Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities

Iraq
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
  • Legal framework
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Highly unstable conservation conditions of the archaeological sites

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Need to conduct further studies regarding minimum water flows, to confirm the biodiversity within the property and its surrounding landscapes
  • Incomplete designation of all the components of the property as legally protected areas
  • Need to regulate oil and gas concessions, and other potentially impacting activities in the buffer zones of the property
  • Highly unstable conservation conditions of the archaeological sites 
  • Need for a detailed master plan/road map that ensures the conservation of the property on a sustainable basis
  • Need for an effective implementation of the consolidated management plan 
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2019

2017: Heritage Emergency Fund – support to Iraqi World Heritage properties: USD 100,000

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2019**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 31 January 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1481/documents/ and presents the following progress:

  • The State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) has ensured that annual work plans for each of the three cultural components of the property prioritize conservation:
    • Ur Archaeological City: The Department of Antiquities of SBAH performed conservation works, while the Italian and British archaeological missions intensified their activities, which included conservation components. Electricity poles and prefab buildings have been removed,
    • Tell Eridu Archaeological Site: The Italian archaeological mission collaborated with French archaeologists in surveying and preparing a Conservation Plan. The presence of guards and archaeological police ensures protection,
    • Uruk Archaeological City: The German archaeological mission has resumed its activities, including excavations and conservation of newly excavated areas. Conservation work was also carried out on the ziggurat of Inanna. A survey of the entire site, beyond the city walls was completed. The consolidated map will be used for planning purposes and to prevent building and other development encroachment on the buffer zone;
  • The average minimum water flow required for the property has been calculated as 5.8 billion cubic metres (BCM) and 3.7 BCM in dry years. In 2017 and 2018, conditions were dry and as a result of the decrease in water flow from upstream and climate change impacts, 3.15 BCM reached the marshlands in both years, following a number of measures by the State Party;
  • The Strategy for Water and Land Resources in Iraq (SWLRI) is being updated to include social, economic and ecological values of the property, and to support meeting the minimum water flow;
  • Dialogue between the Governments of Iraq and Turkey on water cooperation is ongoing. Additionally, through the 2014-2018 Collaborative Programme Euphrates and Tigris (CPET), riparian countries examined the management and restoration plan for the Iraqi marshlands with an emphasis on Huwaiza, Central and Hammar marshes;
  • Legal protection of the natural components of the property is strengthened, noting that the World Heritage designation provides adequate legal protection, including against oil and gas concessions. Project proponents are required to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for any activities proposed in the vicinity of the buffer zone of the property;
  • The Higher Committee for the Implementation of the Management Plan for the Ahwar of Southern Iraq as a World Heritage Property (the ‘Higher Committee’) examined a plan for tourism activities and has issued instructions to ensure that tourism projects do not damage the property. It plans to develop and implement an overall tourism management plan for the property;
  • Measures to address illegal bird hunting and overfishing are being implemented, which has led to a reduction in illegal activity levels during the last months of 2018;
  • A joint Iraqi-Iranian survey of water birds in the Huwaiza marshes, and a biodiversity survey in the Central marshes were undertaken;
  • Local communities, largely composed of the “Marsh Arabs” communities, are fully involved in decision-making within the framework of the Water Management Users Associations, and, several activities in support of maintaining traditional ecological knowledge and crafts have been undertaken.

In a letter to the World Heritage Centre dated 5 February 2019, the State Party of Turkey underlined the impact of climate change and other phenomena on the marshlands of Iraq, expressing the need for a comprehensive water management plan and the need for a strong water protection status. It also expressed its willingness to cooperate on water management projects.

The State Party invited a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in April 2019, as requested by the Committee. However, due to logistical issues, the mission has been postponed until after the 43rd session.

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

The reinstatement of international archaeological missions in 2017 enables work on some of the most urgent conservation issues to be started. The extent of local engagement with their work is not described and it is unclear to what extent the objective of local capacity-building has been met. Although it appears to still be limited, the progress in conservation actions is welcome. The comprehensive survey undertaken at Tell Eridu is a crucial first step that can be used as a baseline from which conservation planning at this property can progress. Similar surveying should take place at the other cultural components of the property.

On the other hand, there is no structured overall conservation and management strategy for the whole property, and no progress reported on the development of site-specific conservation plans, as requested by the Committee and referenced as objectives in the Management Plans submitted in 2016. All three cultural components of the property face a range of significant ongoing threats related to their unstable condition, significant weathering, inappropriate previous interventions and the lack of continuous maintenance and conservation work.

The State Party’s reported efforts to increase water flow to the property and the study to establish the minimum flow are appreciated, but it is deeply concerning that only 3.15 BCM reached the marshes in 2017 and 2018. There is an urgent need to ensure that minimum flow and adequate water quality are guaranteed to sustain biodiversity including in the dry years. In this context, the updating of SWLRI is positive, as is the ongoing dialogue with Turkey. It is recommended that the Committee strongly encourage all concerned States Parties to continue this dialogue to ensure the long-term protection of the property.

It is noted that the World Heritage designation provides legal protection, and that this will ensure that developments, such as oil and gas concessions beyond the buffer zone, will need to undergo EIAs. Nevertheless, as noted at the time of inscription, a requirement of the World Heritage Convention is for the property to be effectively protected under national legislative and management systems, and only one of the natural components was designated as a National Park. Noting that the Committee, in its Decisions 40 COM 8B.16 and 42 COM 7B.66, requested the State Party to complete the designation of all of the natural components of the property as protected areas as a matter of utmost urgency, it is imperative that this be completed without delay. Noting previous significant concerns over the continued vulnerability of the property to oil and gas developments, and, recalling the Committee’s established position that oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, confirmation is also needed on whether the existing legislation prohibits oil and gas concessions within the property and the buffer zone. Furthermore, when undertaking an EIA, it would be necessary to ensure compliance with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.

The activities undertaken to discourage illegal bird hunting and overfishing are appreciated. However, in the absence of data, it is not possible to ascertain the scale of these activities, and thereby conclude whether the current actions to address these threats are sufficient. It is recommended that the State Party provide the relevant data, and to further strengthen its legal protection, enforcement and management capacity to control these illegal activities.

The reported intention to develop an overall tourism plan for the property as requested by the Committee is noted. It is recommended that the State Party expedite this process in light of the increasing tourism interest in the property. The plan should cover both the cultural and natural components of the property, and its draft should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies.

The involvement of local communities, including the “Marsh Arab” communities is noted. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to ensure such continued meaningful engagement.

The Statement of Outstanding Universal Value has been finalized with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies and will be presented for examination by the Committee at its 43rd session.

Regrettably, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property could not take place in April 2019, and will be undertaken as soon as possible.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
43 COM 7B.35
The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities (Iraq) (C/N 1481)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.66, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Welcomes the start of conservation work by international archaeological missions at the three cultural components of the property, Ur, Tell Eridu and Uruk, and, the comprehensive survey undertaken at Tell Eridu;
  4. Regrets that no progress has been reported on the development of site-specific conservation plans for the three cultural components of the property, as requested by the Committee in response to the significant threats they face related to instability, significant weathering, inappropriate previous interventions, and the lack of continuous maintenance;
  5. Urges the State Party to extend the comprehensive survey and mapping to all three cultural components of the property, as baseline data for future work, and to develop operational conservation plans for each as a matter of priority, and to submit these to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Appreciates that a study to establish the minimum water flow needed for the natural components of the property has been undertaken, but notes with deep concern that this minimum flow has not been met in the past two years, and reiterates its request to the State Party to provide the natural components of the property with adequate water within its national capacity as a matter of utmost priority;
  7. Strongly encourages again the States Parties of Iraq, Iran and Turkey to continue their efforts in cooperating towards long-term sustainable water management, so as to ensure the provision of adequate amounts of water for the natural components of the property to sustain their contribution to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  8. While appreciating that the State Party considers that World Heritage designation provides adequate legal protection to the property, also reiterates its request to the State Party to complete the designation of all of the natural components of the property as protected areas in order to provide effective protection under national legislative and management systems, as required in the Operational Guidelines,
  9. Reiterating its previous significant concern over the continued vulnerability of the natural components of the property to oil and gas developments, recalls the Committee’s established position that oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, and strongly urges again the State Party to make a permanent commitment to not explore or exploit oil and gas within the property, and to ensure that any such activities outside the property do not cause a negative impact on its OUV;
  10. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre data concerning illegal bird hunting, overfishing, including the number of prosecutions and convictions from these illegal activities, and to further strengthen its legal protection, enforcement and management capacity to control these activities;
  11. Also urges the State Party to prepare an updated Integrated Management Plan for the entire property, and to promote the development of updated Management Plans for each of the components of the property;
  12. Also welcomes the measures taken to ensure tourism activities do not damage the property, and further reiterates its request to the State Party to develop and implement an overall tourism plan for the whole property, to regulate visitation, and to ensure visitor safety, and sustainable and adequate tourism practices, infrastructure and facilities;
  13. Also requests the State Party to continue to meaningfully engage with the local communities on matters concerning water usage, rights-based approaches to management and for the application of traditional ecological knowledge to any planned new constructions;
  14. Also regrets that the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property could not be undertaken yet, and reiterates furthermore its request that the mission takes place as soon as possible;
  15. Reminds the State Party about the need to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, information on any future plans for major restoration or new construction projects that may affect the OUV of the property, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse;
  16. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 44th session in 2020.
43 COM 8B.54
Statements of Outstanding Universal Value of properties inscribed at previous sessions and not adopted by the World Heritage Committee

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/8B.Add,
  2. Adopts the Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for the following World Heritage properties inscribed at previous sessions of the World Heritage Committee:
  • China, Fanjingshan;
  • Germany, Naumburg Cathedral;
  • Iran (Islamic Republic of), Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region;
  • Iraq, The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities;
  • Italy, Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century;
  • Mexico, Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: originary habitat of Mesoamerica;
  • Oman, Ancient City of Qalhat;
  • Republic of Korea, Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea;
  • Turkey, Aphrodisias;
  • Turkey, Göbekli Tepe.
Draft Decision: 43 COM 7B.35

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.66, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Welcomes the start of conservation work by international archaeological missions at the three cultural components of the property, Ur, Tell Eridu and Uruk, and, the comprehensive survey undertaken at Tell Eridu;
  4. Regrets that no progress has been reported on the development of site-specific conservation plans for the three cultural components of the property, as requested by the Committee in response to the significant threats they face related to instability, significant weathering, inappropriate previous interventions, and the lack of continuous maintenance;
  5. Urges the State Party to extend the comprehensive survey and mapping to all three cultural components of the property, as baseline data for future work, and to develop operational conservation plans for each as a matter of priority, and to submit these to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Appreciates that a study to establish the minimum water flow needed for the natural components of the property has been undertaken, but notes with deep concern that this minimum flow has not been met in the past two years, and reiterates its request to the State Party to provide the natural components of the property with adequate water within its national capacity as a matter of utmost priority;
  7. Strongly encourages again the States Parties of Iraq, Iran and Turkey to continue their efforts in cooperating towards long-term sustainable water management, so as to ensure the provision of adequate amounts of water for the natural components of the property to sustain their contribution to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  8. While appreciating that the State Party considers that World Heritage designation provides adequate legal protection to the property, also reiterates its request to the State Party to complete the designation of all of the natural components of the property as protected areas in order to provide effective protection under national legislative and management systems, as required in the Operational Guidelines,
  9. Reiterating its previous significant concern over the continued vulnerability of the natural components of the property to oil and gas developments, recalls the Committee’s established position that oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, and strongly urges again the State Party to make a permanent commitment to not explore or exploit oil and gas within the property, and to ensure that any such activities outside the property do not cause a negative impact on its OUV;
  10. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre data concerning illegal bird hunting, overfishing, including the number of prosecutions and convictions from these illegal activities, and to further strengthen its legal protection, enforcement and management capacity to control these activities;
  11. Also urges the State Party to prepare an updated Integrated Management Plan for the entire property, and to promote the development of updated Management Plans for each of the components of the property;
  12. Also welcomes the measures taken to ensure tourism activities do not damage the property, and further reiterates its request to the State Party to develop and implement an overall tourism plan for the whole property, to regulate visitation, and to ensure visitor safety, and sustainable and adequate tourism practices, infrastructure and facilities;
  13. Also requests the State Party to continue to meaningfully engage with the local communities on matters concerning water usage, rights-based approaches to management and for the application of traditional ecological knowledge to any planned new constructions;
  14. Also regrets that the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property could not been undertaken yet, and reiterates furthermore its request that the mission takes place as soon as possible;
  15. Reminds the State Party about the need to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, information on any future plans for major restoration or new construction projects that may affect the OUV of the property, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse;
  16. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 44th session in 2020.
Report year: 2019
Iraq
Date of Inscription: 2016
Category: Mixed
Criteria: (iii)(v)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2019) .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.


top