1.         Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (Kenya) (N 1060rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2011

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/1060/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1999-2006)
Total amount approved: USD 45,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1060/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 17,283 from UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa (2015-2016)

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1060/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 25 March 2022, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1060/documents/ and reporting as follows:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The continuous water level rise in all lakes of the property is of great concern as it has adverse socio-economic impacts, alters the lake boundaries for management, lowers the pH and salinity of the lakes and negatively affects biodiversity. In particular, the decrease in population of Lesser Flamingos, a key attribute of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property is of utmost concern. It is recommended that the States Parties of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania are encouraged to undertake a joint survey in the East African Rift and develop a Lesser Flamingo Action Plan for the region, with cooperation of the IUCN/SSC-Flamingo Specialist Group. At the time of inscription, the World Heritage Committee encouraged the States Parties of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as other relevant States Parties, to cooperate regarding the effective conservation of Lake Natron and other lakes in the region, and to consider further potential serial extensions as part of a potential transnational serial property.

It is concerning that the water level scoping report notes that while the cause of the lake level rise appears largely to be due to climate change, the problem is also exacerbated by land use change and practices in the lake basin which cause increasing run off and thus larger volumes of water flowing into the lakes. The recommendations of the scoping report including the mapping of the riparian zones and relocation or rehabilitation of the sewage treatment plants, raising awareness of the impacts of climate change as well as the establishment of buffer zones should be implemented ; while at the same time urgent action needs to be undertaken to address, in close collaboration with local communities, deforestation and land degradation in the basin and especially in the Mau escarpment, as already recommended at the time of inscription.

The State Party’s engagement with stakeholders, landowners and rightsholders on the feasibility of securing a wildlife corridor between Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha is noted, although it is not explicit if this includes the corridor between Lakes Nakuru and Elementaita. It is recalled that at the time of inscription, there was an agreement in principle between the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Soysambu Conservancy to open a wildlife corridor between Lakes Nakuru and Elementaita, and that this was considered important to protect the ecological connectivity of these components. While proposing a wildlife corridor through existing wayleaves has its benefits, site selection and design should be based on an evaluation of the relevant needs of specific species to allow the potential corridor to accommodate movement of each target species. This should be accompanied by a suitable monitoring programme to assess the effectiveness of the corridor. It is recommended that the State Party provide more information on this proposal and that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to consider the possible extension and formalization of the buffer zone to restore connectivity and further strengthen protection.

Regrettably, no details of the January 2020 meeting on the coordinated management system of the three components of the property are given, such as the main conclusions, decisions or who was consulted.

It is noted that the zonation scheme will be revised once the lake levels subside and as the infrastructure is being rehabilitated, however, the State Party should be reminded of past Committee Decisions (39 COM 7B.5, and 41 COM 7B.21) to develop and implement clear and strict regulations, in collaboration with all stakeholders and rightsholders, to prohibit any development in close proximity to sensitive areas that could affect the OUV of the property.

It is regrettable that the State Party has provided no information regarding the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) mission planned since 2020 and has instead proceeded with energizing the Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu Powerline which passes along Lake Elementaita and which could cause further bird mortalities, including of the Lesser Flamingo. It is recommended that the State Party provides an update on the AEWA mission including its recommendations if available, monitor bird mortalities along the powerline and to report on mitigation measures and their effectiveness to limit bird mortality.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.7

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 7B.541 COM 7B.2143 COM 7B.33 and 44 COM 7B.175 adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015), 41st (Krakow, 2017), 43rd (Baku, 2019) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Expresses its utmost concern about the impacts of the continuous water level rise in all the lakes of the property, causing changes in the boundaries, pH and salinity of the lakes and resulting in adverse impacts on biodiversity, in particular the alarming decline of Lesser Flamingo population, a key attribute of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  4. Encourages the State Party of Kenya, with the support of Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania, to undertake a joint survey to better understand changes within the Lesser Flamingo populations in the East African Rift and develop a Lesser Flamingo Action Plan for the region, in cooperation with the IUCN/SSC Flamingo Specialist Group;
  5. Recalls that at the time of inscription, the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 35 COM 8B.6 encouraged the States Parties of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, and other relevant States Parties, to cooperate regarding the effective conservation of Lake Natron and other lakes in the region, and to consider further potential serial extensions as part of a potential transnational serial World Heritage property;
  6. Notes the results of the scoping report conducted by the multi-agency team on the impacts of the rising lake water levels, and encourages the State Party to implement the study recommendations, including resurveying the riparian zones, beaconing the new boundaries, continued monitoring of the site, relocating or rehabilitating the sewage treatment plants near Lake Nakuru and other lakes, raising awareness on the impacts of climate change as well as establishing buffer zones while at the same time taking urgent actions, in close collaboration with local communities, to address deforestation and land degradation in the basin and especially in the Mau escarpment;
  7. Appreciates the State Party’s discussions with stakeholders towards securing a wildlife corridor between Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha using wayleaves and creating a task force, developing a concept note and a work plan, but considers that the site selection and design of the wildlife corridor should be based on an evaluation of relevant needs of specific species to allow the potential corridor to accommodate movement of each target species, and therefore also requests the State Party to provide more information on this concept;
  8. Also notes that a meeting was organized in 2020 in Naivasha to agree upon the coordination of the management of the three components of the property, and further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre a report of follow up actions made to implement its decisions;
  9. Further noting that the rising lake levels affected the zonation scheme of the property, which will be reviewed once the lake levels subside, reiterates its request to the State Party to develop and implement regulations to prohibit developments in close proximity to fragile areas and sensitive buffer zones of the property;
  10. Strongly regrets that the State Party did not halt the Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu power transmission project, which passes along Lake Elementaita, and has now been energized, notwithstanding concerns remain for the potential impact of the project on the OUV of the property, and urges the State Party to report on the status of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) mission including its recommendations if available, monitor bird mortalities along the powerline and to report on mitigation measures and their effectiveness to limit bird mortality;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, 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 47th session.