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Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas

China
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Commercial hunting
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Mining
  • Water infrastructure
  • Other Threats:

    Apparent decline in wildlife populations

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Water infrastructure (Major hydropower development on all main rivers and related infrastructure)
  • Mining (Within and near the property)
  • Management systems/management plan (Absence of overall serial property-wide management system and plan including tourism planning; Unclear property boundaries and absence of demarcation)
  • Major visitor accommodation and associate infrastructure (Tourism infrastructure conflicting with conservation objectives)
  • Commercial hunting (Apparent decline in wildlife populations suspected to be a result of trade in wildlife and wildlife derivatives)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

April 2006: UNESCO/IUCN joint Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2013: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 26 November 2020, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1083/documents/ and provides reports on the following:

  • Mineral exploration and extraction activities in the property and its buffer zone continue to be suspended. Surveillance of illegal activities, including mining, has been strengthened, notably through the introduction of the Operation Green Shield Storm (OGSS);
  • The institutional reforms initiated in 2018 were completed at the national and provincial levels in 2019 but are still ongoing at the prefectural and county levels. The Ministry of Natural Resources is now responsible for ecological restoration and has released plans and guidelines for restoration implementation. Yunnan Provincial Forestry and Grassland Administration is responsible for on-the-ground implementation. Active restoration measures are only implemented at a few selected post-mining sites where secondary disasters may occur. All other sites will be left to regenerate naturally by prohibiting human access;
  • Efforts to improve the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is continuing, but additional technical support will also be sought via the World Heritage Centre;
  • Formulation of the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) of the property will resume once the institutional reform is completed;
  • The notice on the Directives on Establishing the Protected Natural Areas System with National Parks as the Mainstay (PNAS-NPM) was issued in June 2019. Once fully established, an overarching management effectiveness evaluation system will be applied to the whole property;
  • Hydropower planning and construction remain unchanged and continue on the Lancang and Jinsha Rivers. There is currently no plan to develop hydropower projects on the Nujiang River;
  • Concerns regarding impacts of hydropower and related infrastructure projects on connectivity between component parts of the property is negated on the grounds that these projects are located outside of the property and that natural features, such as high mountains and canyons, act as barriers between river valleys. On the other hand, the north-south oriented landscapes amongst the component parts of the property are endorsed as primary passageways for the migration of species;
  • The development and utilisation of resources, such as hydropower, is suggested as a way to alleviate poverty in the region.

On 14 January 2021, the State Party submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a power transmission line project passing through the property.

On 16 April 2021, in the framework of the Third Cycle of Periodic Reporting for the Asia and the Pacific region, the State Party submitted the updated maps of the property including surface areas of the 8 components to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The clarification of institutional responsibilities following the reform and the release of new plans and guidelines to “push forward rigorously the implementation of ecological restoration” are appreciated. While the provincial-level request to accelerate restoration of post-mining areas is welcomed, the extent of active restoration appears to be very limited and excludes high-altitude areas. It is recommended that the State Party be requested to provide more details on the active and passive restoration measures that are being taken and to seek further advice from IUCN to facilitate natural regeneration in high altitudes. It is also crucial to ensure adequate surveillance and law enforcement to prevent any reoccurrence of illegal mining activities.

The appointment of experts to improve the quality of the SEA is welcomed. Given the continued pressure from hydropower and infrastructure development in the province and along the three rivers (Nujiang, Lancang, and Jinsha), it is considered urgent that the draft SEA be further improved and completed, in line with international best practices and the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, so that the results can inform management and decision making on future developments. The request for further advice is noted, and the State Party could be encouraged to invite an IUCN Advisory mission to address this.

While welcoming the confirmation that there are currently no hydropower development plans on the Nujiang River, there remain some concerns regarding the future possibility of hydropower and related infrastructure in the Yunnan Province. In this regard, the SEA is critical to assess the indirect and cumulative impacts for the wider area, including both the upstream and downstream catchments of the three rivers. The north-south longitudinal connectivity within each valley is an essential passageway for wildlife, as noted by the State Party. Apart from constituting physical barriers, dams also interrupt natural flow and flood pulse dynamics, sediment and nutrient transport, and lead to ecosystem fragmentation. An increasingly comprehensive consideration of the linkages between conservation and development is therefore recommended.

A number of new strategies, laws and regulations have been implemented at national and provincial levels to strengthen environmental protection, promote sustainable development and effectively act against illicit activities. Improvement in protected area management effectiveness through institutional reforms, simplification of management structures and the new Directive on National Park establishment are welcome initiatives. While acknowledging the scale of these reforms, it is of concern that the development of the CMP and Management Effectiveness Assessment (MEA) system for the property have been halted until the reform is completed, and continued efforts to advance all pending recommendations of the 2013 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission, notably to establish a monitoring system for all mining and prospecting activities between the Hong Shan and the Haba Snow Mountain components of the property in order to understand risks and impacts, particularly with regard to landscape connectivity and wildlife, are needed. The Committee may wish to request the State Party to submit the updated draft CMP to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN.

The EIA submitted for the power transmission project proposes a design using the Nujiang Power Grid to supply power to the Dulongjiang Township, located inside the property. The transmission line would therefore pass through a large section of Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve component of the property. The EIA identifies impacts of the construction and operation phases on flora and fauna and on the scenic values, especially where the line crosses rivers and gorges. This raises important concerns regarding cumulative impacts of the proposed power line with other infrastructure developments, including the new Dulongjiang Highway completed in 2015 within the Gaoligongshan component, which is one of the key biodiversity areas of the property, with many rare and endangered species. While acknowledging the ambition to alleviate poverty and limit firewood dependency, the proposal is contrary to the 2013 mission recommendation, subsequently endorsed by the Committee (Decision 37 COM 7B.12), to avoid the construction of transmission infrastructure within the property and its buffer zone. An alternative option that would not impact the property’s OUV should therefore be explored, and a holistic strategy developed for power generation and electricity transmission to meet long-term energy demands without increasing reliance on hydropower.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.182
Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Area (China) (N 1083bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 7B.12 and 43 COM 7B.5, adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively,
  3. Appreciates the clarification of the institutional responsibilities for ecological restoration in post-mining sites and the development of new plans and guidelines for implementation, and requests the State Party to provide more details on the active and passive restoration measures which are being taken, to seek further advice from IUCN to facilitate natural regeneration in high altitudes, and to ensure that adequate surveillance and law enforcement measures are applied to prevent any reoccurrence of illegal mining activities;
  4. Urges the State Party to further improve and finalise the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), in line with international best practices and the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and to ensure that the SEA includes an assessment of indirect and cumulative impacts of both the upstream and downstream catchments of Nujiang, Lancang and Jinsha Rivers, so that the results can inform management and decision making for future developments;
  5. Noting the State Party’s request for further advice on the improvement and finalisation of the SEA, encourages the State Party to invite an IUCN Advisory mission to that effect;
  6. Welcomes the progress achieved at the national and provincial levels to strengthen environmental protection and promote sustainable development, but reiterates its requests to expedite the development of the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) and Management Effectiveness Assessment (MEA) system in line with the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission, and requests the State Party to submit the updated draft CMP to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN;
  7. Urgently requests the State Party to also implement the other recommendations of the 2013 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission, and specifically to establish a monitoring system for all mining and prospecting activities between the Hong Shan and the Haba Snow Mountain components of the property in order to understand risks and impacts, particularly with regard to landscape connectivity and wildlife;
  8. Notes with concern the possible direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the proposed power transmission line project through the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve component of the property, and also recalling the recommendation of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission to avoid the construction of transmission infrastructure within the property and its buffer zones, also requests the State Party to explore an alternative option that will not impact the OUV of the property;
  9. Further requests the State Party to ensure the development of a holistic plan on power generation and electricity transmission that ensures the protection of the property’s OUV;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, 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 46th session.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.182

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 7B.12 and 43 COM 7B.5, adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively,
  3. Appreciates the clarification of the institutional responsibilities for ecological restoration in post-mining sites and the development of new plans and guidelines for implementation, and requests the State Party to provide more details on the active and passive restoration measures which are being taken, to seek further advice from IUCN to facilitate natural regeneration in high altitudes, and to ensure that adequate surveillance and law enforcement measures are applied to prevent any reoccurrence of illegal mining activities;
  4. Urges the State Party to further improve and finalise the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), in line with international best practices and the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and to ensure that the SEA includes an assessment of indirect and cumulative impacts of both the upstream and downstream catchments of Nujiang, Lancang and Jinsha Rivers, so that the results can inform management and decision making for future developments;
  5. Noting the State Party’s request for further advice on the improvement and finalisation of the SEA, encourages the State Party to invite an IUCN Advisory mission to that effect;
  6. Welcomes the progress achieved at the national and provincial levels to strengthen environmental protection and promote sustainable development, but reiterates its requests to expedite the development of the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) and Management Effectiveness Assessment (MEA) system in line with the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission, and requests the State Party to submit the updated draft CMP to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN;
  7. Urgently requests the State Party to also implement the other recommendations of the 2013 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission, and specifically to establish a monitoring system for all mining and prospecting activities between the Hong Shan and the Haba Snow Mountain components of the property in order to understand risks and impacts, particularly with regard to landscape connectivity and wildlife;
  8. Notes with concern the possible direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the proposed power transmission line project through the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve component of the property, and also recalling the recommendation of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission to avoid the construction of transmission infrastructure within the property and its buffer zones, also requests the State Party to explore an alternative option that will not impact the OUV of the property;
  9. Further requests the State Party to ensure the development of a holistic plan on power generation and electricity transmission that ensures the protection of the property’s OUV;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, 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 46th session in 2023.
Report year: 2021
China
Date of Inscription: 2003
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2020) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.