On 24 February 2012 a report on the state of conservation was submitted by the State Party, which was complemented by a second report submitted on 12 April 2012, providing details on the progress made to address the World Heritage Committee’s requirements.
a) Revision of the Urban Plan for the province of Luang Prabang and the establishment of a buffer zone for the property
The State Party submitted a revised urban plan, which includes the designation of a buffer zone. The establishment of a buffer zone, as a minor boundary modification, will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013, as it was submitted after the official deadline for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.
The revised urban plan applies to construction cavities and demolitions/modifications of existing buildings and was approved by the Prime Minister in February 2012. It is foreseen that the revised plan be evaluated and, if necessary, modified after a period of five years.
In cooperation with the Technical University of Tokyo an updated inventory and maps of the property were prepared which also included an inventory of constructions between 1999 and 2010. The cartography in this context illustrates that architecture of traditional style has increased from 31% to 44%, while non-local styles of construction have decreased from 55% to 33%. What may raise concerns however is that the percentage of residential use within the property has decreased from 1380 houses to 719 buildings.
b) Major development projects
The initial state of conservation report did not include any reference to the major development projects, which had been identified in previous Committee decisions. Therefore the World Heritage Centre requested additional information in this regard from the State Party on 2 April 2012. The requested information was received by the World Heritage Centre on 13 April 2012, and included references to the development projects, with the notable exception of the new town.
The report clarifies that the airport runway planned in 2008 has meanwhile been constructed and is in use. The new airport terminal will be completed in 2013. The State Party provided assurances that the realignment of the airport runways as well as its extension have been conducted in line with the overall strategy for development, proposed by Le Schema de Coherence Territorial (SCOT) as well as the newly revised urban plan approved by the relevant government agencies.
At the 33rd session of the Committee, the State Party provided assurances that no decision had been made on a new town to be built in the Chompeth Valley and, if the concept was endorsed, its location would be included in the revised urban plan. The revised urban plan submitted by the State Party does not include any reference to the new town.
The primary school has been restored as was committed by the State Party and will continue to be used in its original function as a school. The State Party further informed the World Heritage Centre, that the 5 star hotel project near the old port over the Mekong River had been suspended and will be revised in line with the new urban plan.
c) Luang Prabang conservation plan (PSMV) and Reinforcement of heritage authority
The State Party remains committed to the strict application of the heritage regulations, in particular the Luang Prabang conservation plan (PSMV). The Maison du Patrimoine was restructured as the Department of Heritage in 2009, and its position towards other governmental authorities was reinforced. The new Department of Heritage ensures the strict application of the PSMV and monitors planning permission requests. It is funded by a fund, established in 2012, and managed by a local Committee currently chaired by the Vice-Governor.
d) Planned Mekong mainstream dam at Luang Prabang
Following earlier explanation that the planned Mekong dam, to be constructed 60 km upstream of the property, would not lead to any raises in water level, the State Party is now undertaking an environmental-social impact assessment, the results of which would be sent to World Heritage Centre. The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS recommend to also conduct a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidelines on Heritage Impact Assessments for World Heritage cultural properties.