Decision : CONF 202 IV.B.72
Taxila (Pakistan) / Fort and Shalamar Gardens of Lahore (Pakistan)
In May 2000, the World Heritage Centre received information from the national authorities that the Department of Archaeology would restore the demolished hydraulic works of Shalamar Gardens, and that the football stadium constructed on Bhir Mound (600 BC – 200 AD) at Taxila would be demolished. The authorities had stated that the south-eastern wall of the stadium had been demolished and that the boundary wall on the remaining sides would also be demolished. The Centre was informed that the “rooms” constructed on the northern side will be utilized for watch and ward staff on the site.
At its twenty-third session, the Bureau recalled that, evidences of illegal excavations at two of the archaeological remains in Taxila had been witnessed by a UNESCO mission. At the time of the mission, the representatives of the Government of Pakistan had confirmed that large-scale illegal excavation by looters in search of antiquities within the Buddhist monastery sites had increased in recent years. At its twenty-third session, the Bureau had requested the Government of Pakistan to undertake archaeological research at unexcavated sites at Taxila and to 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 had recommended the authorities of Pakistan to strengthen security at the archaeological remains of Taxila and the customs control at the borders of the North-Western Frontier Province. The Bureau had also requested the Government to undertake an impact assessment study of the heavy industries and military bases in the Taxila Valley areas. Although the Bureau had requested the Government of Pakistan to submit a report by 15 September 1999 on the actions taken, information had not been received concerning the control of illegal excavations and the impact assessment study at the time of the twenty-fourth session of the Bureau.
The Bureau was informed that during consultations between the World Heritage Centre and the Permanent Delegation of Pakistan to UNESCO held since the twenty-third session of the Committee, the national authorities had expressed their intention to nominate the two sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in view of the serious threats facing the authenticity and integrity of the Shalamar Gardens and Bhir Mound of Taxila. However, official nomination had not been received to date. The Centre reported that in the meantime, the Centre and ICOMOS were organizing ICOMOS reactive monitoring missions to be undertaken before the twenty-fourth extraordinary session of the Bureau, to elaborate a comprehensive management plan for both the Fort and Shalamar Gardens of Lahore site and the Taxila site.
The Delegate of Zimbabwe underscored the alarming situation at these two sites where monuments protected under the Convention were being demolished or archaeological values undermined.
The Observer of Pakistan reiterated the recent decision taken by her Government to restore the hydraulic works of Shalamar Gardens. Moreover, the Bureau was informed that the dismantling of the boundary walls of the football stadium constructed on Bhir Mound had commenced. Since May 2000, one third of the wall had already been demolished, while further excavation is being carried out on Bhir Mound. The Observer assured the Bureau of the Government’s resolve to undertake corrective measures to safeguard the World Heritage values of these two sites. Finally, the Observer reiterated the Government’s commitment to adhere to the provisions of the World Heritage Convention.
The Bureau examined the report of the Secretariat and requested the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS to continue the organization of the reactive monitoring missions to the Fort and Shalamar Gardens of Lahore and Taxila World Heritage sites. The Bureau requested the Findings and Recommendations of the Missions to be reported to the twenty-fourth extraordinary session of the Bureau.
The Bureau, expressing its appreciation for the information received from the Pakistan authorities concerning its intentions to undertake corrective measures for Bhir Mound and the Shalamar Gardens, requested the Government of Pakistan to report on further actions taken to restore the 375 year old hydraulic works and to demolish the football stadium, to the twenty-fourth extraordinary session of the Bureau.
The Bureau reiterated its request to the Government of Pakistan made at its twenty-third session for information concerning actions taken to strengthen security at the archaeological remains of Taxila and the customs control at the borders of the North-Western Frontier Province, as well as the progress made in undertaking an impact assessment study of the heavy industries in the Taxila Valley areas. The Bureau requested the Government of Pakistan to submit a report by 15 September 2000 on the actions taken, for examination by the twenty-fourth extraordinary session of the Bureau.
Finally, the Bureau requested the World Heritage Centre to continue consultations with the authorities of Pakistan concerning the Government’s intentions to nominate the two sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger. A report on the results should be provided to the twenty-fourth extraordinary session of the Bureau to enable it to formulate recommendations for the decision of the Committee.