In April 2017, representatives of high-level international bodies IUCN, ICOMOS and the World Heritage Centre visited the Ohrid region to conduct a Reactive Monitoring Mission for the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
Reactive Monitoring is a special report on the state of conservation for specific World Heritage properties that is conducted either when their condition has severely deteriorated or when major constructions may negatively impact their Outstanding Universal Value to all humanity. It is part of the procedure by which a location may fall onto the List of World Heritage in Danger and possible eventual loss of World Heritage status. During this process, Ohrid SOS met with the monitoring mission representatives and presented them with a very important document: World Heritage on the Edge.
World Heritage on the Edge contains robust evidence of deterioration and threat to ancient Lake Ohrid from improper management of hydroelectric dams to the sewerage system, which has been allowed to fall into disrepair. It further details the campaign of fake news conducted to discredit Ohrid SOS and even includes transcripts from wiretapped conversations indicating that urban planning processes may be abused in the UNESCO Ohrid region.
Ohrid SOS is very concerned that planned projects such as drainage of Studenchishte Marsh, an A3 express road, ski-resort and multiple coastline Tourism Development Zones will irreversibly damage ecosystems in the Ohrid region, and thereby lead to the loss of its World Heritage designation. It is also deeply concerned that institutionalized neglect is heightening these dangers.
Finally, the Reactive Monitoring Mission produced a report with 19 recommendations for the Ohrid region. These include a moratorium on shoreline construction, total cancellation of two critical express road sections, abandonment of the ski-resort and stringent enforcement of laws, such as for the 50m green belt at the Lake Ohrid’s edge. In November, the IUCN followed suit with a World Heritage Outlook assessment that found the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region to be in a state of “significant concern” and highlighted the priority need for wetland rehabilitation.
World Heritage on the Edge is included in the bibliography for both reports. Immediate measures such as abandonment of the road sections and ski-resort are expected from Macedonian authorities by February 2018.