement of National Road 4 as an alternative route, and to inform the Committee of any plans for the possible future enhancement or expansion of the sections of the highway within and bordering the property, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  9. Encourages the State Party to consider the development and submission of a Minor Boundary Modification for approval by the Committee in order to harmonize the boundary of the property with the management unit of the larger “protected block” bearing the same name, also considering the newly designated Bahía Santa Elena Marine Management Area;
  10. Also encourages the State Party to further invest in land use planning at the level of the wider Conservation Area and marine spatial planning to consolidate the integration of conservation considerations into the wider landscape and seascape to ensure effective buffering of impacts on the World Heritage property;
  11. 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.
Report year: 2019
Costa Rica
Date of Inscription: 1999
Category: Natural
Criteria: (ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2018) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 43COM (2019)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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