Decision : CONF 204 IV.B.71
During a mission undertaken in February 1999, a World Heritage Centre staff member witnessed the alarming construction of a football stadium on an unexcavated area on the Bhir Mound site, the earliest historical citadel site within Taxila World Heritage site. The stadium was being built directly on an archaeological area, which the Government of Pakistan had purchased in 1954. At the time of the mission, construction workers had already finished digging the dredges for the rectangular outer brick wall of the stadium, exposing the 2nd century AD strata stone walls and pottery shards. A well had been dug and workers had exposed all four stratums of the Taxila Ancient City at Bhir Mound, including the earliest dating to the 6th century BC Achaemenian period. The construction is on an archaeological area as yet unexcavated and no documentation of this area has been undertaken. The construction of the stadium would irreversibly damage the site, preventing archaeological and scientific research of one fifth of the most ancient part of the Taxila World Heritage site. A stadium will imply the installation of new drainage and water supply systems at the site to meet the needs of the stadium users, which could damage the archaeological remains. Furthermore, this stadium is bound to lead to an increase in visitors to a site that is not adequately prepared for mass tourism. In March 1999, the Director of the World Heritage Centre addressed a letter to the Minister of Culture of Pakistan requesting that urgent measures be taken to ensure the protection and preservation of Bhir Mound.
The mission also expressed deep concern over evidences of illegal excavations at two of the archaeological remains in the Taxila World Heritage site which were examined. The representatives of the Government of Pakistan confirmed that large-scale illegal excavation by looters in search of sculptures within Buddhist monastery sites had increased in the past two years.
Finally, the mission informed of the construction of a second heavy industry complex and military base within Taxila Valley, and expressed concern over the continuing expansion of the industrial estates. Despite their location outside the very limited buffer zone surrounding the registered archaeological sites, these industrial complexes nonetheless risk impacting upon the overall integrity of the Taxila World Heritage site in its ensemble.
ICOMOS, supporting the views of the Secretariat, expressed deep concern regarding the construction of a football stadium on the Bhir Mound and underlined the need for a full report from the Government of Pakistan.
The Observer of Pakistan thanked the Bureau and the World Heritage Centre for the mission undertaken in February 1999 by the World Heritage Centre, which was welcomed by the Government of Pakistan. She assured the Bureau of her Government’s full commitment to protect the Taxila site. Being aware of the potential damages to the archaeological remains of Taxila, she informed the Bureau that the construction of the football stadium at Bhir Mound was of great concern. The Observer of Pakistan stated that the Government of Pakistan intended to correct the situation. She also informed the Bureau that her Government would address the recurring illegal looting and excavation of numerous archaeological remains at Taxila, with the continued support of UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee.
The Bureau, having examined the reports of the Secretariat, ICOMOS and the Observer of Pakistan, requested the Government of Pakistan to take urgent measures to halt the construction of the stadium being built on Bhir Mound. Furthermore, the Bureau requested the Government of Pakistan to undertake archaeological research at unexcavated sites at Taxila, and adequately protect the sites from illegal looters. In view of Pakistan’s adherence to the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the Bureau recommended that the authorities of Pakistan strengthen security at the archaeological remains of Taxila and the customs control at the borders of the North-Western Frontier Province. The Bureau also requested the Government of Pakistan to undertake an impact study of the heavy industries in the Taxila Valley areas. Finally, the Bureau requested the Government of Pakistan to submit a report by 15 September 1999 on the actions taken for examination by the Bureau at its twenty-third extraordinary session.