Dja Faunal Reserve (Cameroon) (N 407)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1987
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/407/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 84,700
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/407/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: USD 60,000, UNESCO Netherlands Funds-in-Trust; USD 263,700 from Franz Weber Foundation (2012 to 2017) and USD 600,000 in the framework of the Central Africa World Heritage Forest Initiative (CAWHFI) (2017 to 2019)
Previous monitoring missions
March 1998: UNESCO monitoring mission; June 2006, December 2009, February-March 2012 and November-December 2015: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring missions, February-March 2019: Advisory mission of two independants experts
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Mining exploitation project close to the property (issue resolved)
- Lack of entire approval and implementation of management plan
- Agricultural and forest encroachment
- Industrial agriculture in the buffer zone
- Threats exerted by commercial hunting and deforestation around the property
- Mékin hydroelectric dam
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/407/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 07 January 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/407/documents/, providing the following information:
- A wildlife inventory conducted by the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) between April and June 2018 revealed a considerable reduction compared to the 2015 inventory for elephant (estimated at 219), gorilla (1,258) and chimpanzee (2,313) populations. The State Party partially attributes the substantial decline to differences in the methodology;
- A study of the last intact forest corridor connecting the property to the larger landscape of the Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Minkébé (TRIDOM) is underway to better understand the dynamics of wildlife migrations of species such as forest elephants;
- Efforts to ensure the conformity of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the extension of the rubber agro-industrial project with World Heritage standards are ongoing;
- The Sud-Cameroon Hévéa S.A. (SUDCAM) continues to implement the Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) for the rubber project, and expects to put in place a number of activities to support local communities;
- The Prime Minister established a working group in December 2017 to implement a number of activities to minimize the impacts of the Mékin dam on local communities (construction of 11 bridges and housing units for the impacted communities);
- Capacity building training was given to park staff for the use of SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool), wildlife inventory techniques as well as law enforcement techniques and prosecution procedures regarding wildlife infractions;
- Anti-poaching and ecological monitoring equipment were purchased to enhance surveillance of the property, now reaching 93% coverage;
- Two inter-ministerial meetings and two Stakeholder Fora for the private sector, NGOs and local communities were held to discuss conservation issues and land use planning around the property;
- Consultations towards the revision of Law nº 94/01 on the management of forests, wildlife and fisheries together with the revision of the national anti-poaching strategy are underway.
At the invitation of the State Party, the World Heritage Centre organized an Advisory mission by two independent ESIA experts, from 18 February to 4 March 2019, in the framework of the Central African World Heritage Forest Initiative (CAWHFI) to identify the impacts of SUDCAM’s agro-industrial activities on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and define corrective or mitigating measures.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The results of the 2018 inventory are of utmost concern. While noting the potential influence of different inventory techniques used in 2015 and 2018, it is clear that populations of key wildlife species such as elephant, gorilla and chimpanzee are now very low. There is high concern that a continued decline could lead to local extinction of elephants if the situation is not reversed.
The inventory also shows that signs of human activity, mainly poaching, are prevalent across the property. On-going efforts to strengthen law enforcement are welcomed and need to be strengthened further. In particular, there is a need to increase the number of park staff and ensure that arrests of apprehended poachers and wildlife traffickers lead to appropriate convictions. With the operationalization of SMART and the results of the inventory, it should also be possible to improve patrolling efficiency and to concentrate efforts on the main areas where wildlife remains. In addition to addressing elephant poaching, there is a need to tackle commercial poaching for bush meat and to raise awareness among local communities. To ensure the long-term integrity of the property, it is also crucial to maintain connectivity to the other protected areas of the TRIDOM. This should be considered when planning new development projects around the property, especially roads.
The UNESCO Advisory mission on SUDCAM concluded that the ESIA for the rubber plantation does not meet the required standards for a project that borders a World Heritage property, and has not been undertaken in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment. However, the mission was also informed that the new majority shareholder of SUDCAM, Halcyon, has agreed to immediately stop all clearing and felling operations in the project site and to return the area, which was added to the concession by the Government. It also adopted responsible entrepreneurship standards for the rubber sector with independent certification of the production and shifting away from expanding its plantations towards the promotion of rubber smallholdings. The mission report will be available at the above link.
While efforts towards limiting the negative social impacts of the Mékin hydroelectric dam on the local communities are noted, no progress seems to have been made in addressing the environmental impacts. The dam is already impacting the water quality of the Dja River and flooding part of the property. The declassification of 1000 ha of the communal forest of Bengbis is likely to further contribute to the deforestation of the periphery of the property. Additional Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are needed to understand how to better mitigate the impacts of this project on the OUV of the property.
Despite efforts undertaken by the State Party, the property remains in a very fragile situation. In its report, the State Party acknowledges that other conservation problems persist and further development projects around the property are planned in the near future without providing any detailed information. The Advisory mission was informed of proposals to construct four additional hydroelectric plants on the Dja River, and plans to tarmac and construct new roads. The State Party should be urged to ensure that the World Heritage Centre be informed of any development that has the potential to impact on the OUV of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and assess the impacts on its OUV, before taking a decision on its implementation.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.29
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7B.86, 40 COM 7B.79, 41 COM 7B.18 and 42 COM 7B.90, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 41st (Krakow, 2017) and 42nd (Manama, 2018) sessions respectively;
- Expresses its utmost concern that the 2018 wildlife survey results demonstrate a worrying decline in the population of key large mammals including elephant, gorilla and chimpanzee and that poaching is prevalent across the property and requests the State Party to transmit data from the inventory to the World Heritage Centre to enable an assessment of the conservation status of these key populations;
- Welcomes the ongoing efforts undertaken by the State Party to improve law enforcement, notably capacity building sessions for guards, the acquisition of monitoring and surveillance equipment, the implementation of the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), and progress towards the revision of legislation and national anti-poaching strategy;
- Urges the State Party to further enhance its monitoring and surveillance efforts in the key conservation sectors where wildlife is still present, to ensure that arrests of apprehended poachers and wildlife traffickers are leading to convictions where warranted and to raise awareness among local communities to stop the consumption and trade of bush meat;
- Notes with concern the conclusions of the UNESCO Advisory mission that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) for the Sud-Cameroon Hévéa S.A. (SUDCAM) rubber plantation project, which borders the property, does not meet the required World Heritage standards but also welcomes the decision by the new majority shareholder (Halcyon) to immediately stop all clearing and felling operations in the plantation and to adopt responsible entrepreneurship standards for the rubber sector with independent certification of the production;
- Also urges the State Party to implement all the recommendations from the Advisory mission, in particular to:
- Create a buffer zone around the property, in which only those activities compatible with the conservation of its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) are permitted,
- Classify the portion of the concession returned by SUDCAM in the permanent forest estate of the State while authorizing sustainable use regimes,
- Refrain from future extensions of the latex processing plant in the SUDCAM central block and consider sites better positioned in terms of infrastructure while taking into account the environmental and social aspects, including for the existing plant;
- Also takes note of the activities undertaken to continue the implementation of the Environmental and Social Management Plan (PGES) and the relocation of local communities due to the impacts of the Mékin dam, and also requests the State Party to submit further information regarding the location of the proposed 11 bridges and any other proposed infrastructure, as well as the intention to declassify 1,000 ha of the communal forest of Bengbis;
- Noting efforts towards limiting the negative social impacts of the Mékin hydroelectric dam on the local communities, expresses its concern that no progress appears to be made in addressing the environmental impacts and further requests that additional Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are conducted to identify how to better mitigate the impacts of this project on the OUV of the property;
- Further urges the State Party to not accept any new project within the vicinity of the property that could aggravate the existing threats and compromise the progress achieved in the management of the property, and ensure that any project is subject to a mandatory ESIA prior to approval, including a specific evaluation of potential impacts on the OUV of the property, in conformity with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment and in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Notes the importance of maintaining continued connectivity to the other protected areas of the Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Minkébé landscape (TRIDOM) in order to ensure the long term integrity of property, and further requests the State Party to consider this broader landscape when planning new development projects around the property, especially road infrastructure;
- 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.