World Heritage Committee Meeting, Wednesday, Dec. 14

Peter Stott (pstott@PEG.APC.ORG)
Tue, 20 Dec 1994 19:22:53 +1000

Apologies. Equipment failure has delayed these reports. The rest follow.

P H U K E T, T H A I L A N D '94
A daily report covering the activities of the World Heritage
Committee, meeting in Phuket, Thailand, December 12-17, 1994
Vol. III, No. 3 Wednesday, Dec. 14


PHUKET, THAILAND. In one of the more contentious plenary sessions of
the Committee in recent memory, the World Heritage Committee today
inscribed eight new natural heritage sites to the World Heritage List. In
its first day reviewing nominations, the Committee agreed to the listing of
the first two sites to be inscribed in Uganda, as well as single sites in
Colombia, Oman, Spain, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

** The "Australian Fossil Sites," also to be known as the Riversleigh/
Naracoorte Fossil site (criteria i, ii) is made up of two sites separated
by 2,000 km. The Riversleigh site provides outstanding examples of middle
to late Tertiary mammal assemblages in a continent whose mammalian
evolutionary history has been one of the most isolated and distinctive in
the world. At Naracoorte, Victoria Fossil Cave preserves an outstanding
record of terrestrial vertebrate life spanning the last 170,000 years.

** Los Katios National Park (Colombia) (criteria ii, iv). The park, which
adjoins Darien World Heritage site in Panama, represents the only major
protected area at the point of contact between the Middle American land-
bridge and the South American continent. As such it contains a rich biota
from both the North and South American continents.

** Arabian Oryx Sanctuary (Oman) (criteria iv). The site is reknown for the
success of the re-introduction of the White Oryx. It is also the habitat of
the Houbara Bustard, another threatened species. Extensive debate on this
site is noted below.

** Donana National Park (Spain) (criteria ii, iii, iv). A large
Mediterranean wetland site with diverse habitats of marshes, forests,
pristine beaches, dunes, and lagoons. The park has exception faunal
diversity with 360 species of birds.

** The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda) (criteria iii and iv) has
one of the richest faunal communities in East Africa, including almost half
of the world's mountain gorillas and one of the most important forests for
mountain butterflies and birds.

** The Rwenzori Mountains National Park (Uganda) (criteria iii, iv), also
known as "Mountains of the Moon," contains nearly 100,000 hectares and
includes Africa's third highest peak, Margherita. The mountains are
internationally known for the aesthetic and scenic value, and the
extraordinary altitudinal range of the park (1,700 to 5,109m) permits an
exceptional variety of species. Although Uganda acceded to the World
Heritage Convention in 1987, the two sites listed in Uganda were that
country's first listings on the List of the World Heritage.

** Canaima National Park (Venezuela) (criteria i, ii, iii, iv). The park
includes three million acres of lowland and upland habitats. It is best
known for the unique table mountain (tepui) formations. There are numerous
waterfalls,including Angel Falls, the world's highest, with a free fall of
1002 m. The savanna portion of the park is occupied by the indigenous Pemon
people. Only the tepui portion of the park is in a relatively natural
state, and there was extensive debate, noted below, concerning the size of
the nomination.

** Ha-Long Bay (Vietnam) (criteria ii). Ha-Long is a large bay with 1,600
primarily limestone islands and islets, many of precipitous and spectacular
form. Formed from decayed lateritic mountains, the limestone pillars are a
unique natural feature of great scenic beauty and biological interest. The
area is biologically rich, especially in marine species. Technical
questions also made this nomination a subject of debate, noted below.

Two extensions to existing World Heritage sites were also approved: the
"Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia)" inscription would extend
the existing Australian East Coast Temperate and Subtropical Rainforest
Park by 35%. It contains many disjunct protected areas, the great majority
of the rainforests occurring in the region, as well as the most outstanding
forested landscapes. In Canada, the Glacier Bay/Wrangell/St. Elias/Kluane
World Heritage Site, expanded just last year, was enlarged again by the
addition of the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park. This new
wilderness park, established last year by the Canadian government last
year, had been proposed as the site of proposed copper mining operation.
Committee action in Santa Fe had helped to eliminate this undesirable
activity. The extension comprises spectacular river and high mountain
scenery, a diversity of wildlife, as well as outstanding examples of
geological and geomorphological processes.


** Monitoring of the State of Conservation, continued.

The morning's discussion continued on monitoring reports, concentrating on
cultural sites.

** Memphis and its Necropolis, the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dashur
(Egypt). For the World Heritage Centre, Mr. Laurent Levi-Strauss noted that
the international media attention this site was receiving was quite
justified. An eight-lane motorway was being constructed across the site,
passing between the pyramids of Giza and those of Sakkarah. Some 3000
houses were being built in the site's buffer zone; military camps were
encroaching on the site, and a waste disposal site at Sakkarah now covered
several square kilometers of the site. As a result of the protests Egypt
was receiving, President Mubarek had personally visited the site, called a
temporary halt to construction, and requested an expert committee to study
the issue. This committee was due to report yesterday (Tuesday, Dec. 13),
but the Centre had not been informed of any decisions taken. The Centre
recommended that the Committee write a letter to the Egyptian authorities
expressing their serious concern. The Committee should also request a
report to be prepared for next year's Committee meeting reporting on the
advisability of placing the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Committee agreed to these recommendations.

** Petra (Jordan)
At its meeting in July, the Bureau had taken very seriously a report on
conditions at Petra, including the potential impact of ten hotels, planned
or under construction which were not in line with building regulations.
Several would be visible from the monument. Other residential buildings
were being constructed in zones which should have been protected. The
Culture Sector, with the support of the Centre, organized an October
meeting with Jordanian experts to promote the Petra Management Plan, but no
definitive decision had been taken at that meeting. The Centre recommended
that the Committee express to Jordanian authorities its grave concern and
suggest measures including a ban on further hotel construction and the
implementation of the existing management plan for Petra. Agreed.

** Megalithic Temples (Malta)
At the request of the Maltese authorities, a UNESCO mission to Malta was
undertaken in August 1994. Two of the temples, Mnajdra and Ggantija, had
serious conservation problems. At Mnajdra, mudslides had destabilized the
waterlogged earth, causing portions of one wall to collapse. Active stone
quarries in the vicinity were producing permanent cracks in the walls. The
Committee should express its urgent concern to the Malta authorities on
these and a range of points noted by the Centre. Agreed.

** Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (Malta)
Although the Committee had already given $20,000 to the site towards air
conditioning for the Hypogeum, no work had begun because the site is full
of water from adjacent decayed water and sewage pipes. Water drips
constantly from the ceiling and walls, and micro-organisms proliferate on
the exceptional wall paintings. The Committee should urge the national
authorities to proceed with the necessary repairs to the sewage system to
ensure that the Hypogeum is made impervious, and to continue work on the
site so that it can be opened to the public under conditions that would
ensure its conservation. Agreed.

** Monuments of Hue (Vietnam)
As observers from Vietnam were in attendance at the meeting, the Chair
invited the Vietnamese representatives to inform the Committee about the
condition of the site. The Vietnamese observers thanked the Committee for
the opportunity to speak, as it was the first time they had participated in
a Committee meeting since they had signed the Convention in 1987. They
described the attention now being given to the Monuments, and noted that it
was not true that a highway was being planned near the monument.

** Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)
Ms. Minja Yang of the Centre described at length the work being undertaken
by the Nepalese authorities to answer the concerns expressed by the 1993
ICOMOS expert mission and the by the Committee at its Cartagena session.
Among other recommendations, the Committee should urge that the authorities
adopt a more stringent policy in granting demolition and construction
permits and other land use authorization. The Committee should request
Unesco to assist the authorities in preparing a package of projects for
international support, including more extensive site documentation. The
authorities might wish to reconsider the option of listing on the List of
the World Heritage in Danger to draw priority attention to the site.

Germany congratulated the Centre staff on the clarity of the extremely
detailed reports presented and urged that the Committee give serious
attention to the recommendations.

** Kizhi Pogost (Russian Federation)
Dr. Henry Cleere, the ICOMOS World-Heritage Coordinator briefly described
the progress that was being made at the site, which had been before the
Committee for the last three years. The site's short-term prospects were
good, he noted, but the long-term health of the site depended on financial
and political conditions which were not as positive. Because Russia was way
behind in her contributions, she could not approach the Committee for
support from the World Heritage Fund. Nevertheless, a high priority should
be given to discussion with the national authorities of feasible
alternative strategies for long range support and activity at the site; on-
going monitoring activity should be continued; and the Centre should help
the authorities identify other funding sources.

** Hanseatic City of Lubeck (Germany)
As a postscript, Dr. Cleere noted that at the request of the authorities of
Lubeck, ICOMOS had sent a mission consisting of an Urban archaeologist and
urban planner to the World Heritage City of Lubeck. Their report would be
made available to the Committee.

After the morning break, Mr. Silvio Mutal reviewed conditions at a further
five sites: the Island of Mozambique (Mozambique), the City of Lima (Peru),
Serra da Capivara (Brazil), Quirigua (Guatemala), and Rio Abiseo (Peru).
The chair took note of the recommendations proposed by Mr. Mutal's report
for each site.

** Angkor (Cambodia)
The Committee chair then recalled for the delegates the Cambodian
representative's presentation the day before and asked that the Committee
approve the action recommended by the Centre: that the Committee commend
the Cambodian authorities for their very significant efforts and that they
urge the authorities to enact the necessary laws for the protection of
cultural property as soon as possible. A management body to ensure
implementation of this legislation should also be established as soon as
possible. Acknowledgement should be given to Unesco and to the
International Coordinating Committee (chaired by France and Japan) for
their leadership roles. Agreed.

Italy next asked for the floor to describe the restoration work and other
activity that had given to the Uffizi Gallery after the explosion of the
car bomb in front of the museum in 1993. In his extensive discussion of
restoration work needed, the delegate noted the new security concerns that
now must be addresses by many museums in similar situations.

** Global Strategy Progress Report
Item 10 on the Committee's agenda, the report on efforts to make the World
Heritage List more representative, was presented by the Centre's
representative Mr. Laurent Levi-Strauss. He reminded the delegates of the
great imbalance that currently existing in the cultural properties
inscribed on the World Heritage List with regard to regions of the world,
types of properties, and periods represented. At its meeting in July, the
Bureau warmly endorsed the findings of the expert group which had met a few
weeks before at Unesco headquarters. Among the key recommendations endorsed
by the Bureau was the revision to the cultural criteria (para. 24 of the
Operational Guidelines) to encourage inscriptions that would fill the gaps
in the list. Review of this revision had been assigned to Working Group 2.
The report also recommended that a small number of carefully targeted
thematic studies be undertaken. Such studies had since taken place in
Canada and Spain, examining respectively canals and historic routes
(corridors, or 'itineraries'). In 1995, the first regional meeting in
Africa would discuss the place of African cultural heritage.

The Chair asked whether the Committee approved the report. Germany, noting
the growing gap between the number of cultural and natural sites proposed
modifying the report to include equal emphasis on natural properties. The
U.S. delegate agreed with Germany.

Jean-Louis Luxen, Secretary General of ICOMOS, called attention to the fact
that the Global Study had been initiated by ICOMOS. In Cartagena, it had
been agreed that the expenses would be supported by the Centre for ongoing
experts meetings, and the experience had been very satisfactory. Mr. Luxen
requested that in future reports it should be clear that this program was a
joint exercise of ICOMOS and the Centre, and that ICOMOS would be clearly
involved in the intellectual development of the study. ICOMOS was already
engaged in a variety of plans and studies which the organization wished to
see included in the program. It was important to bear in mind, he said,
that this is only one project of a more general scientific research program
covering themes like authenticity, cultural landscape, industrial
archaeology, and so on. It was essential to allow ICOMOS to assume the
coherence of such a scientific program.

The meeting reconvened shortly after 2 pm to address Agenda Item 11,
Tentative Lists. Dr. von Droste reminded delegates that at the 17th session
of the Committee in Cartagena, they had confirmed that tentative lists were
mandatory for cultural properties which the State Party intends to nominate
for inscription on the World Heritage List. As of November, only 33 of 139
States Parties had submitted valid tentative lists. Under the rules
approved in Cartagena, after October 1, 1995, no site would be accepted for
consideration by the Committee unless the State Party had submitted a valid
tentative list.

The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to an examination of those
natural properties proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List. The
presentations were made by the IUCN Senior Scientist, Dr. Jim Thorsell.
IUCN had evaluated eleven new natural site nominations in 1994. Six
(including one extension) were recommended for inscription by the Bureau;
one (Murchison Falls, Uganda) was not; and five were referred back to the
State Parties for further information.

Brief summaries of Dr. Thorsell's description of each site are noted at the
head of this article. Most of the recommendations by IUCN and the Bureau
were approved by the Committee without debate. Four sites, however,
including two late arrivals, evoked considerable discussion and some
concern that the Operational Guidelines were not being necessarily followed
consistently. The summary below concerns the discussion over the four
contentious nominations.

** Galapagos Marine Reserve (Ecuador).
This nomination was an extension of the existing Galapagos World Heritage
Site. The area nominated consists of 7 million ha of sea around the
Galapagos Archipelago. The marine environment here is a "melting pot" of
species that biogeographers have recognized as a distinct biotic province,
including 307 species of fishes in 92 families; at least 51 species are
endemic to the Galapagos. There are also large numbers of marine mammals,
including dolphins, sea lions, and fur seals. The interaction between the
terrestrial and marine environment is particularly important for many
species. The nomination has proved a very problematic one. At its July
meeting, the Bureau, while recognizing the outstanding universal
significance of the site, noted that the management plan for the marine
reserve was not being implemented, and illegal fishing and other human-
related stresses on the marine resources were having a serious effect on
the area. A more recent site evaluation by a team of experts raised even
greater concern. Over 100 giant tortoises had been slaughtered by local
people as a protest against environmental regulation; illegal fishing was
extensive; sea-born trash was taking a toll on marine life; and tourism as
well as the introduction of alien species were having additional negative
impacts. At its recent December meeting, the Bureau recommended inscribing
the marine reserve on the World Heritage List, simultaneously adding it to
the List of the World Heritage in Danger, a procedure undertaken only once
before, when Angkor was simultaneously placed on both lists in 1992.

Since the Bureau meeting, Dr. Thorsell added, the Ecuadorian
representatives had declined this solution. Ecuador said that they would
prefer to see the nomination deferred, rather than accept a 'danger'
classification they did not feel warranted. Based on this information, the
IUCN representative said, his recommendation would be for deferral.

The Chair noted that on this subject there had been extended debate in the
Bureau meeting with no unanimous opinion. It was now for the Committee to
decide. Dr. Thorsell noted that there were really only two options: a)
defer the nomination; or inscribe the site on both lists simultaneously.
For the Centre, Dr. von Droste recommended deferring the nomination,
requesting corrective plans from the State Party. Columbia, the United
States, Spain, and Peru voiced their support for the wishes of Ecuador and
supported the IUCN position to defer the nomination. Both France and
Germany spoke in favor of the great intrinsic value of the islands, which
clearly merited a place on both lists. The chair reminded delegates of the
Committee's decision in Santa Fe, allowing the Committee to list a property
on the Danger list without the consent of the State Party. At the request
of Germany, the Chair called for the afternoon coffee break. After
conferring with the Ecuadorian representatives, Germany then agreed to
defer the nomination. Both Colombia and France urged the Centre to work
with the Ecuadoran authorities to develop ameliorative programs.

** Canaima National Park (Venezuela). The contentious issues were the size
of the property being nominated and the fact that the indigenous Pemon
people had not been consulted in the nomination process. The IUCN
spokesperson, Dr. Thorsell, noted that there was no question but that the
tepui-dominated portion of the park (about 65 % of its 3 million ha size)
met all four World Heritage criteria. The tepuis were not only a unique
biotic environment, but had a unique story to tell of the earth's
evolutionary history. The remainder of Canaima, however (about 1 million
ha) had been substantially altered by human activity. At the July Bureau
meeting, Venezuela was asked to revise the boundaries of the nomination so
as to exclude the low-elevation grasslands inhabited by indigenous people.
No formal response from Venezuela had been received. Although IUCN had
advised the Committee to defer a decision on Canaima, the Bureau determined
that the site met the inscription criteria and should be inscribed, with
the proviso that the Centre and IUCN initiate a review of the site
boundaries taking into account the interests of the local people and the
need to focus the nomination on the tepui portion of the Park.

The Chair noted that the question had been extensively discussed in the
Bureau meeting a few days before and that opinion was divided. Germany
noted that the region was so outstanding that the Committee should to
everything it could to encourage the nomination and was in favor of
reviewing the boundaries once the Committee had inscribed the site. The
committee's decisions should be consistent: if the Committee inscribes
Canima without defined boundaries, then imprecise boundaries in the Ha-Long
nomination should also be permitted. The Chair noted that as a point of
information, the Committee had often deferred nominations in the past in
order to clarify or obtain revised boundaries for a site. The United States
delegate said that this was an issue of the sovereignty of the State Party;
the Committee could not tell Venezuela what to do. The U.S. advocated
moving ahead with the nomination. Germany appreciated the U.S. comments but
observed that the Bureau's July decision had been to write to Venezuela and
as no response had been received, the case was still open. The U.S.
delegate recounted a conversation with a Venezuelan official, who had said
that deferral would be a disaster and reflect poorly on the Committee.
Colombia and Oman supported the U.S. position. The Chair observed that the
current debate mirrored exactly what had taken place in the Bureau meeting,
but that regretfully as Chair he could make no comment. Did the majority,
he asked, recommend the U.S. position to inscribe? Determining that was the
case, the Chair declared the property inscribed.

In a postscript to the debate, the chair cautioned the committee that an
important principle of consistency was at stake. The Committee should be
certain that its decisions were in line with their own decisions and the
Operational Guidelines. For IUCN, Dr. Thorsell echoed the Chair's concern:
would the previous decisions of the Bureau still stand? Should the
Committee go back to Venezuela to obtain a more justified nomination? The
U.S. replied that the Committee should instruct the director to discuss
with Venezuela what action should be taken. Dr. von Droste agreed that the
Centre would do so.

** Ha-Long Bay (Vietnam)
The Committee next turned to the nomination of Ha-Long Bay, deferred a year
before pending the establishment of a legal framework, a revision of the
boundaries of the proposed site, and the preparation of a master plan. Dr.
Thorsell announced that as anticipated, the Vietnamese representatives had
brought with them to the meeting an acceptable map; the legislation was
reasonably in place; and that although there was as yet no management plan,
they did have a boat and were patrolling the Bay. It was a huge job to
implement an effective conservation regime. The site does now meet
criterion iii and IUCN recommended approval, with strong recommendations.
(The chair commented in an aside that the principle of consistency was
'flexible'.) Germany said that since the parts were now all in place, the
Committee should inscribe the site. In quick succession, China, Niger,
France, the Philippines, and Oman voiced support. Since there was no
dissent, the Chair declared it the decision of the Committee to inscribe
the site. Were the additional recommendations acceptable? IUCN recommended
that Vietnam should conduct a review of the protective legislation; should
begin the preparation of a management plan; should install trained staff at
the site; and should urgently address the growing issue of tourism. Agreed.

** Arabian Oryx Sanctuary (Oman)
Dr. Thorsell noted that as the file on this site had only been received ten
days before, IUCN had not had sufficient time to review the site and would
allow Mr. Harold Eidsvik for the Centre to make the statement. Mr. Eidsvik
recalled for the Committee that the original nomination had been submitted
in 1992 and had been deferred for clarification of the legal structures,
boundaries, and management plan. The recent letter from the Oman
authorities included a preliminary response to the Bureau's request for a
management plan. The Centre's understanding was the issue of legal
protection had also been partially met by Royal decree in January of this
year. And in 1992 IUCN had noted that the site had potential for World
Heritage listing. Germany asked the Centre's spokesman if it wasn't true
that the whole case started on November 21st of this year. In that case, it
clearly did not meet the Committee's own deadlines as stated in the
Operational Guidelines. Was there a precise boundary and a sufficient
management plan? What other threatened wildlife species were in the
nominated area? The Committee should not inscribe the site on the basis of
a single species. Taking up the theme expressed in preceding evaluations,
he urged the Committee apply consistency to its deliberations.

Dr. Thorsell replied that the Operational Guidelines require nominations to
be submitted by November 1 to allow a thorough review of the nomination.
Unfortunately there had been insufficient time to determine if there were
other threatened species. The nomination focused on the oryx; the bustard
which was also mentioned was found in numerous other locations in the
region. Dr. von Droste observed that the nomination had been submitted in
1992. Germany however felt that the Operational Guidelines were clear:
November 1st was the deadline.

The Chair asked if there was agreement to inscribe. Germany asked why there
was any hurry to list the site. Clearly Oman already intended to protect
the site; why couldn't the Committee defer this nomination until next year
when IUCN would be in a better position to advise the Committee? The U.S.
delegate asked why the Committee should defer the nomination if the
information was already here in the dossier at the back of the room? The
German delegate said that if the majority wished to inscribe the site, he
would withdraw his objection. Niger stated that it supported the
nomination; it would be a useful model for properties they were
considering. France also thought that the Oman site would be a good model
for desert areas. There being no further discussion or dissent, the Chair
declared the property inscribed. The Bureau had recommended a long list of
recommendations that should accompany the inscription. These included a
request that the Oman authorities prepare a generalized map representing
the 'essential values' of the Sanctuary; that the authorities institute the
necessary legal bylaws and directives called for by the Royal decree; and
that the new management plan being prepared clearly define the World
Heritage values and a zoning plan which would exclude land uses in conflict
with World Heritage values. The 19th sessions of the Bureau and the full
Committee should both review the revised boundaries and additional World
Heritage criteria, based on the consultant's report. Agreed.

The Committee then adjourned until 9 am the following morning.

W o r l d H e r i t a g e C o m m i t t e e
------ XVIII Annual Session, Phuket, Thailand, December 12-17, 1994 ------
This distribution is made possible through grants from the Samuel H. Kress
Foundation; the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training;
the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; and Tufts University's School of
Arts and Sciences. It has been organized with the support of the Inter-
national Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and its Canadian and U.S.
national committees, ICOMOS Canada and US/ICOMOS. It has had the technical
support of the Pegasus Networks (Australia) and the Institute for Global
Communications (U.S.).
The reports are those of an observer of the meetings and do not represent
official publications of ICOMOS, the World Heritage Centre, or any dele-
Inquiries to the editor, Peter Stott
<> or fax to (66-76) 340-479 between December 12 and 17