The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 17 February 2012 along with additional information regarding a landscape project for the property and the Beekrumsing Ramlallah Interpretation Centre Project, for consideration and review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies. From 19 to 23 March 2012, an ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out. The mission report is available online at the following Web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents/.
a) Management system
The State Party reports that the Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) was issued and came into force on 10 June 2011. In order to ensure the legal basis for its application to the buffer zones, the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund Act of 2011 (AGTF) was amended to define the boundaries of the buffer zones. As for the Management Plan, the State Party reports that priority efforts had been centred on providing the buffer zones with a legal status and setting up a framework for their management, preservation and conservation, in particular to prevent further demolition. However, this strategy has delayed the review of the 2006 Management Plan, which foresees a substantial section on the buffer zones including a respective Heritage Management Plan and Conservation Manual. Work on the new Management Plan is expected to be completed by June 2012. Regarding management arrangements, the Local Government Act of 2003 was amended in June 2011 to include a Technical Committee under the Municipal Council of Port Louis and provide a structured system of coordination among all institutional stakeholders involved with the enforcement of the PPG. Committee members include representatives from the Ministry of Arts and Culture, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure, the Ministry of Housing and Lands, the Ministry of Environment, the Mauritius Ports Authority, the National Heritage Fund and the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund. This newly formed entity will examine building and land use permit requests and provide recommendations to the decision-making Municipal Council. This Committee may request Heritage Impact Assessments or visual impact assessments from the applicants prior to any project development.
The March 2012 mission noted that since 2006 important actions have been implemented in response to the decisions made by the World Heritage Committee. The formulation of management tools and the parallel review of the legislative framework and management arrangements have constituted positive steps to ensure the efficiency of the management system. It also reported that work is currently underway to revise the planning schemes for the town of Port Louis, to put a larger emphasis on heritage protection and conservation of buffer zone 2. The mission underscored that these efforts needed to continue and recommended in particular the creation of a Conservation Unit within the Municipal Council to assist the Technical Committee in evaluating permit requests and other monitoring and controlling activities. This unit would also reply to the need for technicians specialised in conservation. The National Heritage Fund also needed to strengthen capacity in regard to conservation and maintenance. These capacity needs would be optimally addressed through the development of a comprehensive capacity building strategy on conservation and management.
The mission also noted that one of the main challenges was the adequate protection and management of buffer zone 2 which plays a significant role in the understanding of the inscribed property. It recommended exploring means to ensure a better connectivity between the areas, to examine opportunities to sustain the historic area of Port Louis and to increase awareness raising activities about heritage preservation and conservation to encourage community life rather than commercial development. The mission recommended that mechanisms, such as consultative meetings, could be explored to strengthen participatory decision making. In addition, summaries of existing planning tools need to be produced to facilitate consultation by different users and consequently promoting awareness raising in respect to the conservation and management of the World Heritage property.
b) Demolitions and inadequate development
The State Party indicates that the amendment of the Local Government Act of 2003 also made building and land use permits mandatory for any development in the buffer zones, and that since the adoption of the PPG no further demolitions have occurred.
The mission confirmed that no new important construction or conservation issues took place within the buffer zones. It noted that previous demolitions of historic buildings, constructions of high-rises and randomly located parking areas have had an adverse impact on the setting’s conservation and that this needed to be addressed to ensure the buffer zone 2’s unity with the historic city.
c) Research on Indentured Labour
An international scientific conference “New perspectives on Indentured Labour, 1825-1925” was organised in December 2011 by the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund in collaboration with the Ministry of Arts and Culture to further research on the topic. The proceedings should be published in the second half of 2012. The participants adopted a series of resolutions, including the setting up of an Indentured Labour Global Database Initiative and of an international network of scholars and institutions supporting the International Indentures Labour Route Project. The Technical Committee and the permanent secretariat for this network will be the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund. Additionally, the report on the inventory of elements of intangible heritage related to indenture was submitted to UNESCO in 2011 and there is collaboration to inscribe one of these elements on the Representative List of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
d) Other issues
The report submitted by the State Party includes information about three applications for building and land use permits and their status. It also mentions that since the PGG came into force nine property owners have filed for compensation on the alleged loss of development opportunities. The report further mentions renovation works at the Ex-Military Hospital to house the National Arts Gallery and the restoration project of the warehouse adjacent to the inscribed property to house the Beekrumsing Ramlallah Interpretation Centre. The latter project responds to identified needs in the management plan and will be divided in two phases. The first phase (BRIC 1) will be completed in 2012 and the second phase (BRIC 2) will include acquisition of neighbouring buildings for adaptation.
The mission underscored the issue of accessibility to the property, which requires a mobilisation strategy. Although the situation will be partially addressed through the Interpretation Centre and the landscape project, actions need to be implemented to improve existing pedestrian ways. The mission noted that the Beekrumsing Ramlallah Interpretation Centre is being adequately supervised and does not pose a threat to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.