In its decision 30 COM 7B.51, the Committee recommended that the State Party concentrate its efforts on the implementation of a series of eight priority measures. The joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission, that took place in November 2006, made the following assessment of the implementation of these measures:
a) Clearly identify the boundaries of the area(s) to be protected and fenced if necessary, even temporarily;
With regard to protection of the property, no progress has been done since the last mission in April 2005. It is urgent that the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone be exactly defined and delineated, and indicated on updated topographic scale maps, while assessing the legal status of the land and addressing ownership issues. The inventory data base elaborated by the Management Plan team should be completed and integrated within the Geographical Information System of the Department of Antiquities. The archaeological areas should be fenced in order to ensure that the property is adequately protected from potential urban encroachment; guardianship against looting and illegal digs should be strengthened.
b) Address the security issues, notably by prohibiting access of visitors to potential dangerous areas and carrying out the necessary works to cover the trenches and archaeological soundings; and
c) Isolate and preserve the most endangered and damaged archaeological and architectural components by establishing a temporary restricted plan of visit paths;
No security measures have yet been taken to safeguard workers and tourists: neither physical barriers nor specific paths are established, trenches and soundings are not re-filled. Furthermore, compared with the situation noticed in 2005, dangerous areas have expanded because of illegal digs and excavations and because of general degradation of structures’ stability. In addition, due to the lack of an adequate guardian system, visitors walk freely around the site and climb upon very fragile structures of the archaeological site.
d) Preserve the mosaics with adequate temporary and protective materials (special geo-textile layers and draining sand layers);
e) Consolidate the most endangered architectural elements using temporary but secure structures;
f) Stop restoration works and reconstruction of collapsed elements; and
g) Resolve, when possible, using simple and temporary solutions, the humidity problems, notably for the mosaic floor of the sheltered St. Stephen Church;
With respect to the state of conservation, the mission observed that damaged archaeological structures and decorative elements had not been isolated or preserved with adequate and temporary measures. Consolidation works necessary to prevent further collapsing need to be carried out urgently. The humidity problems were not addressed either and mosaics in the St. Stephen Church show an increase of saline efflorescence damage.
An International Assistance Request, submitted by the State Party for assistance in restoring the Stylite tower was recently approved and the work should start in the near future.
h) Define the future management structure and financial system, which will be adopted in the management plan for the site.
A first draft of a Management Plan for Um er-Rasas was prepared by a team within the Department of Antiquities. However, despite the efforts, constraints led to a delay in its submission to the World Heritage Centre. The main issue is related to the difficulties in addressing the current conservation situation because of the lack of funds and human resources.
In its Decision 30 COM 7B.51, the Committee had also requested the State Party “to engage, possibly with the support of the World Heritage Centre, in discussions in order to make sure that the European Commission funded project be redesigned so as to integrate the above mentioned priority measures and adapt its work-plan and schedule accordingly”.
The mission confirmed the opinion that many of the components of the European Commission funded project are not adapted to the present situation of the property and that they could affect the site instead of contributing to its improvement. On the grounds of the assessment of the general situation, the mission stressed the need to reconsider the initiative in the framework of a global conservation and management approach and to redesign the project, notably the St. Stephen complex shelter.
Finally, the mission underlined that, as mentioned in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (paragraphs 178 and 179), a World Heritage property - as defined in Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention - can be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the Committee in the cases of ascertained danger due to “serious deterioration of materials” and/or “serious deterioration of structure and/or ornamental features”, or potential danger because of “lack of conservation policy” and/or “threatening effects of regional planning projects”. Concern is indeed raised by the above assessment which, compared to the ICOMOS evaluation at the time of the inscription, shows no improvement.
At the time of drafting this document, no report has been provided by the State Party. Should any information be received by the World Heritage Centre prior to the 31st session of the Committee, it will be reported orally.