1.         Rwenzori Mountains National Park (Uganda) (N 684)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1994

Criteria  (vii)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1999-2004

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1995-2022)
Total amount approved: USD 221,739
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

January 2003 and December 2019: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring missions 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 1 December 2022, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/684/documents, which reports the following:

● The establishment of a wildlife migratory corridor between the property and other Ugandan National Parks is not tenable since the area is heavily settled by communities established for more than 100 years. Relocation would be inappropriate and costly;

● Small-scale hydropower (HEP) projects are located outside the property, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and mitigation measures have been implemented, and monitoring activity reports have not reported any detrimental activities. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is therefore not required;

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The continued implementation of the 2016-2026 GMP is welcomed. Recalling that the 2019 mission recommended the GMP be revised to fully integrate all attributes that underpin the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and noting that the current GMP expires in 2026, it is recommended that the State Party ensure the attributes are fully reflected in the next GMP.

to explore potential options to improve the connectivity between the property and the overall Greater Virunga ecosystem to ensure the OUV is maintained, in particular the viability of the remaining elephant population within the property, including by further strengthening the transboundary cooperation with Virunga National Park in DRC.

The reported ecological monitoring activities, including a 2021 animal census on the property using camera traps and line transects, are noted with appreciation. It is of concern however that the census indicates only seven elephants to now be present within the property, which is a further decline on the 2019 census, further highlighting the need to strengthen ecological connectivity and to urgently develop an action plan for its conservation as requested by the Committee. The estimated chimpanzee population of 576 would point to an increase since the last line transect census in 2010 was undertaken which reported 384 individuals. In this regard, the State Party’s International Assistance request to undertake the chimpanzee census, following previous committee requests, especially the consideration of the use of the standard line transect methodology using nest counts, is appreciated. It is recommended that monitoring is continued and that the requested wildlife monitoring plan, and the review of the Tourism Strategy to focus on low impact tourism activities, both of which could not be completed due to COVID-19 related financial constraints, are completed as soon as possible.

It is recalled that the 2019 mission considered that the proposed cable car project would impact both the scenic value of the property, as well as its fragile ecosystems and biodiversity, and if approved, would constitute a clear case of ascertained danger to the OUV. The confirmation by the State Party that so far the project has not been recommended for approval is therefore appreciated and it is recommended that the State Party not proceed with this project.

The State Party’s confirmation that HEP projects have undergone EIAs, mitigation measures are implemented, and monitoring has reported no detrimental activities is appreciated. However, it is useful to recall that an SEA is a tool that allows for strategic level planning and provides means to assess cumulative effects at an early stage, and guide decision making for the Rwenzori catchment. An SEA is therefore separate to an EIA and will help inform decisions on future projects that would still be subject to project-level EIAs. The State Party should therefore be requested again to undertake an SEA guide strategic level planning and to understand the cumulative effects in the catchment.

It is appreciated that the Kilembe mine remains closed and 2021 water assessments recorded low mineral content in all three rivers flowing out of the property. In line with the mission recommendation, the State Party should be requested to also report on the water quality of the groundwater.

The reconstruction of important infrastructure (trails/bridges) following flash flooding and landslides in 2020 through the Emergency Assistance is appreciated. In this regard, the new Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Plan for the property will provide an important framework to inform future disaster risk planning and management decisions and should be welcomed.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.75

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 44 COM 7B.85 adopted at its extended 44th session (Fuzhou/online, 2021),
  3. Welcomes the continued implementation of the 2016-2026 General Management Plan (GMP) for the property, and requests the State Party to ensure that the attributes that constitute the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property are fully reflected in the next GMP;
  4. Notes with concern the results of the 2021 animal census for elephants which indicate only seven individuals as now remaining in the property, and urges again the State Party to assess the viability of the remaining elephant population within the property and to develop an action plan for its conservation, and also encourages the State Party to explore potential options to improve the connectivity between the property and the overall Greater Virunga ecosystem, including by further strengthening the transboundary cooperation with Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ;
  5. Welcomes the confirmation by the State Party that no plans to proceed with the proposed cable car project are reported and, also recalling that the 2019 Reactive Monitoring mission considered this project would impact both the scenic value of the property, as well as its fragile ecosystems and biodiversity, and if approved, would constitute a clear case of ascertained danger to the OUV, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, requests again the State Party not to further pursue this project;
  6. Notes with appreciation the confirmation that hydropower projects in the vicinity of the property have undergone an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), mitigation measures are implemented, and no detrimental activities are reported, however recalls the increasing number of hydropower projects in the vicinity of the property, and reiterates its request for the State Party to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the Rwenzori water catchment, including the property, to guide strategic level planning and to assess the indirect and cumulative impacts on the OUV arising from the existing and planned small scale run-of-river hydropower infrastructures and to ensure that EIAs for any future small scale hydropower development proposed in the catchment of the property, fully assess the potential impacts in relation to the OUV in line with the new Guidance and Toolkit on Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context;
  7. Takes note that the Kilembe mine remains closed since the 1970s and that 2021 water samples confirm low mineral levels in all three rivers flowing out of the property and requests the State Party to also report on the water quality of the groundwater;
  8. Further requests the State Party to continue to implement the recommendations of the 2019 mission, in particular to:
    1. Revise the Tourism Strategy for the property to ensure that it fully considers the protection of its OUV and prioritize low impact tourism activities that utilize existing infrastructures and facilities,
    2. Develop and implement a wildlife monitoring plan to ensure the regular monitoring of key wildlife species as recognized in the Statement of OUV for the property;
  9. Notes with appreciation the reconstruction of infrastructure following floods and landslides in 2020 and the finalisation of a Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Plan for the property and requests furthermore the State Party to implement the Plan to inform future disaster risk response, planning and management measures;
  10. 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.