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Western Caucasus

Russian Federation
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Illegal activities
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Legal framework
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Management systems/ management plan (Lack of Management Plan)
  • Legal framework (Weakening of conservation controls and laws)
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation (Impacts of proposed tourism infrastructure development)
  • Ground transport infrastructure (Road construction)
  • Illegal activities (Deforestation)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

April 2008: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; May 2009: High-level visit by Director of the World Heritage Centre and the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee; May 2010: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; September 2012: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2016: IUCN Advisory mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 31 January 2020, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/documents/, providing the following information:

  • The rejection of plans to build large ski facilities in the property in the basins of the Mzymta, Urushten and Malaya Laba rivers is confirmed. However, the construction of a mountain resort on the Lagonaki Plateau is being considered provided that the construction and operation of this resort will not affect its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). Detailed plans and the results of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project were planned to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by 5 April 2020. The intention to invite an Advisory mission is also mentioned;
  • By order No. 586-R of 30 March 2017, a lease of lands provides for the implementation of a large-scale investment project in the territory of Sochi National Park and the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge. The nature protection regime of both protected areas is reported to be maintained in the leased areas and no economic or construction activities have yet been implemented. Such activities would only be considered based on an EIA that would include an assessment of impacts on the OUV;
  • For the purpose of fire protection, the State Party conducted in 2018 works on a forest road to Lunnaya Polyana that existed until 1999 along the western boundary of the property. Roadworks were discontinued in 2019;
  • Inspections detected 81 violations of the protection regime in the Caucasus Strict Nature Reserve, mostly related to illegal visitation and in some cases illegal fishing and gathering of plants. The populations of protected plant and animal species are stable or increasing, with the exception of Colchic Boxwood being deleteriously affected by the invasive boxwood firefly. The negative impact from insect infestations on the OUV of the property is confirmed and expected to increase. The State Party is currently preparing proposals in view of assessing damage and developing restoration measures in collaboration with IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group.

On 17 February 2020, a meeting was held between the World Heritage Centre, IUCN and a State Party delegation including representatives from the company interested in developing the proposed project in Lagonaki. No further details of the project were provided other than that it would be different from previous proposals. It is also noted that so far no EIA for the project has been submitted to the World Heritage Centre, in spite of the date mentioned in the State Party report.

On 13 July 2020, the World Heritage Centre transmitted third-party information to the State Party, according to which, new Resolution No. 97 of the Government of the Republic of Adygeya of 21 May 2020 enables the establishment of an economic zone inside the property where logging and the construction of linear facilities would be possible. The third-party argued that this resolution would legalise the construction of the above-mentioned road to the Lunnaya Polyana Biosphere Centre.

On 22 September 2020, the State Party submitted information to the World Heritage Centre confirming that the ‘Headwaters of Rivers Pshecha and Pshechashcha’ and ‘River Tsitsa headwaters’ Nature Monuments, which constitute part of the property, had been reorganised as Natural Parks. On 6 October 2020, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party requesting further details of the legal implications of the changed status resulting from the announced reorganisation in order to be able to evaluate potential impacts on the OUV of the property. At the time of writing of this report, no further information has been received regarding this matter.

On 2 February 2021, the State Party submitted an updated report on the state of conservation of the property, including an explanatory note on the clarification of the boundaries of the property. The explanatory note delineates, among other minor deviations from the boundaries as inscribed, three enclaves to be excluded from the property in the Lagonaki Plateau area.

On 26 March 2021, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party requesting further details regarding an order creating and approving the boundaries of the Lagonaki Biosphere Polygon within the property, based on concerns that the creation of this biosphere polygon might pave the way for the installation of ski facilities inside this property. On 13 April 2021, the State Party replied stating that the goal of the order is to update the legal status of the biosphere polygon to comply with current legislation, whilst also delineating precise boundaries of the biosphere polygon, and expanding these to include the Fisht-Oshten mountain massif. The letter also further confirmed that proposals remain under consideration for the development of a ski resort in the Lagonaki Plateau, stating that the location of the proposed resort is situated within the biosphere polygon, but outside the boundaries of the property, as per the boundaries delineated by the State Party in the explanatory note on the clarifications of the boundaries submitted to the World Heritage Centre on the 2 February 2021.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

While the confirmation that plans to build large ski facilities in the Mzymta, Urushten and Malaya Laba river basins in the property have been rejected is welcomed, the proposed development of a “mountain resort” at Lagonaki is of serious concern. It is recalled that the World Heritage Committee has repeatedly stated its position that the construction of large-scale infrastructure within the property, including on the Lagonaki Plateau, would constitute a clear case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. It is therefore recommended that the State Party urgently provides more details on the planned resort, ensure that no infrastructure is planned within the existing boundaries of the inscribed property and that an EIA assessing the potential impacts on the OUV of the property be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before any decisions are made, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

The information contained within the explanatory note on the clarification of the boundaries provided by the State Party is noted with concern. Considering this proposes the exclusion of enclaves in the Lagonaki Plateau area, it is clear that such a reduction of the property’s boundaries cannot be considered through the boundaries clarification procedure but would have to be considered through a significant modification of the boundaries in line with paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines. It needs to be noted that the proposed boundaries  would create fragmentation of the property, and would be likely to have a direct negative impact on the property’s OUV, including its integrity. It also needs to be recalled that Annex 11 of the Operational Guidelines states that “boundary modifications should serve better identification of World Heritage properties and enhance protection of their Outstanding Universal Value”. It is further recommended that the Committee requests the State Party to clarify the current legal protection regime of these areas in order to ensure that all areas within the World Heritage property as inscribed benefit from appropriate level of protection.

The confirmation that land has been leased in Sochi National Park and the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge with the objective to implement a large-scale investment project is of concern, especially after the State Party in its report last year affirmed that no such plans existed. It should be recalled that in its Decision 42 COM 7B.80, the World Heritage Committee reiterated its concern that large-scale infrastructure projects in the Sochi National Park and Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge could have negative impacts on the OUV of the property, including on efforts to reintroduce the Persian leopard and the consequent disruption to the habitat connectivity of this endangered species. It is recommended that the Committee reiterates its request to the State Party not to permit any construction of large-scale infrastructure in any of the protected areas immediately adjacent to the property without submitting the EIA to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN.

The confirmation of further works on a road to the Lunnaya Polyana road is also of concern. While noting the clarification by the State Party that the works concern a re-opening of an existing forest road for park management purposes, it is considered that these works could result in erosion and also could facilitate access to the property, including to the Biosphere Centre. It is recalled that the 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission, when reviewing the question of this road stressed that it should be ensured that all infrastructure facilities, even if deemed necessary for management and research purposes, have no negative impacts on the OUV and that an EIA should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before any final decision is taken on this development, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines

The confirmation of the reorganisation of protected areas that comprise part of the property is noted. However, in relation to third party information received expressing concern that the reorganisation aims to establish economic areas inside the property, allowing for logging and for the construction of linear facilities, and in doing so, permitting the construction of the road to Lunnaya Polyana, it is recommended that the State Party should also be requested to clarify the legal implications of the changed status resulting from the announced reorganisation in order to be able to evaluate potential impacts on the protection of the property.

Finally, the reported negative impact from invasive alien species (IAS) on the OUV of the property is of serious concern and, whilst the envisaged collaboration with IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group in combating the outbreak is welcome, this should continue to be encouraged.

Overall, it is of great concern that large-scale infrastructure projects continue to be proposed within and immediately adjacent to the property, despite the very clear position adopted by the World Heritage Committee. It is also unclear whether and how cumulative impacts of these proposed developments have been or would be assessed. It is therefore recommended that the Committee requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to a) assess the scale of impacts from IAS on the OUV of the property and whether they represent an ascertained danger, b) assess whether the creation of the biosphere polygon and the changes in status of the nature monuments included in the property have affected the legal protection of these areas and c) assess whether envisaged infrastructure and road development projects inside and near the property, including their cumulative impacts, represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines and to evaluate whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.110
Western Caucasus (Russian Federation) (N 900)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 32 COM 7B.25, 42 COM 7B.80 and 43 COM 7B.18, adopted at its 32nd (Quebec City, 2008), 42nd (Manama, 2018) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the confirmation that plans to build large ski facilities in the property in the basins of the Mzymta, Urushten and Malaya Laba rivers have been rejected but notes with concern that the construction of a “mountain resort” at Lagonaki Plateau is being considered and requests the State Party to provide more details on the planned resort, and that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before any decisions are made, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  4. Reiterates its position that the construction of large-scale infrastructure within the property, including on Lagonaki plateau, would constitute a case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines and urges the State Party to confirm that no infrastructure is planned within the inscribed property;
  5. Also welcomes the information provided to the World Heritage Centre by the State Party during the present session of the World Heritage Committee, stating that there will be no exclusion of three enclaves on the Lagonaki Plateau area from the property, and requests the State Party to submit an updated boundary clarification, taking into account the comments provided by the World Heritage Centre and comprising high resolution maps that meet the current technical requirements, for review by the World Heritage Centre;
  6. Also requests the State Party to clarify the current legal protection regime of the whole Lagonaki Plateau, in order to ensure that all areas within the World Heritage property as inscribed benefit from the required level of protection;
  7. Noting with serious concern that land plots, located in the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge and Sochi National Park, continue to be leased for a large-scale investment project, reiterates its request to the State Party not to permit any construction of large-scale infrastructure in the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge and Sochi National Park immediately adjacent to the property, given the high likelihood that such construction could have a negative impact on the property’s OUV, and further requests the State Party to submit an EIA, in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, for review by IUCN before any investment project is considered;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to provide clarification on Resolution No. 97 of the Government of the Republic of Adygeya of 21 May 2020, which allegedly enables the establishment of an economic zone inside the property where logging and the construction of linear facilities would be possible;
  9. Also urges the State Party not to conduct any further works on the road to Lunnaya Polyana and reiterates the assessment of the 2012 mission on this road project, which stressed that it should be ensured that all infrastructure facilities, even if deemed necessary for management and research purposes, have no negative impacts on the OUV and that an EIA should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before any final decision is taken on this development, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Requests moreover the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger with regards to the following issues, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines:
    1. The scale of impacts from invasive alien species (IAS) on the OUV of the property and whether they represent an ascertained danger to the OUV of the property,
    2. The creation of the biosphere polygon and the changes in status of the nature monuments included in the property has affected the legal protection of these areas,
    3. Whether the envisaged infrastructure and road development projects inside and near the property and their cumulative impacts represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 45th session, with a view to considering, in case of confirmation of potential or ascertained danger to its OUV, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.110

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 32 COM 7B.25, 42 COM 7B.80 and 43 COM 7B.18, adopted at its 32nd (Quebec City, 2008), 42nd (Manama, 2018) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the confirmation that plans to build large ski facilities in the property in the basins of the Mzymta, Urushten and Malaya Laba rivers have been rejected but notes with concern that the construction of a “mountain resort” at Lagonaki Plateau is being considered and requests the State Party to provide more details on the planned resort, and that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before any decisions are made, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  4. Reiterates its position that the construction of large-scale infrastructure within the property, including on Lagonaki plateau, would constitute a case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines and urges the State Party to confirm that no infrastructure is planned within the inscribed property;
  5. Noting with concern the exclusion of enclaves in the Lagonaki Plateau area of the property detailed in the clarification of the boundaries submitted by the State Party, recalls that any amendment of the property as currently inscribed, and in particular any amendment that would result in the exclusion of any areas of the property and could negatively affect its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), must be submitted as a significant boundary modification in conformity with Paragraph 164 of the Operational Guidelines, and such a reduction of the property’s boundaries can therefore not be considered through a boundary clarification procedure, taking into account that such boundary modifications should serve for better identification of World Heritage properties and enhance protection of their OUV;
  6. Also requests the State Party to clarify the current legal protection regime of the whole Lagonaki Plateau, in order to ensure that all areas within the World Heritage property as inscribed benefit from the required level of protection;
  7. Noting with serious concern that land plots, located in the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge and Sochi National Park, continue to be leased for a large-scale investment project, reiterates its request to the State Party not to permit any construction of large-scale infrastructure in the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge and Sochi National Park immediately adjacent to the property, given the high likelihood that such construction could have a negative impact on the property’s OUV, and further requests the State Party to submit an EIA, in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, for review by IUCN before any investment project is considered;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to provide clarification on Resolution No. 97 of the Government of the Republic of Adygeya of 21 May 2020, which allegedly enables the establishment of an economic zone inside the property where logging and the construction of linear facilities would be possible;
  9. Also urges the State Party not to conduct any further works on the road to Lunnaya Polyana and reiterates the assessment of the 2012 mission on this road project, which stressed that it should be ensured that all infrastructure facilities, even if deemed necessary for management and research purposes, have no negative impacts on the OUV and that an EIA should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before any final decision is taken on this development, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Requests moreover the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger with regards to the following issues, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines:
    1. The scale of impacts from invasive alien species (IAS) on the OUV of the property and whether they represent an ascertained danger to the OUV of the property,
    2. The creation of the biosphere polygon and the changes in status of the nature monuments included in the property has affected the legal protection of these areas,
    3. Whether the envisaged infrastructure and road development projects inside and near the property and their cumulative impacts represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 45th session in 2022, with a view to considering, in case of confirmation of potential or ascertained danger to its OUV, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2021
Russian Federation
Date of Inscription: 1999
Category: Natural
Criteria: (ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2020) .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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