Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1997
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/801/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 35,300
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012
On 31 January 2012, a report was submitted by the State Party of Kenya in response to Decision 35 COM 7B.3. In the report, the State Party expresses its concern about the potential impacts of the Gibe III dam on the property and notes that it is of the opinion that no adequate scientific proof has been provided by the State Party of Ethiopia that adequate mitigation measures have been taken and that this has to be addressed urgently to avoid irreversible damage to the property. The report further notes that this issue is of transboundary nature and that a solution has to be found together with the State Party of Ethiopia. On the same date, a report was also received from the State Party of Ethiopia, in which it notes that the Gibe III dam will not result in consumptive use of water, and hence water levels in Lake Turkana will return to normal once the reservoir is filled. It notes that irrigation development is not part of the Gibe III project. It concludes that all Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) carried out indicate that the Gibe III dam will not have significant impacts on the environment and therefore it will not suspend the construction of the dam, as was requested by the World Heritage Committee. The State Party also transmitted electronic copies of EIA, including the additional study on downstream impacts.
From 14 to 22 March 2012, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission visited Sibiloi National Park (SNP) and South Island National Park (SINP) which are part of the property, and had discussions with various stakeholders and the Kenyan authorities, including a meeting with Prime Minister.
The mission report is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents The mission had only visited Kenya and at the time of preparation of this report, and the mission to Ethiopia has not yet been scheduled. The mission to Ethiopia will be important to update the information that the mission was able to collect in Kenya and to confirm its conclusions.
The mission looked at the following key conservation issues:
a) Impact of the GIBE III dam and related issues
The mission noted that the EIA submitted by Ethiopia does not assess any impacts beyond the Ethiopian territory and did not consider possible impacts on Lake Turkana. The documented public consultation process also did not include affected populations in Kenya. The mission further notes that the EIA only considers the impacts of the dam as a stand alone project, and does not include any reference to other related planned or on-going projects, such as downstream agricultural development projects which will use the water for irrigation. These irrigation projects are made possible because the dam will ensure a steady and constant flow of water in the Omo River, compared to the natural seasonal variation pattern currently in place. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that while the report of the State Party of Ethiopia asserts that irrigation development is not part of the Gibe III project, a sugar cane development is already being implemented, with infrastructure including irrigation canals currently under construction. Two additional dams are also already planned downstream of the Gibe III dam. At the time of preparation of this report, the official website of the Ethiopian electricity cooperation reports that construction of Gibe III is more than 50% completed.
In preparation of the mission, IUCN commissioned a review of the potential hydrological impacts of the proposed Gibe III dam on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Lake Turkana National Parks, prepared by Hydro-ecology Consulting Ltd, which looked at the different documents and studies currently available. Based on this review, the mission believes that the potential cumulative impacts on Lake Turkana of the Gibe II dam and the other related developments would be significant:
(i) Modelling shows that over the expected three years period of filling of the GIBE III reservoir lake water levels will be reduced significantly from 1.65 to 4 m above natural fluctuation levels. After filling is complete and if no water would be extracted from the Omo river downstream of the dam, normal river flow volumes would return to the lake, but it could take 12 years for the lake to return to its equilibrium level. Thus the impact of filling may last 15 years in total. The drop in water levels will move the shoreline of the lake significantly, particularly in the northern part of the lake where two components of the property are located (estimated at 2-3 km minimum at a drop of 1.65 m). This significant drop in lake levels could result in increased salinity and in likely impacts on wildlife which depends on the riparian flood plains and wetland habitats along the lake’s shore for food and breeding as well as on fish stocks as a result of the drying out of major fish spawning areas, such as Ferguson’s Gulf and the delta of the Omo River).
(ii) The current seasonal nature of inflows from the OmoRiver means that Lake Turkana water level naturally rises and falls. The dam will result in a loss of this seasonality in water inflow into the lake and is predicted to dampen the magnitude of this variation significantly (from 1.20 m down to 0.80 m) following dam construction. This constitutes a major change to both the riparian and lake ecosystems and the Omo River delta and is predicted to have important impact on fish stocks and wildlife species which depend on the floodplains of the Omo River and the wetlands along the lake’s shore.
(iii) The drop in lake water levels will likely be long term due to the expected fall of seasonal oscillations mentioned above and the cumulative impact of irrigation projects on the Omo River downstream of the dam. As mentioned above, the Kuraz sugar development is already under construction and there are plans to convert 278,000 ha of land along the river to sugar plantations and other agricultural developments using irrigation. The African Development Bank study cites the Omo-Gibe basin master plan in which irrigation developments by 2024 would use 16% of the basin’s water and calculates this would lead to a reduction in lake level of 8.4 m. This is a significant hydrological change to the lake.
(iv) Gibe III is part of a system of dams which will impact the water inflow into Lake Turkana: Gibe I and Gibe II dams are already in operation upstream of Gibe III, although Gibe II is under repair due to a tunnel collapse. A dam also exists on the TurkwelRiver, which also flows into Lake Turkana. On the OmoRiver, Gibe IV and V are also planned, but few details of their design and operation are available. Simulations show that the cumulative impact of increasing the surface area of all the reservoirs will reduce the volume because of increased evaporation. Each reservoir will need to be filled, so reduced flow inputs to Lake Turkana and further reduction in seasonal variations in flow might continue for a much longer period than 15 years.
The mission therefore concluded based on the information available through the mission in Kenya that the potential and ascertained cumulative impacts of the GIBE III dam and related developments are highly likely to impact the OUV of the property and that the conditions for inscribing the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger are met.
During the meeting with the Prime Minister, the mission was informed that the Government of Ethiopia had assured the Government of Kenya that the Gibe III dam would not have a long term impact on the water level of Lake Turkana, but that they had not been informed about the related irrigation projects and other developments. The Kenya National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) also informed the mission that they had never received a copy of the Gibe III EIA and that they were not aware of any EIA which was done to assess the downstream impacts of the dam in Kenya, including on Lake Turkana. The mission also notes the huge negative impacts that the dam and related projects are likely to have on the livelihoods of local communities living around Lake Turkana.
b) Oil exploration
The mission was informed that several oil exploration blocks have been attributed which cover Lake Turkana, including some parts of the property. The mission was further informed that the company to whom these blocks have been attributed, Tullow Oil, received the authorisation for oil exploration activities in all these blocks based on an EIA, which has not been submitted to the World Heritage Centre. The mission was provided with a copy of the exploration licence for one of the blocks which overlaps with SNP and noted that the licence includes a provision that the company must collaborate with the management authority of SNP, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), to ensure the protection of the World Heritage property. The mission was further informed that neither KWS nor NationalMuseums of Kenya (NMK), which is in charge of managing the fossils sites in the property, had been informed before the licence was attributed.
Representatives of Tullow Oil clarified to the mission team that for the moment only aerial seismic surveys have been undertaken and that seismic operations on the ground are currently planned and starting on the western shore only and the lake itself and therefore avoid the property. They also stated that further ground surveys on the eastern shore, where SNP is located, may not be necessary.
c) Wildlife populations and pressure from poaching and livestock grazing
While the mission had no access to data on wildlife populations, it noted from observations during the field visit that wildlife populations seem to be impoverished and concentrated in the most secure areas of the property. This indicates also that poaching pressure is an important threat to the property. Certain flagship species such as reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra are reported to have disappeared from the property. The mission further noted fishing activities within the borders of the World Heritage property.
The mission was informed that at the time of creating the park local pastoralists were guaranteed grazing and watering rights in the case of drought. The mission notes that grazing is currently permanently affecting the entire northern part of the park, resulting in overgrazing, trampling and an increase in shrub vegetation.
The mission concluded that livestock grazing, poaching and fishing activities are important management issues that need to be urgently addressed and need to be reflected in the new management plan. Consideration should also be given to the reintroduction of species which have disappeared, such as the reticulated giraffe and the Grevy’s zebra.
d) Impacts of the larger development vision for Northern Kenya
The mission notes that as part of its 2030 development vision, the government of Kenya in cooperation with of the governments of Ethiopia, and South Sudan is planning a larger development which includes the Lamu Port Initiative, the planned Lamu Port Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSET) and related developments (roads, railway, pipeline, power lines, wind farms, resorts, etc.). The mission considers that these projects will cause major changes in northern Kenya, and that the cumulative impacts could affect the property. The mission recommends that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is undertaken which takes into account Lake Turkana and other potentially affected World Heritage properties.
d) Management capacity of KWS and NMK
The mission acknowledges the challenges of managing the property due to its remoteness. The mission emphasizes the importance of involving local stakeholders, particularly pastoralists and fishermen and notes that NMK’s knowledge regarding the cultural heritage of pastoralist communities. It considers that an increase in institutional cooperation between NMK and KWS would be important not only to address the many practical challenges, but also to ensure better protection of both fossil sites and wildlife and to address conservation issues and improve cooperation with local communities. The mission encourages KWS to ensure a permanent presence both in SINP, as well as in the northern part of SNP.
The mission was informed that a new management plan is under preparation and considers this an excellent opportunity to develop strategies to address main threats and management issues of the property. They note that it is important that the management plan is developed by the two management agencies KWS and NMK and addresses all three components of the property.
e) Design of the World Heritage site
The mission noted that most of the lake itself is outside the borders of the World Heritage property although it is named Lake Turkana National Parks. Many important fossil sites are also outside the boundaries. The mission recommends that a reflection is begun on re-designing the site, to include a larger portion of the lake as well as important fossil sites currently outside the property, and to consider re-nominating the property under cultural criteria, as an important site for human evolution.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN wish to draw the attention of the Committee on the fact that, based on the information gathered by the reactive monitoring mission to Kenya, the potential and ascertained cumulative impacts of the GIBE III dam and related developments are highly likely to impact the OUV of the property, and therefore recommend that the Committee inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in accordance with paragraph 180 (b) of the Operational Guidelines.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN stress that the State Party of Kenya needs to urgently address the issue of cumulative impacts of Gibe III and related developments on Lake Turkana on a bilateral basis with the State Party of Ethiopia. They further note that a SEA should be conducted urgently to assess the cumulative impacts of all developments impacting on Omo River basin in order to make strategic choices on the management of water in the basin and to identify appropriate corrective measures to ensure that the water level in Lake Turkana, as well as a level of seasonal variation, will be maintained which is sufficient to maintain the OUV of the property. They recommend that the World Heritage Committee reiterates its request to the State Party of Ethiopia to halt the construction of Gibe III as well as other developments which will use the water of the Omo River for irrigation until the SEA is completed and the above mentioned measures are identified.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate that oil exploration is not in accordance with World Heritage status and take note of the fact that so far no oil exploration activities have taken place within the property itself. They further consider that the State Party should urgently clarify the provision of the EIA licence on the protection of the World Heritage property, to ensure that no exploration can take place within the property. They further recommend that the World Heritage Committee call on Tullow Oil to subscribe to the no-go commitment already supported by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and Shell.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the significant impacts of poaching, fishing and livestock grazing on the property and highlight to the Committee that these issues that need to be urgently addressed and need to be reflected in the new management plan.
Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.3
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.3, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),
3. Takes note of the results of the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission undertaken to Kenya to assess the state of conservation of the property and in particular the impact of the GIBE III dam project and related developments;
4. Reiterates its utmost concern about the potential and ascertained cumulative impacts on Lake Turkana of the GIBE III dam, the related on-going and planned irrigation projects as well as the planned Gibe IV and V dams, and considers that these developments represent a clear potential threat to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 (b) of the Operational Guidelines;
5. Urges the State Party of Ethiopia to invite the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission to review the impacts of the GIBE III dam on the Outstanding Universal Value of Lake Turkana, as was done by the State Party of Kenya;
6. Also urges the State Parties of Kenya and Ethiopia to address this issue on a bilateral basis and conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to assess the cumulative impacts of all developments impacting on the Lake Turkana basin in order to identify appropriate corrective measures to ensure that the water level in Lake Turkana, as well as a level of seasonal variation be maintained, which is sufficient to maintain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
7. Further reiterates its request to the State Party of Ethiopia to immediately halt all construction on the GIBE III dam and related irrigation projects until the SEA is completed and appropriate corrective measures have been identified and implemented;
8. Takes note that oil exploration licences have been granted for exploration blocks which cover part of the property, but that so far no oil exploration activities have been carried out or are planned within the property, and requests the State Party of Kenya to clarify the provision already included within the oil exploration licence on the protection of the World Heritage property, to ensure that no exploration can take place within the property;
9. Calls on Tullow Oil to subscribe to the no-go commitment, already supported by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and Shell, not to explore or exploit oil or minerals inside World Heritage properties;
10. Notes the significant impacts of poaching, fishing and livestock grazing on the property reported by the World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission, and requests the State Party to implement the recommendations of the mission to address these and other management issues, in particular:
a) Conduct a detailed census of key wildlife species to establish their status and develop a baseline to monitor their recovery,
b) Strengthen the efficiency of law enforcement and surveillance based on the results of the MIST monitoring system which is being introduced in the property,
c) Establish a permanent presence of Kenya Wildlife Servive staff in the northern part of Sibiloi National Park as well as on Central and South Island National Parks,
d) Develop in close consultation with representatives of the local pastoralist communities a strategy to diminish grazing pressure in the property, including by identifying grazing areas outside the property and provide them with access to water,
e) Assess the feasibility of reintroducing flagship species which have disappeared from the property such as reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra;
11. Also requests Kenya Wildlife Service and National Museums of Kenya to ensure that the new management plan addresses all three components of the property and covers both the biodiversity and paleontological values;
12. Further requests the State Party of Kenya in cooperation with the State Party of Ethiopia to develop based on the corrective measures identified through the SEA, a timeframe and costed action plan for their implementation as well as a draft Desired state of conservation;
13. Requests furthermore the States Parties of Ethiopia and Kenya to submit to the World Heritage Centre, 1 February 2013, information on the negotiations between Ethiopia and Kenya and a progress report on the implementation of the above mentioned requested actions for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013;
14. Decides not to inscribe Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya) on the List of World Heritage in Danger before the completion of a mission by the Advisory Bodies to the State Party of Ethiopia as recommended in paragraph 5.