In the latest World Heritage Watch Report, the International Campaign for Tibet calls for reviewing the status of a Tibetan nature reserve that received a controversial UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription five years ago.
The status of the Hoh Xil (Tibetan: Achen Gangyap) nature reserve has not been reviewed since it became a World Heritage Site in 2017, when China’s government falsely claimed the area to be a “no-man’s land,” despite Tibetan nomads using the space. Hoh Xil is located in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture under Qinghai Province.
The 2022 World Heritage Watch report, released in October, includes an analysis from ICT about the nature reserve and how, under the new dates set for UNESCO’s Third Cycle of Periodic Reporting, China is not due to submit a periodic review of Hoh Xil until 2024.
Without new and pressing information to warrant a reactive monitoring mission and a detailed state of conservation report, ICT urges UNESCO officers and the International Union for Conservation of Nature advisers to consider in their periodic review of the site:
- the important role Hoh Xil plays as a model project in China’s broader national park and Tibet policy
- the union’s 2020 Conservation Outlook Assessment
- specific recommendations to include the cultural and spiritual values of the Tibetan people in the management of the area
World Heritage Watch is an NGO working with over 180 groups worldwide to prevent world heritage destruction due to political and economic interests. ICT is a member of its network.
World Heritage Watch’s annual report alerts the international community to imminent threats and risks to world heritage.
As acknowledged by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its original 2017 Advisory Report, for many in the local population, “Hoh Xil represents the birthplace of ancestors, and for the Tibetan population this plain represents a legendary hunting ground.” As such, the “cultural and spiritual values of the area should be recognized and included in the planning management strategies for the nominated property, noting the intimate linkage they have with the nature conservation values that are the basis for the nomination.”
Furthermore, as the union’s 2020 heritage assessment of Hoh Xil identified little evidence of local community involvement in the formation of its management plan, ICT recommends the following:
- Review management of the site through a state of conservation report. The state of conservation report should review the renewed 2020 management plan, a climate change monitoring and management plan, and a tourism and traffic management plan. These plans should include:
- A description of how local conservation practices account for the environmental, livelihood and religious needs of the local community.
- A description of how local residents are included in the management of the site and in the renewed 2020 management plan, including in monitoring the effects of climate change and co-designing climate responses and managing the tangible and intangible cultural attributes of the site, such as sacred sites, traditional husbandry methods, local history and folk tales, and other intangible values embedded in the land through social practices.
- An assessment of instruments for legal remedies offering affected communities, Tibetan nomads and herders, meaningful avenues to protect their rights with regard to measures undertaken by the authorities.
- Do not extend the protected property boundaries to include neighboring reserves until a standard of practice for working with local residents on managing the tangible and intangible values of the site is established and reviewed.