1.         Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) (N 196)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1982

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1996-2007

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/196/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1982-1996)
Total amount approved: USD 198,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/196/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 80,000 under the management effectiveness assessment “Enhancing our Heritage” project.  

Previous monitoring missions

1995 and 2000: IUCN monitoring missions; 2003 and 2006: World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring missions 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Illegal settlements;

b) Illegal livestock grazing and agricultural intrusions;

c) Illegal logging;

d) Poaching;

e) Invasive exotic species;

f) Management deficiencies;

g) Potential impacts from hydroelectric development project Patuca II.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/196/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

As requested in Decision 31 COM 7A.13 the State Party submitted a report on the implementation of the recommendations made by the 2006 World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission. The report was prepared based on input from all the key institutions involved on the management of this property, and it is supported by four Annexes that provide detailed information on some of the issues discussed in the report. Highlights on progress achieved on the implementation of each of the recommendation from the 2006 monitoring mission is noted as follows:

Recommendation 1: To assure swift and strict enforcement of the law regarding illegal settlement, land use and logging, particularly by ensuring the implementation of the full cycle of the law.

A number of aerial surveys implemented in the core zone of the property show that areas previously affected by illegal settlers already removed from this zone are in the process of being recovered by natural processes. The State Party continues to take measures, supported by the Forest Agency and the Army, to remove eleven families that were ranching cattle illegally in the south-eastern part of the core zone. However, no information was provided on the proposed deadline to complete their removal.

In relation to changes in land use, a project was implemented to assess these changes using satellite images for the years 2002-2005. This assessment found that the forest coverage is increasing in over 1,000ha of the core zone previously affected by agricultural activities. In the buffer zone of the property, where 80% of it was affected by agriculture, more work is still required for its full recovery; however forest regeneration is taking place in 14,500ha (representing 7% of the buffer zone) of areas previously affected by agricultural activities. To reduce further pressures from local communities on the natural resources of the property, a number of projects on sustainable practices supported by capacity building activities are under implementation.

With support from the Army and the Navy, the State Party has enhanced control and patrolling activities to reduce illegal logging and traffic of forest products. As a result,1,297 m³ of wood was confiscated in 2007 and four cases have been taken to court. In addition forest stewardship arrangements have been promoted with local communities and other key actors to to further reduce illegal logging.

Recommendation 2: To complete the cadastral survey process of all lands surrounding the property, and provide legal titles to the owners of these lands.

The State Party has completed a cadastral survey in the Buffer Zone of the property. Legal titles are being issued to local communities and indigenous people, which will help to address land tenure issues and facilitate a more active involvement of local communities and indigenous peoples in the conservation and management of the property.

Recommendation 3: To demonstrate effective participation of local organizations and communities in the management processes of the property.

The State Party reported significant progress in the implementation of this recommendation including: (a) development of a participatory process for co-management of natural resources in the property and its buffer zone; (b) the signing of eleven buffer zone agreements for managing forest areas by local community cooperatives with two more under development; (c) adoption of co-management agreements to manage seven small watersheds under protective status in the buffer zone, and; (d) the negotiation of a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project to support natural resource co-management with the local community.

Recommendation 4: To demonstrate that decommissioned wood is not re-entering the market, but disposed of in a manner that eliminates all profit incentives.

The State Party has clarified in its report that this recommendation does not apply in the case of Honduras. It is noted that according to the National Forest Law all decommissioned wood needs to enter the market through a public auction and funding obtained from these sales is used to support the work of the State’s Forest Administration. The new Forest Law that is under discussion proposes to change this system to prevent decommissioned wood entering the market. However, the State Party noted in its report that concerns about sales of decommissioned wood are unfounded and such sales only occurred in 2006 since when this issue has been addressed and the situation is now well under control.

Recommendation 5: To quickly identify any new intrusions into the property and to deal with them swiftly, so as to further discourage this practice.

In order to implement this recommendation the State’s Forest Administration and the Army have identified twelve control points that are essential to stop and prevent any new intrusions to the property. Infrastructure exists in eight of these points and temporary facilities will be developed in the other four. The Army has enhanced its communication system within the property to ensure effective and coordinated actions. It has been proposed to establish a “Green Army” which would receive specialized training in conflict resolution and how to deal with the prevention and prosecution of environmental crimes within the property. The State’s Forest Administration and the Army are in the process of gathering the data and information required to develop an integrated Action Plan to further enhance the control of the property and the eviction of illegal settlers from the core area of the property.

Recommendation 6: Provision of a map clearly indicating the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone.

A map was provided showing the boundaries of the Biosphere Reserve as defined in the decree that established it in 1980. However, it is noted that the boundaries of the core zone were not clearly identified at that time. The State Party is currently updating its maps to define more clearly the boundaries of the core zone. Once this work is completed, a revised map will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre. However, the State Party has not proposed any tentative deadline for the completion of this recommendation.

Whilst the report shows that the State Party is doing its best to enhance the protection and management of this World Heritage property, IUCN is still receiving information from a number of NGOs and experts in Honduras, which note that the situation is still very fragile within the property and express concerns that, in light of the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, the Government might not keep the same level of priority and support to the conservation of this property. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.38

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7A.13, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3. Commends the State Party for its efforts in implementing the recommendations from the 2006 monitoring mission and encourages international donors and partners involved in the conservation and management of this property to continue supporting the State Party efforts for the effective implementation of these recommendations;

4. Urges the State Party to expedite efforts for completing the action plan required for the effective implementation of Recommendation 5 of the 2006 monitoring report and for finalizing a detailed map clearly demarcating the property; and to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2008, the finalized map, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

5. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a report on further progress achieved on the implementation of the recommendations made by the 2006 monitoring mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.