1.         Town of Luang Prabang (Lao People's Democratic Republic) (C 479bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1995

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(v)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/479/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1994-1998)
Total amount approved: USD 92,242
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/479/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 200,000 (France / UNESCO Cooperation Agreement).

Previous monitoring missions

September–October 2007: UNESCO/Region Centre/Ville de Chinon international co-operation project mission; November 2007: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission; January 2009: UNESCO/Ville de Chinon/ADUC cooperation program mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Lack of enforcement of the Luang Prabang Conservation Plan (PSMV) and illegal constructions;

b) Public works (proposed new town, airport extension, pedestrian bridge) which may affect the Outstanding Universal Value. 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/479/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

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.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the large scale hotel projects previously envisaged have been suspended and that the State Party provided assurances to revise these projects in line with the newly adopted urban plan. They note that the administration of the property has been strengthened through the reinforced Department of Heritage and the on-going commitment to the implementation of the conservation plan (PSMV) of the property.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory bodies also note the submission of the revisited urban plan in February 2012, however, this was requested by the Committee at 33rd session (Seville, 2009), for submission in February 2011. The plan will be reviewed by Advisory Bodies.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies underscore that despite concerns expressed by the World Heritage Committee, based on recommendation of the 2007 reactive monitoring mission that the new airport would have an adverse impact on the property, both in terms of visual integrity and noise pollution, the State Party completed the airport runway realignment and terminal extension without prior information being provided to World Heritage Centre in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that no details were provided with regard to the new town development in Chompeth Valley and that no information was provided within the urban plan as to whether or not a new town is to be developed at Chompeth Valley. They consider that clarification is needed on the status of this proposal.

To avoid similar situations, which may lead to a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value in future projects, they consider that the State Party should be requested not to take any decisions that would be difficult to reverse before Heritage Impact Assessments have been carried out and full information is provided to the World Heritage Centre in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, including on the Mekong dam project. The World Heritage and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the Committee further encourage the State Party to continue implementing the recommendations made by the 2007 reactive monitoring mission.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.63

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,

2.   Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.77 adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3.   Acknowledges the submission of the revised urban plan which proposes a buffer zone, as well as priority zones for development;

4.   Notes the suspension of the hotel projects near the Mekong River and requests the State Party to revise these projects in line with the new urban plan and based on full Heritage Impact Assessments;

5.   Regrets that the airport runway realignment and terminal extension was implemented despite the concerns expressed by the World Heritage Committee and urges the State Party not to take any decisions on future developments, which may impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property without prior Heritage Impact Assessments and provision of information in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

6.   Requests the State Party to clarify the current status of proposals for the development of the new town in Chompeth Valley and also notes that no details are included in the new urban plan;

7.   Also requests the State Party to submit the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for the Mekong dam to be constructed 60 km upstream of the property;

8.   Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.