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Ha Long Bay

Viet Nam
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Financial resources
  • Housing
  • Human resources
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Industrial areas
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community (Population growth)
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Housing
  • Industrial areas
  • Financial and human resources
  • Management systems / management plan
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2021

Total amount provided to the property (recently): USD 100,000 under the Youth Volunteers for Cultural Heritage Preservation project (2003-2006); USD 519,000 for Cua Van Floating Cultural Centre, a component of the Ha Long Eco-museum (funded by the Government of Norway, for the period of 2003-2006).

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 6 (from 1996-2018)
Total amount approved : 163,145 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

January 2003, December 2006: World Heritage Centre mission; November 2013: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; July 2018: IUCN Advisory mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

The 2018 IUCN Advisory mission to the property concluded that the overall management was satisfactory with regard to the conservation of biodiversity but not in relation to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). It raised concerns over the visual and physical impacts of waste and the growing number of visitors to the property. These concerns were also noted by the World Heritage Centre during a visit to the property in 2018 and 2019. Furthermore, in the spring of 2019, the World Heritage Centre received third-party information related to waste management and the quality of visitor experience and shared this with the State Party on 15 April 2019.

In light of the above, upon the request of the World Heritage Centre, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 26 December 2019, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/672/documents/ and presents the following information:

  • The management and policies concerning the property have been strengthened through the adoption of the 2017 National Decree on the protection of World Heritage, implementation of the Management Plan (2017-2021) and the establishment of a Ha Long Bay Management Unit, working in close cooperation with provincial and local authorities. A new plan for the management, conservation and tourism development of the property until 2030 and a vision towards 2050 are currently under development;
  • Socio-economic activities at the property are closely monitored and strictly managed, including the relocation of fishing villages;
  • Reinforcement of wastewater management measures for coal and tourism industries are applied through the introduction of the new Jokaso wastewater management system and a quarterly monitoring of water quality at 41 locations on Ha Long Bay. All wastewater from tourist boats operating within the property is expected to be treated by 2021, and by 2030, all cement factories along the coast of the Bay will be closed and mining operations terminated;
  • Solid waste collection is improved by reducing plastic waste and prioritizing collection along the coast and discharge points, as well as general recycling efforts;
  • Visitor numbers to the property increased from 3,924,043 in 2017 to 4,062,215 by November 2019, while the number of tourist boats has reduced slightly from 533 in 2016 to 505 in 2019 by increasing the capacity of the boats. New sightseeing routes and infrastructure as well as a long-term booking system are under development to manage the increasing tourism. A carrying capacity study for the property will begin in 2020, which will feed into adapting the tourism management strategy. A new “Green Sail” initiative has been introduced to encourage tourism operators to meet environmental standards;
  • Implementation of several projects to improve management and protection of the property, including an International Assistance project to evaluate management effectiveness. The State Party further requested to receive support from the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme to improve tourism management and proceed with a carrying capacity assessment.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The State Party demonstrated its awareness and reactivity to the issues raised by the 2018 IUCN Advisory mission, notably through the adoption of legal and policy tools such as the 2017 Decree, the on-going development of the Management Plan and the reinforcement of the Management Unit, all of which are welcome. The elaboration of a new plan for the management, conservation, and tourism development of the property until 2030, and with a vision towards 2050, is also noted.

The introduction of new measures for wastewater and solid waste management, and the State Party’s intention to further upscale these efforts, including the closure of industrial operations and mines alongside the property, are welcomed. It is important that these measures are fully implemented and that impacts on water quality and other environmental attributes of the property are continuously monitored over an extended period. However, noting that the closure of the coal mines and cement factories is not expected to take place until 2030, and bearing in mind that the 2018 mission expressed considerable concerns over the release of wastewater from mines directly into the river, there is an urgent need to install wastewater treatment stations for these mines.

While acknowledging the achievements and efforts of the State Party to implement the 2018 mission recommendations on environmental management, the 2019 International Assistance project evaluated the management effectiveness of the property and highlighted continued concerns over possible threats and pressures on the OUV and related values of the property. In particular, industrial development activities within the biophysical catchment area, along the mainland foreshore to the north of the Bai Chay Bridge and the six rivers to the north of the Bridge, have been identified as potential risk vectors, notably due to additional nutrient and other contamination of the Bay’s ecosystem, and should be controlled using a holistic ecosystem approach.

Tourism management and its harmonization with the protection of the property’s OUV remains a challenge, given the continued growth of visitor numbers. The measures introduced by the State Party to provide a higher-quality experience, upgrade infrastructure and enhance security measures and environmental considerations, rather than increasing vessel numbers, is positive. However, an integrated vision to manage tourism-related impacts is strongly needed.  The State Party is therefore encouraged to seek advice from the World Heritage Tourism Programme (https://whc.unesco.org/en/tourism/) and prepare a Sustainable Tourism and Development Strategy for the property.

The expansion of new infrastructures and tourist facilities is visibly compromising the broader landscape values, notably the hotels and holiday accommodations close to the property. Strategic planning is required to avoid overcrowding inside and in the vicinity of the property and to regulate multi-sectoral activities, which should be reflected in the Management Plan and supported by an effective governance mechanism. Planned measures such as the carrying capacity study on sightseeing routes within the property are welcomed and should support the revision of the management strategy, which should be fully implemented and respected by all stakeholders. 

As the State Party plans to expand the property to include the Cat Ba archipelago, it will be critical to give due consideration to the entire catchment management, using an ecosystem-based approach. The current buffer zone is not clear in relation to the existing industrial activities, and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre a map with the current boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, with clear indications of industrial areas as well as details on the use and management regime within the buffer zone.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.98
Ha Long Bay (Viet Nam) (N 672bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.72, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Commends the State Party for addressing many of the previously identified conservation issues and the 2018 IUCN Advisory mission, and welcomes the overall progress in reinforcing the management and conservation framework, educational activities and waste management;
  4. Requests the State Party to continue implementing all the recommendations of the 2018 mission, taking into account the outcomes of the management effectiveness review, in particular:
    1. The recommendations concerning visitor management, including conducting a carrying capacity study,
    2. The submission of details on the measures implemented for wastewater and solid waste management, including results of the water quality assessment in and around the property, details of the existing industries, including coal and cement industries operating within the property, its buffer zone and within the biophysical catchment area;
  5. Also requests the State Party to finalize and implement the revised Management Plan as an integrated management tool, with particular attention given to:
    1. Ensuring the plan is based on a catchment-wide approach for the holistic protection of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property,
    2. Including tourism management measures based on the carrying capacity study to avoid overcrowding inside and in the vicinity of the property, and thus address impacts of increasing tourism pressures on the OUV of the property,
    3. Providing a clear governance framework for development projects, especially for multi-sectoral developments that include infrastructure, maritime operations, urban activities and resource extraction,
    4. Ensuring that any social measures having socio-economic impacts, such as relocation projects, are voluntary and in line with the 2015 Policy Document on the integration of a Sustainable Development perspective into the processes of the World Heritage Convention, and that they socio-cultural rights of local communities are preserved;
  6. Encourages the State Party to seek advice from the World Heritage Tourism Programme and prepare a Sustainable Tourism and Development Strategy for the property, for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  7. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, a map with a clear indication of the current boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, including details on the use and management regime within the buffer zone, in line with paragraph 164 of Operational Guidelines;
  8. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, 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 46th session.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.98

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.72, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Commends the State Party for addressing many of the previously identified conservation issues and the 2018 IUCN Advisory mission, and welcomes the overall progress in reinforcing the management and conservation framework, educational activities and waste management;
  4. Requests the State Party to continue implementing all the recommendations of the 2018 mission, taking into account the outcomes of the management effectiveness review, in particular:
    1. The recommendations concerning visitor management, including conducting a carrying capacity study,
    2. The submission of details on the measures implemented for wastewater and solid waste management, including results of the water quality assessment in and around the property, details of the existing industries, including coal and cement industries operating within the property, its buffer zone and within the biophysical catchment area;
  5. Also requests the State Party to finalize and implement the revised Management Plan as an integrated management tool, with particular attention given to:
    1. Ensuring the plan is based on a catchment-wide approach for the holistic protection of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property,
    2. Including tourism management measures based on the carrying capacity study to avoid overcrowding inside and in the vicinity of the property, and thus address impacts of increasing tourism pressures on the OUV of the property,
    3. Providing a clear governance framework for development projects, especially for multi-sectoral developments that include infrastructure, maritime operations, urban activities and resource extraction,
    4. Ensuring that any social measures having socio-economic impacts, such as relocation projects, are voluntary and in line with the 2015 Policy Document on the integration of a Sustainable Development perspective into the processes of the World Heritage Convention, and that they socio-cultural rights of local communities are preserved;
  6. Encourages the State Party to seek advice from the World Heritage Tourism Programme and prepare a Sustainable Tourism and Development Strategy for the property, for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  7. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, a map with a clear indication of the current boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, including details on the use and management regime within the buffer zone, in line with paragraph 164 of Operational Guidelines;
  8. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, 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 46th session in 2023.
Report year: 2021
Viet Nam
Date of Inscription: 1994
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2019) .pdf
Initialy proposed for examination in 2020
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
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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