St Petersburg, Russian Federation, 29 June 2012 (IUCN) – None of the four natural World Heritage sites that IUCN recommended for inclusion on the Danger List have been added, in what is seen by IUCN experts as a blow for conservation.
IUCN, the official World Heritage advisory body on nature, had recommended that Lake Turkana National Parks in Kenya, Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, Virgin Komi Forests in Russia, and Pitons Management Area in Saint Lucia be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger. The World Heritage Committee, meeting in St. Petersburg until 6 July, has rejected all four recommendations.
“We are disappointed that the Committee has not inscribed any of these threatened sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger this year”, says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “These four sites face significant threats to their values, including from major infrastructure projects, the extractive industry and property speculation. Inscription on the Danger List is not a black mark for countries, but a way of drawing attention and providing support to the sites that need it the most.”
The proposal to include Lake Turkana on the Danger List was mainly due to construction of Gibe III dam, a transboundary issue between Kenya and Ethiopia. According to IUCN, the dam construction will result in a major reduction in the lake’s water level, increased salinity and a general decline in fish stocks and wildlife. It will also affect local communities who depend on the lake for their livelihoods. Oil exploration and poaching pose additional threats to the area. Flagship species such as the reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra seem to have disappeared.
Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve is one of the largest and best preserved rainforests in Africa, surrounded by the Dja river and home to a wide variety of primates, including the critically endangered western lowland gorilla and the endangered chimpanzee. Mining activities in the vicinity of the Reserve as well as wildlife poaching and ongoing dam construction on the river Dja were the main reasons for the site’s danger listing proposal.
For the second year in a row, IUCN’s recommendation to include Russia’s Virgin Komi Forests on the Danger List has not been followed. Preparation works for a gold mine inside the site and national level boundary changes, which led to the loss of legal protection for parts of the site, are both clear criteria for a site to be declared ‘in danger’, according to IUCN.
Pitons Management Area in Saint Lucia has been subjected to significant development since its inscription on the World Heritage List in 2004, and development threats risk irreversible loss of its outstanding universal value. Recognisable for its two volcanic plugs rising from the sea to heights greater than 700m, Pitons Management Area is St Lucia’s only World Heritage Site.
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