The State Party sent a report on 26 January 2007 on the state of conservation of the property. It mentioned that, in Tichitt, some electrical installations are anarchic and visible. The city of Tichitt, unlike the three other cities, did not know massive abandonment of its historic centre. It still remains densely inhabited. This Ksar preserves the majority of its heritage values.
In Ouadane, the national report indicates that the major issue is indeed the presence of the antenna of Mauritel on the outside limit of the inscribed perimeter. It constitutes an element which alters seriously the visual aspect of the site.
Besides, the report mentions the application of white painting on official buildings located within the buffer zone, creating a striking contrast that alters the cultural landscape. It also mentions the installation of a totally visible network of water conveyance.
Despite those remarks, the conclusions of the report are positive. It also states that, despite the lack of funding, the National Foundation for the Safeguarding of the Ancient Cities (FNSVA) created an institutional and legal mechanism in favour of the protection and restoration of the four sites through:
a) The modification of the decree of creation of the FNSVA to make it more operational;
b) the approval by the cabinet of town planning schemes and management plans of the old cities;
c) The elaboration of the documents of implementation of the Fund for the architectural and urban rehabilitation of the four cities.
At its 30th session, the Committee requested that a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission should visit the property.
Therefore, the mission visited the property from 10-26 December 2006 to assess notably how the State Party had implemented the recommendations of the pilot project “Safeguarding and Development of Four World Heritage Cities in Mauritania” which were the following:
Promulgation by the Parliament of the Law for heritage protection;
Adoption of the urban development plans and safeguarding plans and the application of urban regulations;
Creation and financing of a Heritage Rehabilitation Fund;
Establishment of a management and technical assistance mechanism.
No progress has been made on putting in place legal protection.
Master Plans and Management Plans
Urban development plans for all four towns were approved by the Council of Ministers on December 20, 2006. They were accompanied by minimal regulations relating to planning and construction. The creation of buffer zones was approved for each historical city. These plans integrate the inventories of the buildings with planning and protection measures, actions to be carried out as with regard to tourism, and institutional organization. More general management plans have not yet been addressed.
At the request of the State Party, a mission was organised under the France-UNESCO Convention in order to provide assistance to the FNSVA in setting up the appropriate mechanism for the establishment and functioning of the special Fund for the safeguarding, rehabilitation and promotion of the four cities inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The State Party is providing an annual funding of about USD 709,000 for the next five years. There three types of funding are foreseen:
· Operations initiated by the Municipalities on public buildings;
· Supporting the sale of local products and local arts and crafts;
· Support for private dwellings.
The complementary resources are not yet guaranteed and should come from a variety of sources including bilateral and/or multilateral donors; local communities; gifts and legacies, national or foreign; sponsorship; tourist tax and airport taxes; as well as other State grants.
The Fund will be managed by the FNSVA which will report to a Committee headed by the President and with members from Government departments.
There remains a need to delegate more responsibility to local players and to strengthen capacities both at administrative level and within the community in terms of traditional skills. A Management structure needs to be set up for each of the four cities with representatives of local communities. Currently the FNSVA is located far away from the cities: 1300 km from Oualata and more than 500 km from Tichitt, Chinguetti and Ouadane.
As well as addressing these issues, the mission report also re-confirmed the difficulties facing these four towns such as:
a) Progressive loss of traditional know-how by craftsmen such as stone masons;
b) Use of inappropriate new materials;
Un-regulated new building and demolition of houses, as well as re-use of materials;
Urban development which does not respect city limits;
Lack of information on the World Heritage status;
Depopulation and the abandonment of city centres and spread of ruined buildings;
Lack of water;
Although some progress has been made in putting in place urban plans, and in agreeing to raise some of the needed funds for restoration and rehabilitation, a lot more needs to be done in terms of legal protection and management, in order to bring a halt to the progressive degradation of the cities and their abandon.