Tajik National Park (Mountains of the Pamirs)

Tajikistan
Inscribed in
2013
Criteria
(vii)
(viii)

Tajikistan National Park covers more than 2.5 million hectares in the east of the country, at the centre of the so-called “Pamir Knot”, a meeting point of the highest mountain ranges on the Eurasian continent. It consists of high plateaux in the east and, to the west, rugged peaks, some of them over 7,000 meters high, and features extreme seasonal variations of temperature. The longest valley glacier outside the Polar region is located among the 1,085 glaciers inventoried in the site, which also numbers 170 rivers and more than 400 lakes. Rich flora species of both the south-western and central Asian floristic regions grow in the Park which shelters nationally rare and threatened birds and mammals (Marco Polo Argali sheep, Snow Leopards and Siberian Ibex and more). Subject to frequent strong earthquakes, the Park is sparsely inhabited, and virtually unaffected by agriculture and permanent human settlements. It offers a unique opportunity for the study of plate tectonics and subduction phenomena. © UNESCO

Summary

2017 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
09 Nov 2017
Good with some concerns
The greatest protection for the core property stems from its remoteness and impenetrable mountain wilderness character. This is coupled with legal protection and the dedication of a small management staff. The World Heritage values are currently in a good and stable state but management effectiveness is hampered by inadequate budget for staff, training, and equipment. The long-term outlook for the Pamir glaciers through accelerated global warming is of significant concern.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Good
Trend
Stable
The outstanding universal value and natural attributes of the property are assessed as currently being in a good and stable state. Their protection and management, which includes active engagement with the local communities, presents no current or foreseeable major problems or concerns. The scenic and aesthetic values are essentially intact throughout the property. The outstanding geological features are protected and on-going natural processes in the development of landforms and other significant geomorphic features, including the influences of global warming, are unhindered.

Overall THREATS

Low Threat
The large size, alpine wilderness character, and low resident population of the property ensure that overall threats from human activities are minor and localized. The influence of accelerated global warming on the melting of the Pamir glaciers is a significant threat in the medium- to longer-term.
The breaching of Lake Sarez through a major earthquake or other natural event is a potential threat of exceptional concern and international interest.
Unsustainable levels of teresken collection could reduce the population of wild animals with a potential for trophy hunting – a recreational activity which needs to be closely regulated to ensure it is sustainable.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
The greatest protection for the core property stems from its remoteness and impenetrable mountain wilderness character. A satisfactory legal framework for protection and a management system is in place but effective management is severely hampered by an inadequate budget and deficiencies in staff training and operational equipment.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
09 Nov 2017

Description of values

Alpine wilderness of high glaciated mountains

Criterion
(vii)
The Pamir Mountains are the third highest mountain ecosystem in the world after the Himalaya and Karakorum Ranges and include the world’s longest valley glacier outside of the Polar Regions. The Tajik National Park property, which encompasses virtually all of the Pamir Mountain ranges, represents one of the largest high mountain protected areas in the Palearctic Realm. Among the many, often large, glaciers of Inner Asia, the Fedchenko Glacier is the longest glacier in the world outside of the Polar Regions. The visual combination of some of the deepest gorges in the world, surrounded by rugged glaciated peaks, as well as the alpine desert and lakes of the Pamir high plateaux adds up to an alpine wilderness of exceptional natural beauty and the extreme aridity of the climate has kept the area virtually free of impacts from agriculture and permanent human settlement. (TNPa, 2012; IUCN, 2013)

High altitude lakes

Criterion
(vii)
Lake Sarez and Karakul Lake are superlative natural phenomena. The Pamir highlands are subject to frequent and strong earthquakes and the highly active tectonics have produced a geologically dynamic terrain. The most impressive result of this tectonic activity, Lake Sarez, was created by an earthquake-generated landslide of an estimated six billion tonnes of material, is impounded behind the highest natural dam in the world, and is possibly the youngest deep water alpine lake in the world. Lake Karakul is likely to be the highest large lake of meteoric origin. (TNPa, 2012; IUCN, 2013).

Landform juxtaposition of heavily-glaciated high peaks, high plateaux with an alpine desert character, and deep gorges

Criterion
(viii)
The juxtaposition in one protected area of so many high mountains, valley glaciers, and deep river gorges alongside the cold continental desert environment of the high plateau landforms provides for a unique geomorphic environment. A wide range of glacial and periglacial landforms and processes are apparent including rock glaciers of different kinds, areas of extensive permafrost and patterned ground. An outstanding landform feature of the property’s geologically dynamic terrain is Lake Sarez. It is of international scientific and geomorphological hazard significance because of the on-going geological processes influencing its stability, and the sort of lacustrine ecosystem which will develop over time. Tajik National Park furthermore offers a unique opportunity for the study of plate tectonics and continental subduction phenomena thereby contributing to our fundamental understanding of earth building processes. (SoOUV, 2013)
Significant habitat for wild crop plants and fruit trees, snow leopard, and Marco Polo argali.
Only 10% of Tajik NP is covered by biogenic landscapes (i.e. landscapes formed under the influence of living organisms), the rest is largely barren rock or ice. The lower western valleys do contain areas of wild varieties of crop plants in the Central Asian ‘Vavilov Centre of Diversity’ (TNPa, 2012). Tajik NP is large enough to be the habitat for a significant population Snow Leopard and Marco Polo Argali, a subspecies of the globally threatened Argali Sheep.

Assessment information

Low Threat
The large size, alpine wilderness character, and low resident population of the property ensure that overall threats from human activities are minor and localized. The influence of accelerated global warming on the melting of the Pamir glaciers is a significant threat in the medium- to longer-term.
Poaching
High Threat
Inside site
Outside site
Illegal poaching is an issue. Traditionally, shooting of argali trophy heads has been seen as a ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood for young Tajik men. Apart from this, commercial poaching and illegal trophy hunting also occur.
Utility / Service Lines
Very Low Threat
Inside site
Summer water storage by small dam at outlet of Lake Yashikul (and release in winter) has local affect in lacustrine ecology (TNPb, 2012).
Housing/ Urban Areas
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
There are only 5 small villages in the upper reaches of the Bartang River; all other settlements are outside boundary. (TNPb, 2012)
Livestock Farming / Grazing
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
There is only summer grazing on narrow riparian grassland strips, and some hay-making close to the small villages in the Traditional Use Zone (TNPb, 2012)
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
Very Low Threat
Inside site
Outside site
There are currently only about 1200 visitors/year to the vast site. These are accommodated in villages just outside the boundary and their on-site impact is miniscule. If this number is increased to 3000/yr (as planned) it could start to impact on the natural resource of teresken plants, if the authorities do not substitute imported fuel for household use. (IUCN, 2013)
Hunting (commercial/subsistence)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Currently the population of Marco Polo argali within the park is estimated at 5400 and Siberian ibex at around 4200. Efforts are being made to bring trophy hunting under strict control and ensure it is sustainable. Within the park this will most likely be around Karakul Lake, but efforts will be made to locate most of it outside the park (to the SE) (TNPb, 2012)
Droughts,
Storms/Flooding,
Temperature extremes
High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
Global warming is a potential threat already leading to higher meltwater levels in summer. The associated disruption to the mountain valley 4WD roads was experienced by the IUCN field evaluators in 2013 and was raised as an access concern by the villagers in meetings with the field evaluators (IUCN, 2013).
On 16-20 July 2015 the village of Barsem of Jamoat Suchan of the Gorno Badakhshan region was banished by the mud streams which had blocked the bed of the Gund River. 11 households were directly affected by the mud stream. The event also affected the highway connecting Tajikistan with China and Kyrgyzstan, 5 bridges, a medical point, a school, as well as agricultural lands and the main high-voltage (Chernomorets et.al., 2015, Shafiev G. V., 2016).
Low Threat
The breaching of Lake Sarez through a major earthquake or other natural event is a potential threat of exceptional concern and international interest. Unsustainable levels of teresken collection could reduce the population of wild animals with a potential for trophy hunting – a recreational activity which needs to be closely regulated to ensure it is sustainable.
Roads/ Railroads
Very Low Threat
Inside site
Outside site
Of very minor significance, only on fragile alpine desert plateau ecosystems if driving off-road.
War, Civil Unrest/ Military Exercises
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Civil war and border security are very real issues in southern and western Gorno-Badakhshan. However, they are remote from the core areas of the property.
Fishing / Harvesting Aquatic Resources
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
It is difficult to solve this threat in the short-term. The socio-economic situation of the towns and villages on the Pamir Plateau needs to be lifted and alternative sources of fuel, such as coal and gas) supplied (as was the case in Soviet times).
Earthquakes/ Tsunamis
High Threat
Inside site
Outside site
The threat of a major earthquake breaching the Uzoi Dam and releasing the huge volume of water in Lake Sarez into the Bartang/Panj/Amu Darya river system is taken very seriously by the Tajik authorities 9and the governments of adjoining countries which may be affected) (TNPa, 2012; IUCN, 2013).
The large size, alpine wilderness character, and low resident population of the property ensure that overall threats from human activities are minor and localized. The influence of accelerated global warming on the melting of the Pamir glaciers is a significant threat in the medium- to longer-term.
The breaching of Lake Sarez through a major earthquake or other natural event is a potential threat of exceptional concern and international interest.
Unsustainable levels of teresken collection could reduce the population of wild animals with a potential for trophy hunting – a recreational activity which needs to be closely regulated to ensure it is sustainable.
Relationships with local people
Effective
Very few people live within the property but the village communities on the periphery seem to recognize the protected status of TNP and had a working relationship with the TNP management. Many of the park rangers lived within these villages and used villagers as temporary wardens. (IUCN, 2013)
Legal framework
Effective
Various protected area legislation since 1992 (up to 2005) has established the property as a protected legal entity (TNPb, 2012)
Enforcement
Data Deficient
Recent information on the effectiveness of law enforcement is not available.
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Data Deficient
.
Management system
Some Concern
Management responsibility is clearly that of the State Agency of Natural Protected Areas (SANPA). There are three regional offices but only 54 staff. The TNP management team includes 3 directors and 3 chiefs of regional offices. The majority of staff, especially rangers, are selected from local people. (TNPa, 2012)
Management effectiveness
Serious Concern
The park authority acknowledges that due to its vast territory the current number of staff is quite insufficient to ensure adequate control of the park. The current situation is one of doing the best with the limited staff and equipment available. Most of the equipment is from Soviet times and should be written off. (TNPa, 2012; TNPb, 2012; IUCN, 2013). Limited Staff increases are proposed but any significant lift in management effectiveness is very dependent on budgetary increases (including overseas donors).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Some Concern
Most of the 2010 WHC decisions regarding the deferral of the 2009 Tajik NP nomination (34COM 8B.3) were implemented (IUCN, 2013). However, in its 2013 decision to list, the committee again emphasized (37COM 8B.14) the need for “the State Party to marshal the necessary human and financial resources to ensure effective long term protection and management in accordance with the property’s management plan and to explore options to secure additional international financial assistance for capacity building” and encouraged “the State Party to cooperate with the neighbouring State Party of Kyrgyzstan to develop improved and sustainable tourism programmes which enhance visitor services, income and which foster community-based tourism development”.
Boundaries
Effective
The boundaries of the property (and the management zones allowing a degree of sustainable human use) are mostly effective. However, if pressure for increased illegal hunting and collection of teresken for fuel (currently mostly outside the property) impinges into the TNP, management will have to respond to increase surveillance of the boundaries.
Sustainable finance
Serious Concern
This is the most serious management issue facing the property. The Tajik management authorities openly acknowledge this problem and are actively seeking increased budgets from their government, some income from trophy hunting and eco-tourism, and assistance from outside donor agencies. (TNPa, 2012; TNPb, 2012; IUCN, 2013).
Staff training and development
Serious Concern
Current staff morale and commitment seems high (IUCN, 2013) but staff levels and training need to be increased. Again, this is limited by the low budget allocated to TNP.
Sustainable use
Some Concern
Because of the current low human pressure on the core of TNP, most pressure on the effectiveness of sustainable use measures is confined to the ‘traditional use’ and ‘limited economic use’ zones. Harvesting unsustainable levels of teresken is the largest threat and if this happens it will have a detrimental effect on the population of Marco Polo argali (the main object of trophy hunting).
Education and interpretation programs
Data Deficient
.
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
Most eco-tourism is accommodated in the peripheral town of Murghab and the small villages. The relationship between the management agency and tourism guides seems effective at these low numbers (c.1200/yr). However, this would need to be re-assessed if the numbers increase to c.3000/yr as hoped for (TNPa, 2012).
Monitoring
Some Concern
Currently severely limited by lack of budget (TNPb, 2012)
Research
Effective
Very limited detailed information on focus and effectiveness for management.
The greatest protection for the core property stems from its remoteness and impenetrable mountain wilderness character. A satisfactory legal framework for protection and a management system is in place but effective management is severely hampered by an inadequate budget and deficiencies in staff training and operational equipment.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Data Deficient
.
World Heritage values

Alpine wilderness of high glaciated mountains

Good
Trend
Stable
The scenic and aesthetic values are essentially intact throughout the property. Apart from limited recreation facilities in the small recreation zones, and traditional seasonal grazing, hay-making and regulated trophy hunting in the peripheral ‘use zones’, the property is free from excessive or inappropriate human development.

High altitude lakes

Good
Trend
Stable
The water quality of the high altitude lakes is very high with no potential threats from human activity. The Uzoi natural dam impounding Lake Sarez is currently stable and its values intact. However, it is impossible to comment on the likelihood of a catastrophic earthquake which could have a major impact on its values. A complex network of sensors is in place and electronic signals indicating any failure of the Uzoi Dam would be relayed by satellite to a co-ordination centre tasked with broadcasting warnings to downstream populations.

Landform juxtaposition of heavily-glaciated high peaks, high plateaux with an alpine desert character, and deep gorges

Low Concern
Trend
Stable
The major Pamir glaciers, such as the Fedchenko do not appear to be melting at as rapid a rate as other northern hemisphere mountain ranges like the Caucasus or European Alps (TNPa, 2011). However, the trend is for global warming to continue and this has serious implications in the longer term for the supply of freshwater to the lowlands of Central Asia, given the critical regional importance of the ‘water-towers’ within the glaciers of the property (TNPa, 2012).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Good
Trend
Stable
The outstanding universal value and natural attributes of the property are assessed as currently being in a good and stable state. Their protection and management, which includes active engagement with the local communities, presents no current or foreseeable major problems or concerns. The scenic and aesthetic values are essentially intact throughout the property. The outstanding geological features are protected and on-going natural processes in the development of landforms and other significant geomorphic features, including the influences of global warming, are unhindered.
Assessment of the current state and trend of other important biodiversity values
Low Concern
Trend
Stable
The populations of iconic wild animals like snow leopard, Marco Polo argali, and Siberian ibex appear to be stable (TNPa, 2012) and benefit from the very large area of the protected property. The ‘Vavilov centres’ in the western lowlands of the property are identified and protected, with close involvement of local communities.

Additional information

Outdoor recreation and tourism
The property is of great significance for outdoor recreation, especially mountaineering and trophy hunting. It has a long history of mountaineering, especially during the period when the Pamir peaks were the highest in the USSR.
Outdoor recreation and tourism
Vast wilderness landscapes like Tajik National Park are becoming rare with the increasing pace of international development (including that for mass tourism). The remoteness, spectacular mountain scenery, wildlife, discrete archaeological sites, and seasonal nomadic pastoral lifestyles can provide benefits to visitors and locals alike.
Organization/ individuals Project duration Brief description of Active Projects
1 National Center for Biodiversity and Biosafety (NBBC) From: 2015
To: 2017
GEF / UNDP Project "Conservation and sustainable use of Pamir Alay and Tien Shan ecosystems for snow leopard protection and sustainable community livelihoods". Objectives of the project: (1) preventing further fragmentation of landscapes inhabited by snow leopard and its prey in Tajikistan, (2) maintaining and / or restoring the quality of key habitats of the snow leopard and its prey in these landscapes; (3) improving the sustainability of pastures and forests in the key habitats of the snow leopard and its prey; (4) reduction of direct threats to the survival of the population of snow leopard and its prey in the habitat of snow leopards.

References

References
1 Chernomorets et.al., 2015: Mud streams in the valley of the Barsemdara River in July, 2015 and the under pond lake Barsemkul on the river Gunt (The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, Tajikistan) // International scientific and practical conference "Second Vinogradovsky Readings. Art of a hydrology" memories of the outstanding Russian scientist Yu.B. Vinogradov (on November 18-22, 2015, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia). — St. Petersburg State University St. Petersburg, 2015. — Page 261-264.
2 IUCN, 2013: IUCN Technical Evaluation: TAJIK NATIONAL PARK (Mountains of the Pamirs) (TAJIKISTAN) ID No. 1252 rev
3 Shafiev G. V., 2016 : Analysis of the conditions of the glof (glacial lake outburst) in Gund valley in south – east part of Pamir // Debris flows: risks, forecast, protection: Materials of IV International Conference (Russia, Irkutsk – Arshan village (The Republic of Byriatia), September 6–10, 2016). – Irkutsk: Publishing House of Sochava Institute of Geography SB RAS, 2016: 250-254 pp.
4 TNPa, 2012: Republic of Tajikistan, Tajik National Park (Mountains of the Pamirs), nomination document.
5 TNPb, 2012: Republic of Tajikistan, Management Plan of Tajik National park for 2012-2016
6 Web: www.biodiv.tj GEF / UNDP Project "Conservation and sustainable use of Pamir Alay and Tien Shan ecosystems for snow leopard protection and sustainable community livelihoods"