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Area de Conservación Guanacaste

Costa Rica
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Commercial hunting
  • Crop production
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Human resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Mining
  • Renewable energy facilities
  • Subsistence hunting
  • Water (extraction)
  • Other Threats:

    Fires (intentional and accidental)

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources (weak control over commercial and artisanal fishing)
  • Ground transportation infrastructure (Pan-American Highway that bisects the property)
  • Human resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Renewable energy facilities (Las Pailas I and II geothermal and windpower projects development adjacent to the property)
  • Water extraction
  • Other Threats: fire (intentional and accidental fires, particularly affecting the dry forests); longstanding subsistence and commercial use of land and resources, prior to inscription on the World Heritage List, with impacts stemming from farming, ranching, logging, pesticide use, introduction of exotic species, sulphur mining, amongst others
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 3 (from 2000-2004)
Total amount approved : 80,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

January 2018: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 3 February 2021, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/928/documents/ and reports the following progress:

  • The proposal for the construction of the Interoceanic Dry Canal was again rejected in 2020 by the Technical Secretariat of the National Council of Concessions, following an appeal by the project proponents;
  • There is no industrial infrastructure nor any legislative proposals seeking to authorize such projects within the boundaries of the property or in its vicinity, including renewable energy projects and/or associated infrastructure. Pressure for development of new renewable energy projects is reported to have decreased in recent years resulting in the postponing to 2026 of the beginning of operation of the Borinquen I geothermal project in the vicinity of the property, and the cancellation of the Diquis hydroelectric project;
  • The requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to include a chapter that addresses the impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in line with the IUCN technical note, are now included in the recommendations issued to the National Environmental Technical Secretariat SETENA;
  • A tourist hotel project called “Santo Tomás Beach” is intended to be built in the southern proximities of the area. The Regional Directorate of the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) made some recommendations to the SETENA regarding the potential negative impacts of the project, such as requesting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), before any development takes place;
  • Capacity for developing Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) has been built through a Binational Training Workshop between Costa Rica and Panama and the experience from the ongoing development of an SEA for the Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves/La Amistad National Park. This is expected to support elaboration of a future SEA for the property before the development of any possible future projects;
  • Activities to mitigate the effects of the Inter-American highway have continued to facilitate ecosystem connectivity and the movement of fauna between the two blocks that the road bisects;
  • An initial proposal to include the new Bahía Santa Elena Marine Management Area within the property, has been accepted by local stakeholders and a Minor Boundary Modification proposal is being prepared;
  • The property continues being managed as an integral part of the regionalized management model within the wider landscape and seascape;
  • The State Party mentions that climate change is one of the biggest threats that the site is currently facing. On that basis, actions and strategies have been developed to address climate change and try to minimize its impacts, including the “Regional Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change for the Guanacaste Conservation Area”;
  • Efforts have been made to implement the recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission; however, due to limited capacity, with limited progress on some of them.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The renewed rejection of the proposal for the Interoceanic Dry Canal project upon appeal is welcomed. The confirmation that no industrial infrastructure, including renewable energy projects and/or associated infrastructure, have been permitted within the boundaries of the property and its vicinity is also welcomed. Given previous proposals to modify the legal framework in order to permit excision of land from protected areas to enable infrastructure construction, it is also welcomed that no such legislation has been proposed and the property remains off-limits to industrial development infrastructure.

The requirement for EIAs to include a chapter that addresses the impacts on the OUV of the property of any proposed infrastructure projects in its vicinity is also a positive development. It is also noted that measures have been taken to build capacity towards the development of SEAs. It is therefore recommended that the Committee requests the State Party to continue these efforts and to reiterate its request to develop an SEA before the development of any further renewable energy projects in order to identify the best means to harmonize renewable energy initiatives and biodiversity conservation objectives, considering the multiple existing and proposed projects and development pressures near the property. The efforts to mitigate the effects of the Inter-American highway and the Ecological National Route 918 as it is upgraded is noted, especially the inter-institutional cooperation to address the issue. However, it is regrettable that no information is provided on the consideration of improvement of National Road 4 as an alternative route in bypassing the property. Therefore, it is recommended that the Committee requests the State Party to continue monitoring and mitigation activities along the sections of the highway within and bordering the property, and ensure similar activities are integrated into the upgrading of Ecological National Route 918 and reiterates its request that the State Party explore all future options to mitigate the impacts of the highway on the property, including the feasibility to improve National Road 4.

Given the proximity of the “Santo Tomás Beach” hotel project, the recommendations made by the Regional Directorate of the ACG to the SETENA, to ask for an EIA that addresses the potential impacts of the project on the OUV of the property, should be welcomed. Besides, it is advisable that the Committee requests the State Party to submit the EIA for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, once completed.

The development of a Minor Boundary Modification proposal to include the new Bahía Santa Elena Marine Management Area (BSEMMA) within the property, in agreement with local stakeholders is appreciated. The State Party should be encouraged to proceed with this initiative and to continue to consider the wider terrestrial area referred to as the Conservation Area in the Management Plan for inclusion in the property. This would harmonize the boundary of the property with other existing management units in both the terrestrial and marine environment and enhance its integrity.

The State Party should also be encouraged to continue the development of the National System of Conservation Areas, given the 2018 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission report noted that the full potential of the legal and policy framework remains to be realized on land and to be extended to the marine parts of the property.

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that this property faces, with reported changes in the rainfall regime, increased temperatures and extreme droughts. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to continue implementing strategies to minimize the negative impacts of climate change such as the “Regional Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change for the Guanacaste Conservation Area”.

Whilst acknowledging the current capacity limitations, it is recommended the State Party is requested to strengthen its efforts to implement all recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.196
Area de Conservación Guanacaste (Costa Rica) (N 928bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examinedDocument WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. RecallingDecision 43 COM 7B.24, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Welcomes the refusal in 2020 of the proposed Interoceanic Dry Canal project following an appeal by the project proponents;
  4. Notes with appreciation that no industrial infrastructure of any kind has been permitted within the property, and also welcomes the confirmation that the property remains off-limits to industrial development infrastructure, as provided for under national legislation;
  5. Further welcomes that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for proposed infrastructure projects in the vicinity of the property are now required to include consideration of potential negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  6. Welcomes furthermore the recommendations made by the Regional Directorate of the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) to the National Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA), requesting the developers of the “Santo Tomás Beach” hotel project to elaborate an EIA of the project during its pre-feasibility phase, and requests the State Party to submit the document, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, once finalized;
  7. Noting the measures taken to build capacity on conducting Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), reiterates its request to the State Party to develop an SEA before considering of any further renewable energy projects in order to identify the best means to harmonize renewable energy initiatives and biodiversity conservation objectives, considering the multiple existing and proposed projects and development pressures near the property;
  8. Takes note of the current measures to mitigate the effects of the Inter-American highway, including the inter-institutional cooperation, and encourages the State Party to ensure continued measures along the sections of the highway within and bordering the property, and to ensure similar activities are integrated into the upgrading of Ecological National Route 918, whilst reiterating its request that the State Party explore all future options to mitigate the impacts of the highway on the property, including the feasibility to improve National Road 4 as an alternative route;
  9. Also encourages the State Party to continue the development of Minor Boundary Modification (MBM) to include the new Bahía Santa Elena Marine Management Area within the property and also recommends the State Party to consider the wider terrestrial area referred to as the Conservation Area or “protected block” for inclusion in the property in order to harmonize the boundary of the property with other existing management units across the terrestrial and marine environment;
  10. Welcomes moreover the confirmation that the State Party is continuing to develop the National System of Conservation Areas to create effective wider protection of the property, and further encourages the State Party to continue consolidating the integration of conservation considerations into the wider landscape and seascape to ensure effective buffering of impacts on the World Heritage property;
  11. Also takes note of the strategies and instruments elaborated to address the issue of climate change, and encourages furthermore the State Party to continue its efforts in this regard to minimize the negative impacts of climate change, such as the development of a “Regional Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change for the Guanacaste Conservation Area”;
  12. While acknowledging the current human and financial capacity limitations, also requests the State Party to fully implement all recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission to the property;
  13. Further 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.196

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examinedDocument WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. RecallingDecision 43 COM 7B.24, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Welcomes the refusal in 2020 of the proposed Interoceanic Dry Canal project following an appeal by the project proponents;
  4. Notes with appreciation that no industrial infrastructure of any kind has been permitted within the property, and also welcomes the confirmation that the property remains off-limits to industrial development infrastructure, as provided for under national legislation;
  5. Further welcomes that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for proposed infrastructure projects in the vicinity of the property are now required to include consideration of potential negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  6. Welcomes furthermore the recommendations made by the Regional Directorate of the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) to the National Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA), requesting the developers of the “Santo Tomás Beach” hotel project to elaborate an EIA of the project during its pre-feasibility phase, and requests the State Party to submit the document, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, once finalized;
  7. Noting the measures taken to build capacity on conducting Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), reiterates its request to the State Party to develop an SEA before considering of any further renewable energy projects in order to identify the best means to harmonize renewable energy initiatives and biodiversity conservation objectives, considering the multiple existing and proposed projects and development pressures near the property;
  8. Takes note of the current measures to mitigate the effects of the Inter-American highway, including the inter-institutional cooperation, and encourages the State Party to ensure continued measures along the sections of the highway within and bordering the property, and to ensure similar activities are integrated into the upgrading of Ecological National Route 918, whilst reiterating its request that the State Party explore all future options to mitigate the impacts of the highway on the property, including the feasibility to improve National Road 4 as an alternative route;
  9. Also encourages the State Party to continue the development of Minor Boundary Modification (MBM) to include the new Bahía Santa Elena Marine Management Area within the property and also recommends the State Party to consider the wider terrestrial area referred to as the Conservation Area or “protected block” for inclusion in the property in order to harmonize the boundary of the property with other existing management units across the terrestrial and marine environment;
  10. Welcomes moreover the confirmation that the State Party is continuing to develop the National System of Conservation Areas to create effective wider protection of the property, and further encourages the State Party to continue consolidating the integration of conservation considerations into the wider landscape and seascape to ensure effective buffering of impacts on the World Heritage property;
  11. Also takes note of the strategies and instruments elaborated to address the issue of climate change, and encourages furthermore the State Party to continue its efforts in this regard to minimize the negative impacts of climate change, such as the development of a “Regional Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change for the Guanacaste Conservation Area”;
  12. While acknowledging the current human and financial capacity limitations, also requests the State Party to fully implement all recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission to the property;
  13. Further 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
Costa Rica
Date of Inscription: 1999
Category: Natural
Criteria: (ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2021) .pdf
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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