In 2003, UNESCO and the Government of Mozambique signed an agreement for the rehabilitation of the San Sebastian Fortress, one of the most important monuments in the Island of Mozambique. The project will focus on three key activities: (i) Prevention from further deterioration of the Fortress; (ii) Restoration and limited re-use of the Fortress for new functions; (iii) Development of a Management and maintenance program for the Fortress. The Project execution involves a multidisciplinary team of professionals comprising conservators, architects, historians, archivists and archaeologists, artisans, etc. It will also involve a construction company specialized in restoration of architectural heritage.
Having noted delay in the starting-up of the rehabilitation project, UNESCO organized, in July 2005, an Expert meeting in Island of Mozambique to define a new strategy, aiming at commencing rehabilitation works of the San Sebastian Fortress. The meeting defined a strategy based on the following:
a) To contract an architectural firm to produce all the technical documents (execution drawings, technical specifications, bill of quantities, etc.) necessary for the publication of the tender for the rehabilitation work;
b) To hire a UNESCO Chief Technical Advisor, to be based in Island of Mozambique, who should coordinate the project on a daily basis and provide regular progress reports to UNESCO;
c) To consider on-site technical supervision to ensure quality work and respect for technical specifications;
d) To give priority to the prevention from further deterioration of the Fortress;
e) To reduce the duration of the project from 3 to 2 years.
In view of developing a comprehensive and realistic integrated work plan for the implementation of the project, including the definition of an effective implementation strategy and a monitoring and evaluation plan, the UNESCO Office in Maputo requested the World Heritage Centre to ensure the backstopping of the whole process. Accordingly, the World Heritage Centre organized, from September to November 2005, a series of activities aiming at briefing to the Governments of Japan and Portugal and discussing with them the possibilities of readjustment of the initial budgets. On 31 January 2006, the Permanent Delegation of Portugal sent a letter to inform UNESCO of its decision to contribute with an amount of USD 102,900 to the post of UNESCO Chief Technical Advisor and submitted the CV of a Portuguese Expert who is specialized in the field of architectural conservation for consideration by UNESCO. The revised budgets were submitted to the Government of Japan and to UCCLA in March 2006 and the bidding process for the architectural firm will be launched as soon as the adjusted budgets are approved.
A World Heritage Centre mission was undertaken from 16 January to 23 January 2006 in order to participate in the selection of the Architectural firms that UNESCO will invite to bid for the preparation of the Fortress’s technical documents. Out of the 12 international architectural firms that expressed their interest, four firms were retained and will be invited to propose strategies for the rehabilitation work.
The mission also assessed the state of conservation of the World Heritage site and was able to determine that the Island of Mozambique is seriously threatened by a number of dangers that can be summarized as follows:
a) In the “Museum” zone, numerous buildings risk collapsing because of their advanced state of degradation. This is mainly due to their abandonment by private owners, and to significant water leakage in most of the roofs which affects the floors and the walls;
b) There is a lack of information on the conditions of the architectural heritage (deteriorating, in ruins, poor, good, etc.). A detailed survey of the state of conservation of this heritage would enable the definition of an overall conservation and development approach for the World Heritage property;
c) The authenticity of the historic fabric is today seriously questionable. Indeed, the number of ruins seems important, new structures are being built and important historic buildings are being altered in ways that are incompatible with their original materials and design. Furthermore the Municipality continues to deliver building permits without a proper procedure to assess what is being designed or restored or to even control what is being done on the ground. There is no established conservation agency which could even assist the Municipality to deal with this lack of expertise;
d) The World Heritage property does not have a proper sewer drainage system for the people living in the Museum area or in the Macuti area. As a result, the majority of the residents use the beaches as an open air toilet;
e) The management plan, whose preparation had been launched in 2003, has not yet been finalized. A site manager has not yet been appointed by the National Directorate for Culture to be based in the island.
Finally, a UNESCO-Africa Development Bank (AfDB) mission was carried out between 6 and 14 March 2006. This mission was aimed at paving the way for the development of a programme for the Island of Mozambique integrating heritage and sustainable development. The Mission discussed with the national authorities the possible terms of reference for such a programme, or Action Plan, as well as the steps required for its implementation, including the setting up of a responsible Unit within the Municipality.