At its 29th session, the World Heritage Committee requested (decision 29 COM 7B.103) a report on the state of conservation of the sites inscribed on the World Monuments Watch 2006 List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. As the Chinguetti Mosque is one of those listed sites, the State Party was requested to transmit a report on this site.
It is important to underline that the procedure to inscribe a site on the World Monuments Watch List is linked specifically to a conservation or restoration project requested by the local authorities, non-governmental organizations or even private individuals. There is not necessarily a link with potential or ascertained threats to the World Heritage values of a property. In the case where concrete threats risk affecting the authenticity or integrity of a World Heritage property, the State Party is obliged to make a report to the Committee, according to the provisions in paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. Both the Chinguetti Mosque and the Oualata Mosque have already been restored from a Saudi Arabia Funds-in-Trust.
It is appropriate to briefly mention the activities carried out in the framework of the pilot project «Safeguarding and Development of Four World Heritage Cities in Mauritania» coordinated by the World Heritage Centre in 2003-2004, and implemented through a World Bank loan to the Mauritanian Government in the framework of a much bigger programme entitled « Safeguarding and Enhancement of Mauritanian Cultural Heritage » (document WHC-03/27.COM/7B). This project, which was completed during the Mauritanian World Heritage Days, held at UNESCO Headquarters in April 2005, mainly consisted of:
a) The inventory and complete survey of all the houses and buildings included within the protected perimetres, together with typology analyses, aerial photos, satellite images digital maps;
b) Monographs of each of the towns, including socio-economic studies of the towns and the hinterland;
c) Urban development plans, including safeguarding plans and the requisite regulations;
d) Analysis of potential tourism and its possible impact on cultural heritage;
e) Technical and institutional studies;
f) Identification and strengthening of local capacities necessary for the implementation of the rehabilitation programmes, in particular a municipal technician for each town who would follow up on the work;
g) Identification and training of specialised craftsmen who master the ancient techniques and knowledge;
h) Preparation of technical manuals for rehabilitation adapted to each city;
i) Implementation of a programme of pilot actions to test the procedures;
j) Proposal for the creation of a Heritage Rehabilitation Fund.
The State Party sent to the World Heritage Centre, on 14 March 2006, a concise report established by the National Foundation for the Safeguarding of the Ancient Cities (FNSVA), responsible for the conservation of the property. The document does not actually describe the state of conservation of the property, but is more a summary of the inventory carried out during the implementation of the safeguarding project financed by The World Bank and observations made at that time on the state of conservation of the buildings. The FNSVA report confirms previous observations, such as:
a) The non-constructed lots, in ruin or in a bad state, are in the majority;
b) The ksour are gradually being abandoned and a large number of their population is leaving;
c) Some houses are adapted according to “new comfort standards”. There is a risk therein of seeing the authenticity of the ksour degraded; this problem applies more particularly to Chinguetti;
d) Only the old town of Tichitt appears to be in a good state of conservation. It has not succumbed to massive abandon, as have the other three towns.
This information sheds no further light. No mention is made of any follow-up of the pilot project, nor of the ongoing conservation or rehabilitation activities, nor the administrative or management measures. There is no mention made of institutional and management capacity-building necessary for a sustainable approach to the conservation of this property in the report, nor the follow-up to the main recommendations of the pilot project:
a) Promulgation by the Parliament of the Law for heritage protection;
b) Adoption of the urban development plans and safeguarding plans and the application of urban regulations;
c) Creation and financing of a Heritage Rehabilitation Fund;
d) Establishment of a management and technical assistance mechanism.
The observations made by the State Party are a cause for concern, as it appears that the property is in an accelerated state of dilapidation and abandon. On the basis of these observations and in comparison with other properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, ICOMOS considers that the values for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List are under threat.
Another problem was recently raised concerning the installation, by Mauritel, a Mauritanian telephone company, of a 40 m. high pylon adjacent to the Ouadane Mosque. Already in December 2005, the Ministry for Culture had alerted the Ministry of the Interior, Post and Telecommunications of the need to avoid any action that could modify the urban landscape of the inscribed towns. It appears that the pylon was, nonetheless, erected and, following a letter from the World Heritage Centre, the Ministry for Culture requested that it be relocated outside of the protected area.