1.         The Sundarbans (Bangladesh) (N 798)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

Criteria  (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/798/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2008-2008)
Total amount approved: USD 75,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

USD 32,590 from Switzerland following a Special Appeal by the Sector for External Relations of UNESCO. 

Previous monitoring missions

2007: World Heritage Centre mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

The November 2007 cyclone had devastated most of the property’s management infrastructure, eliminating its capacity to carry out management and monitoring activities effectively. Beyond the serious ecosystem damage caused by the extremely high winds, and impacts on wildlife, the loss of management capacity left the property vulnerable to poaching of marine and terrestrial fauna and flora for commercial and subsistence purposes. The State Party submitted a request for International Assistance to the World Heritage Centre in April 2008. An additional appeal was launched in Switzerland by UNESCO’s Sector for External Relations, raising USD 32,590.  According to the UNESCO country office project report, the International Assistance funds helped support the acquisition of 12 patrol vessels (each with a small cabin and 25-35 HP engines), and the restoration of 6 field stations designed to lodge park staff during field patrol duties.

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on the property on 9 March 2009 to the UNESCO Office in Dhaka. The State Party reports that the UNESCO Special Appeal funds (USD 32,590) helped repair 11 boats, restore 2 field stations and a wildlife sanctuary shed, and corroborates the information provided by the UNESCO country office on the work carried out with the support of International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund. The report notes that the financial support received from UNESCO was sufficient to restore or replace only a fraction of the damaged or destroyed infrastructure. Many other field stations remain unusable, particularly in the eastern part of the property, and radio-communications towers remain out of service. The State Party notes that though it has begun restoration measures on the basis of a long term recovery, external support is needed to address many funding gaps. These include the restoration of field offices and housing, building of cyclone shelters, reconstruction of roads and jetties, acquisition of patrol boats, restoration of tourism and radio communication infrastructure, and the carrying out of monitoring work to gauge the cyclone’s impact on wildlife populations, including the conservation status of tigers, within the property.

The State Party reports that an Integrated Protected Area Co-management project, financed by USAID, was launched in November 2008 with the objective of reducing unsustainable exploitation of forests and wetlands. The property is one among many other protected areas in the country benefiting from this support.

The State Party is proposing a larger restoration and climate change adaptation project for the benefit of the property. Entitled “Rehabilitation of Sidr’s Damage and Climate Change Resilient Afforestation”, this multi-million dollar proposal would seek to implement, among others, those measures required to restore lost and damaged infrastructure within the property, and the restoration of community nurseries and green belts in the high risk settled areas in the coastal zone which surround the property.

The World Heritage properties of The Sundarbans, Bangladesh and Sundarbans National Park, India were mentioned in a petition, addressed to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN in January 2009, drawing attention on the impact of black carbon climate change and the potential for World Heritage properties around the world to be affected. This issue is addressed within the introduction of Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B. A letter was sent by the World Heritage Centre to the States Parties concerned in March 2009 to inform them of this petition.The report highlights the risk of increased flooding and increased salinity from sea level rise and notes that a 25cm rise in sea level could result in a loss of 40% of mangroves in the Bangladesh Sundarbans.

 

On 22 April 2009 the World Heritage Centre received a response to this letter from the State Party. The State Party noted that the World Heritage Committee “…should try to influence the UNFCCC (and its subsidiary agreement Kyoto Protocol) to explore the possibility of including black carbon as an active agent for climate change”. The letter also states that in the present scenario “Sundarbans World Heritage site may be included in the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’ by black carbon”. IUCN considers that the World Heritage Committee has an important role to bring to the attention of UNFCCC the threat to the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of World Heritage properties from the impact of climate change, and to recognize the need for and encourage action to reduce emissions, including of black carbon.

 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN encourage the international community to provide the assistance requested by the State Party to help to ‘understand, mitigate and adapt to the impacts of black carbon.’ The State Party is encouraged to closely monitor the changes in sea level in the property and the potential impact of climate change. The State Party may also benefit from engagement with other States Parties with properties whose Outstanding Universal Value and integrity are at risk from the impact of Climate Change in coastal areas.

 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7B.12

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.10, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Notes the efforts made by the State Party, with the support of International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund and the UNESCO Special Appeal fund, in restoring damaged or destroyed infrastructure;

4. Commends the State Party for its efforts in developing a longer term response through a 5 year rehabilitation project for the property, as requested in Decision 32 COM 7B.10;

5. Takes note of the further needs for the restoration of the property and its management capacity and urges the international community to treat the State Party's request for financial support for the implementation of its recovery plan with the utmost priority;

6. Requests the State Party to develop a programme of ecological monitoring, also documenting the impact of climate change on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including on progress made in restoring of damaged infrastructure for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011.