Two of our members, Jonathan and Tony, were recently discussing how beneficial it would be if the two major sections of the Dong Phayayen - Khao Yai World Heritage Site could be physically joined again. So I did a little internet digging. UNESCO and the DNP agree with them.
Whilst the current political climate may not be one for approving anything, the issue will resurface again very shortly.
Here is what the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, said on the matter:
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
1. Road expansion, in particular regarding Highway 304;
2. Forest fragmentation, connectivity and the need for ecological corridors;
4. Management Planning;
5. Tourism and visitor levels;
6. Dams and cattle grazing.
Current conservation issues
On 1 February 2013, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which provides information on impacts from expansion works on Highway 304, land encroachment and cattle grazing within components of the property, and construction of the Huay Samong Dam. A report on Environmental Mitigation Measures and Environmental Monitoring Plans related to the construction of Huay Samong Dam is annexed to the report. In addition, the State Party submitted the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Wildlife Corridor and Road Widening Project on Highway 304 to the World Heritage Centre in November 2012. It deals with one of the sections where the road crosses the property boundaries. This report includes details and an assessment of proposed options for wildlife corridors for the expansion project from km 26 – 29 on Highway 304.
a) Expansion of Highway 304
Highway 304 runs through the joint boundary of Khao Yai and Thap Lan National Parks in two sections, from km 26 to 29 and from km 42 to 57. The State Party reports that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Wildlife Corridor and Road Widening Project on Highway 304 (the section from km 26 – 29) is currently with the National Environmental Board, which has requested additional information from the Department of Highways (DoH). A complete English translation of the full EIA on this section of the road expansion is yet to be received by the Committee. The English translation of the EIA attached to the current State Party report outlines options for wildlife corridor construction and identifies the most suitable option. However, it does not present an assessment of the different options, and provides only summarized information on the environmental impacts of the preferred option and the proposed mitigation measures during the construction phase. It does not present clear conclusions on impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, nor does it provide details on available resources for the implementation of the proposed mitigation measures. Furthermore, it does not provide any information on mitigation measures to be implemented after the construction phase. IUCN considers that the information provided by the State Party is not sufficiently detailed to demonstrate that the expansion of Highway 304 will not have significant negative impacts on the property’s integrity and OUV.
The State Party provides details on actions implemented in regards to speed limits and their enforcement on the relevant sections of the highway that transect the property, including checkpoints and patrolling teams to monitor the speed of vehicles, traffic barriers and stops at crucial parts of the road, warning and interpretive signs at dangerous sections and limits on road access at night. The State Party reports that road # 3436 that bisects the property has been closed, with ranger stations and monitoring put in place. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that other roads bisecting the property remain open. Enforcement of appropriate speed limits along these routes remains important, noting that these roads are, or have the potential to be used as short cuts through the property.
The State Party previously reported implementation of stricter measures to halt land encroachment within the property. The current report also provides details of additional efforts, including monitoring of encroachment levels (mapping expected to be completed in 2014) and strengthened enforcement measures. Proof of land ownership is still being resolved between the Department of National Parks (DNP) and the local communities with continued consultation between both the authorities and surrounding communities. The State Party indicates that encroachment has not increased since inscription of the property, in contrast to numerous reports received by IUCN indicating increasing encroachment, particularly along the northern border of Thap Lan National Park. IUCN is also concerned by recent newspaper reports indicating a weakening of efforts to address this issue, and notes that the property remains under heavy pressure from encroachment and neighbouring land use practices.
c) Illegal logging
IUCN has received reports of increased illegal logging of Siamese rosewood by armed gangs of up to 30 individuals within the boundaries of the property, especially in Dong Yai and Ta Phraya National Parks, including the tragic death of a patrol ranger in March 2013. Reported aloewood collection in Khao Yai National Park, and to a lesser degree in the other components of the property, is also a concern. The illegal logging and international illegal trade of Siamese rosewood and other valuable timber species are directly threatening the property’s OUV and a cause for serious concern. There is an urgent need for concerted management action to address these issues and ensure that the OUV is maintained. This should also include international support, particularly from other Siamese rosewood range States, and States concerned with the illegal trade of Siamese rosewood and other valuable timber species (Cambodia, China, Lao People Democratic Republic, Thailand, and Viet Nam). The World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to provide further information on this issue on 8 April 2013. No comments have been received so far.
d) Huay Samong Dam
The State Party confirms that construction work on the Huay Samong Dam continues and indicates that all relevant agencies are working towards mitigation of the impacts on the property’s OUV during construction. However, details on actions to limit the impact during construction are limited. The State Party states that the area of the property flooded on completion of the dam will serve as a protection zone against encroachment.
However, no details were provided on timelines for implementation of these work plans and which specific actions, if any, have already been implemented. Reports have also been received indicating that there has been no progress on assigning oversight of the dam reservoir area including providing a mandate for DNP to oversee management of the water area to prevent eventual poachers using fishing boats to enter deep into the parks. This issue has been identified as a problem at other sites where DNP does not have the authority to interdict criminals on the water as the management belongs to other authorities that do not have law enforcement authority in regards to the property. Finally, IUCN notes that consideration should be given to associated risks, such as the introduction of exotic commercial fish species into the reservoir, and would strongly advise that preventive measures are taken to avoid the introduction, intentional or accidental, of exotic fish species. The World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to provide further information on this issue on 12 April 2013. No comments have been received so far.
e) Cattle grazing
The State Party reports that levels of illegal grazing of livestock in the property have improved with the numbers of livestock decreasing significantly in recent years in response to management efforts, and notes continued efforts to remove small subsistence cattle grazing completely from the property. However, the State Party does not make a unequivocal statement in regards to the issue of release of cattle for long term grazing by commercial agricultural companies, raised in the 2012 mission report and by the Committee. The potential impact on the property from this type of cattle grazing is significantly greater than that posed by small-scale settlements which keep cattle enclosed at night. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the issue of large numbers of cattle, free ranging throughout the area, continues to complicate the removal of smaller subsistence cattle grazing and will require a high level of political will and increased enforcement.
f) Management Planning, including tourism planning
The State Party outlines a number of efforts to address Management Planning of the property including a revision of the original 2006 Management Plan. The first draft of the revised plan is yet to be presented for consideration by relevant national committees or the Cabinet. The State Party also provides details of a zoning system proposed for the property to assist with effectiveness of administration and operation control, and notes its willingness and interest to work with the World Heritage Centre in that regard. However, no maps or indication of when the zoning plan will be implemented or how it will be enforced are provided.
The State Party provides considerable detail and background on the issues to be considered in undertaking tourism planning, including ease of access from key transport routes and the popularity of the site due to its inscription as a World Heritage property. However, it does not provide information on the timeline for such planning or its integration into the overall
Management Plan for the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note these efforts, but are concerned that insufficient management staff to oversee protection of some parks (e.g. Dong Yai and Pang Sida), as well as a lack of sufficient resources for effective anti-poaching patrols in all five component parks, are impacting on management effectiveness of the property. In that regard, IUCN is seriously concerned about reports indicating that the populations of several key species are now very low, notably Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) which is reportedly on the verge of extinction, Banteng (Bos javanicus) and Tiger (Panthera tigris), whose populations in the property are estimated to be below 30 and 20, respectively. The World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to provide further information on this issue on 12 April 2013. No comments have been received so far.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the completed expansion works on sections of Highway 304 outside the property are likely to have led to an increase in traffic on all sections of the road, and until the construction of ecological corridors is completed, the impact from the existing road on the property is likely to continue. They recommend that the Committee urge the State Party to expedite the construction of ecologically effective wildlife corridors, based on detailed plans and on completed, approved EIA reports for both sections of the Highway transecting the property (26 – 29 km and 42 – 57 km).
Assessment of the scale and extent of encroachment into the current boundaries of the property is essential to improved enforcement and management. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN therefore recommend that the Committee request the State Party to prioritise completion of a detailed mapping exercise and up to date assessment of encroachment.Priority should also be given to reducing illegal grazing activities, particularly those conducted by commercial agricultural companies, and the increasingly aggressive illegal logging of valuable timber species within the boundaries of the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain concerned by the impacts during and after construction of the Huay Samong Dam, including proposed plans for introduction of exotic species and the need for enforcement of regulations restricting access to the property once the reservoir is filled. They recommend that the Committee request the State Party to urgently complete the EIA and detailed plans for mitigation actions, including their implementation during and after the construction of the dam.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee welcome the planned revision of the Management Plan for the property and the proposed zoning plan, and recommend that the Committee request the State Party to submit the (revised) documents, including a tourism Management Plan, to the World Heritage Centre for consideration. It is essential that the updated Management Plan sets clear priorities and includes objectively verifiable indicators and implementation timeframes.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the property’s OUV remains under serious threat, particularly related to the expansion of Highway 304, encroachment, illegal logging of high value timber species, particularly Siamese rosewood, and sub-optimal management. They are of the view that there has been limited demonstrable progress with the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee (Decision 36 COM 7B.17)and the 2012 reactive monitoring mission, and that the current level of threat could warrant inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger if significant progress over the next 12 months cannot be demonstrated. They therefore recommend that the Committee request the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property before its 38th session in 2014, in order to assess progress in the implementation of the recommendations, and to make a recommendation on whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014.
Decision Adopted: 37COM 7B.15
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B,
2. Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.45 adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),
3. Extends its deepest condolences to the family of the guard killed during operations conducted to protect the property;
4. Notes with concern that implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, to address impacts from expansion works on Highway 304, particularly along the sections of the highway within the property, have not been undertaken and no timeline for completion has been provided, and urges the State Party to expedite the construction of ecologically effective wildlife corridors, based on detailed plans and on completed, approved Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), including detailed assessments of different options and carefully planned measures for mitigating impacts in the long term for both sections of the Highway transecting the property;
5. Reiterates its request to the State Party to implement and enforce speed limits and impact mitigation actions on other roads that bisect the property, and to monitor and restrict the use of other roads as shortcuts and transport routes through the property;
6. Requests the State Party to complete an up-to-date assessment of the level of encroachment and any increase therein since the inscription of the property, including a detailed mapping exercise, as a matter of priority, and recommends that the State Party considers submitting a request for a major boundary modification to exclude encroached areas that do not contribute to Outstanding Universal Value, and to include adjoining areas of high conservation value, following the relevant procedures as outlined in the Operational Guidelines , and with prior advice of IUCN;
7. Also requests the State Party to take the necessary measures to halt all illegal logging in the property, and ensure that all people participating in illegal resource extraction activities are removed from the property, and with the support of other States Parties concerned, particularly Cambodia, China, Lao People Democratic Republic and Viet Nam, halt illegal trade in Siamese rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis);
8. Also notes that construction continues at the Huay Samong Dam site, and also reiterates its request to the State Party to undertake all necessary mitigation, enforcement and anti-encroachment actions to ensure this project does not impact the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
9. Further reiterates its request to the State Party to implement all the recommendations of the 2012 joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission, including a clear statement on the extent and status of cattle grazing in the property, by June 2014 ;
10. Further request the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property before the 38th session of the Committee in 2014, in order to assess progress in the implementation of the above recommendations and those made by the 2012 reactive monitoring mission, and to consider whether the property should be considered for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
11. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , an updated and detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, including a report on the progress achieved in the implementation of the 2012 mission recommendations and those actions outlined above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.
Decision Adopted: 37COM 8E
The World Heritage Committee,
Here are the 5 choices initially put forward (in the Thai EIR not UNESCO I should add) to resolve the wildlife corridor issue on the 304, to connect the forest park's two main areas together:
[Google Translate from Thai]
One . Tunnel under the mountain range of 2.1 kilometers , the construction cost of 3,400 million baht .
Two . Elevated Distance 3.4 miles long and the construction of 2,500 million baht .
Three . Tunnel underpass cutting back ground cover long distances of 2.4 kilometers for construction of 1,600 million baht .
Four . Way connector integrated forest range . An elevated bridge and tunnel reclamation Distance 1.2 miles Distance 0.7 meters to the building of 1,100 million baht .
Five . Way connector for animal crossing wild mostly in the construction of 600 million baht .
One . Tunnel highway through him (Mountainous Highway Tunnel).
- The construction of a new highway through a tunnel straight through the mountain . To forest Khao Yai and Thap Lan National Park and see the forest. Along the same path Not obscured scenery with highway projects. Makes connecting wildlife corridors can be done with no obstructions and no pollution .
Two . Elevated (Elevated Highway).
- The construction of an elevated bridge (Viaduct) from the beginning to the end of the project. As a result, the forest Khao Yai and Thap Lan is a large area on top. Bottom of the bridge structure to allow wildlife to cross roads.
Three . Tunnel highway cutting back ground cover (Cut and Cover Tunnel / Shallow Tunnel).
- A shallow tunnel construction along the old road . By digging or blasting the surface to the depth of the level , and your design is structured to cover the South back to the original soil level . Improve the view at the top is the connection between the park's forest . Khao Yai and Thap Lan National . At the opening of the tunnel will be installed fence animals to prevent accidents.
Four . Way connected mixed forests (Wildlife Overpass and Underpass Crossing).
- Designed by adjusting the vertical approach looks adequate for the Lodge . Animals were passing Highway construction or demoted down to the tunnel structure and shallow soil . Pet of the tunnel is crossed . The initiative will take the path that has been designed to expand the highway to four lanes already . Some of the routes and adjust accordingly so as not to affect traffic. During construction This style of construction is determined by the path of wildlife alongside . Topography side
Five . Way connected forest for animals crossing the highway widely (Wildlife Overpass Crossing at Specific Locations).
- The format of the routes and highway expansion will modify the building level . I point him to the forest - covered patio. Or may be the route if necessary. Which is considered a form of wildlife crossing structures . I should look into a highway bridge over or tunnel under the highway. Of the suitability of the area for each point in the forest .
The interesting thing about these highway mitigation structures is that wildlife will respond to structures (overpasses, underpasses, etc.) in different ways. In Banff, Alberta, research showed that wildlife species show preference and aversion to certain structures and that, in some cases, the wrong structure could actually inhibit connectivity between two fragmented areas.
I had spoken to a representative from the Department of Highways about this, but the concept of tailoring wildlife crossing structures for wildlife species seemed foreign to them. It's a shame if decisions were made arbitrarily instead of examining what other countries have done and what lessons have been learnt.
Video of some of the Banff structures can be found here:
I think ensuring these structures are effective, with proper enforcement will be key if connectivity of this landscape is to be maintained.