1.         Chitwan National Park (Nepal) (N 284)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1984

Criteria  (vii)(ix)(x)

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/284/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1988-1989)
Total amount approved: USD 80,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/284/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

December 2002: IUCN monitoring mission; March 2016: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/284/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 12 April 2021, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, available athttps://whc.unesco.org/en/list/284/documents/, which reports the following:

The State Party transmitted EIAs for the following proposed projects:

On 5 August 2020, the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu requested comments from the State Party following third-party information on the forced evition and destruction of homes of members of an indigenous Chepang community by the Chitwan National Park authority. At the time of writing the present report, the State Party has not yet provided a response. The World Wildlife Fund International (WWF) commissioned a report entitled “Embedding human rights in nature conservation: from intent to action - report of the Independent Panel of Experts of the Independent Review of allegations raised in the media regarding human rights violations in the context of WWF’s conservation work” (https://wwfint.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/independent_review___independent_panel_of_experts__final_report_24_nov_2020.pdf), which was published in November 2020 and also refers to this and other alleged human rights abuses in and around the property, including the beating and death of a Chepang youth. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

While the continued efforts to combat rhinoceros poaching are noted, it is however concerning that the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on surveillance efforts resulted in the recent poaching of four rhinoceros, and it is recommended the State Party be urged to continue its efforts addressing poaching incidents and its collaborative anti-poaching efforts.

The continued confirmation that the East-West Railroad will not be located within the property and that appropriate EIA processes will be undertaken is welcomed, as are efforts to avoid impacts on wildlife hotspots and important wetlands, and measures to maintain ecological connectivity. Noting however the reported potential for construction to occur close to the property, it is important to request a detailed map of the proposed alignment when it is available and for all potential impacts on the property and its OUV to be adequately assessed prior to finalizing a decision on an alternative route.

Recalling the Committee’s concerns regarding the threat of various other infrastructure developments, the confirmation that the 2016 mission’s recommendations regarding the Thori-Madi-Bharatpur road have also been implemented outside the property is welcomed. The EIA process for the Thori-Birjung road is also noted. Regarding the proposed Terai Hulaki Highway, the inter-ministerial decision to halt construction of a seven-kilometer stretch that would cross the buffer zone without an assessment of its impacts on the OUV is acknowledged, and the State Party should be requested to confirm that any potential impact of the highway on the OUV of the property has been appropriately assessed before taking any decision to proceed further. Noting that no decision has been taken on the alignment of the proposed China-India Trade Link of Province 3 (now Bagmati Province) and Province 4 (now Gandaki Province), the Madi-Balmiki Ashram and Malekhu-Thori roads within the property, and that no construction has commenced outside the property, it is recommended to reiterate the importance of a permanent ban on any other new roads or the reopening/upgrading of old roads passing through the property.

The State Party’s report provided in response to Decision 43 COM 7B.11, which indicates that an area of 1.818 ha including Gajendra Dham was moved from the national park to the buffer zone while 2,063 ha from the Padampur site from the buffer zone was included in the national park, requires further clarification. It is important to recall that the 2016 mission recommended the establishment of an appropriate zonation scheme to set aside areas for spiritual practices and nature conservation, appropriate limits on any further construction of facilities beyond normal maintenance works, and adequate measures to minimize impacts from the large number of pilgrims who visit the site every year. Although the State Party reports that the revised Management Plan for the property includes holistic strategies for tourism management for the property and its buffer zone, including Gajendra Dham, it is unclear whether the legal protection provided by the buffer zone is sufficient to implement the mission’s recommendations. It is therefore recommended that the State Party be requested to provide further details on the legal protection currently extended to Gajendra Dham, which remains part of the property.  It is important to recall that any proposed modification of the boundaries of a World Heritage property or buffer zone must first be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before any change is implemented on the ground, through a boundary modification process in line with Paragraphs 163-165 of the Operational Guidelines. Such a request would then be reviewed by the Advisory Bodies and subject to a review and decision by the Committee. If the State Party wishes to amend the boundaries of the property, an appropriate boundary modification should therefore be submitted in line with the procedures outlined in the Operational Guidelines. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are available to provide guidance on these procedures, if required.

The alleged human rights abuses related to Chitwan National Park raised in the UNESCO letter of August 2020, along with the report of the Independent Panel appointed by WWF, regarding the evictions and destruction of the homes of members of an indigenous Chepang community by the park authority, and the death of a Chepang youth, all raise significant concerns that are not discussed in the State Party’s report. To respect the social, economic and cultural rights of local and indigenous communities, as outlined in the 2015 Policy Document on the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the World Heritage Convention, these matters require further and urgent consideration by the State Party, and it is recommended that the Committee request the the State Party to respond to the issues raised in the report and implement adequate actions to address them.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.188

Decision: 44 COM 7B.188

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.11, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Welcomes the ongoing efforts to combat rhinoceros poaching, but notes with concern the recent poaching of four rhinoceros as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on surveillance and urges the State Party to actively continue its efforts to address poaching and illegal trafficking;
  4. Also welcomes the continued confirmation by the State Party that the alternative alignment of the East-West Electrified Railroad will be located outside the property, and that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) will be completed, requests the State Party to provide a detailed map of the alignment when it is available, and reiterates its request that the State Party ensure that all potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property are fully assessed by the EIA, in line with the IUCN Advice Note on Environmental Assessments;
  5. Further welcomes the confirmation that the recommendations of the 2016 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission regarding the Thori-Madi-Bharatpur road have also been implemented outside the property, and also requests the State Party to continue this implementation in line with the mission recommendations;
  6. Reiterates its concern that other infrastructure projects continue to pose a threat to the property, including the proposed Terai Hulaki Highway, the China-India Trade Links of Province-3 (now Bagmati Province) and Province-4 (now Gandaki Province), the Madi-Balmiki Ashram road and the Malekhu-Thori road; acknowledges the decision to halt the construction of a seven-kilometer stretch of the proposed alignment of the Terai Hulaki Highway that would cross the buffer zone and further requests the State Party to confirm that any potential impact of the highway on the OUV of the property has been appropriately assessed before taking any decision to proceed;
  7. Also notes that no decision has been taken regarding the China-India Trade Links of Province-3 (now Bagmati Province) and Province-4 (now Gandaki Province), the Madi-Balmiki Ashram road and the Malekhu-Thori road and also reiterates its request to the State Party not to approve any other new roads or the reopening/upgrading of old roads passing through the property;
  8. Reiterates its position that, if any of the aforementioned road and railway developments was to proceed through the property, it would represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and thus form a clear basis for the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  9. Also recalling its request to the State Party to provide clarification regarding the report that Gajendra Dham is no longer located within the boundaries of Chitwan National Park, following a revision of boundaries in 2016 and its demarcation on the ground, also notes with concern the reported transfer of 1.818 ha from the Gajendra Mokchhya Dham of Tribeni into the buffer zone and of 2,063 ha from the Padampur site in the buffer zone into the national park, and further recalling that any proposed change to the boundaries of a property must first be submitted to the World Heritage Centre through a boundary modification process in line with Paragraphs 163-165 of the Operational Guidelines, requests furthermore the State Party to:
    1. Provide detailed information on the legal protection status of the property, including provisions for visitor management at Gajendra Dham, and the implementation of the recommendations of the 2016 mission, and notably to develop, in collaboration with the Chitwan National Park Office and the responsible authorities at Gajendra Dham, develop a management plan for Gajendra Dham which should include:
      1. An appropriate zonation scheme to set aside areas for spiritual practices and for nature conservation,
      2. Appropriate limits on any further construction of facilities, beyond the normal maintenance works, and
      3. Adequate measures to minimize impacts from the large number of pilgrims visiting the site annually, including a waste management plan and provisions to allow only daytime ritual activities under the observation of the Chitwan National Park Office,
    2. Submit a proposal for a boundary modification to the World Heritage Centre in line with the Operational Guidelines, if it wishes to amend the boundaries of the property;
  10. Notes with concern the alleged human rights abuses related to Chitwan National Park raised by UNESCO and through the Independent Panel report on human rights commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund International, and requests moreover the State Party to provide a full response regarding its considerations of the findings of this report and to implement actions to address the issues raised, in conformity with relevant international norms and the 2015 Policy Document for the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the World Heritage Convention;
  11. 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.