With a report submitted on 20 March 2006 to the World Heritage Centre, including a number of Annexes, the State Party reported on the implementation of the recommendations issued by the Committee by its decision 29 COM 7B. 58.
Concerning the issue of the illegal buildings erected within the World Heritage Property’s perimeter, notably after the November 1999 floods, a comprehensive photographic survey was carried out. According to this, 2,824 private houses were illegally built on the rampart and bastions of the Citadel, or close to other relevant monuments.
Based on the list, during the last quarter of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006, an unspecified number of illegal houses around the boundary of the Imperial City were demolished. One hundred private houses were removed in the Bach Ho Bridge area, and their occupants resettled, to create green areas along the riverside. The report of the State Party does not clarify whether these one hundred buildings had been constructed illegally. Further demolitions, to start in March 2006, will target 159 houses in the southern part of the Citadel, and the clearance of other illegal structures on the two sides of the Royal Canal. The authorities intend to continue the work gradually, until completion by the end of 2010. A plot of land has apparently been identified to accommodate the occupants of the illegal houses, in the northern part of the city.
To control changes within the historic areas, moreover, regulations defining height-limit and architectural specifications were developed by the local authorities. These include guidelines to assist owners to re-build or repair their houses with due consideration for their heritage significance. In addition, an embellishment project has been implemented, while repair and consolidation works were carried out to to restore the natural scenery in front of the Citadel and prevent erosion, along the Huong riverside.
Concerning the establishment of a complete inventory of the traditional urban buildings of Hué, 690 traditional houses were measured and photographed. This documentation was not enclosed in the State Party report. In addition, the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre (HMCC) compiled a list of 234 listed “relics” considered of historic value in the Hue region, including communal halls, pagodas, temples, garden houses, offices, schools and some famous landscape sites, enclosed to the State Party report. This list, however, indicates only the names of the concerned properties and their location, with no information on their significance and/or state of conservation. The State Party also expressed its intention to request financial assistance through the World Heritage Fund, in 2006, to compile a GIS data-base of all historic structures and houses. In this regard, cooperation is underway with the Waseda University and with a European Union funded project for the safeguarding of the traditional “ruong” houses (traditional houses with wooden frame) in Hue.
As pertains to the elaboration of a comprehensive management plan for the Hué World Heritage property, the State Party held a workshop, in August 2005, in cooperation with the Waseda University. This workshop, which considered the preservation of Hue in the context of the sustainable development of its wider area, resulted in a short document containing basic principles for the establishment of a management plan for the World Heritage property. Among the principles, special mention is made of the need to ensure the preservation of the particular link of Hue with its environmental context, including the extraordinary cultural landscape formed by the Huong River Valley, within the framework of the Feng Shui principles.
Based on these principles, as well as on the relevant provisions of the Operational Guidelines, HMCC intends to develop a management plan by the end of 2006, upon instruction by the responsible Vietnamese authorities. To this end, a second workshop is foreseen for the third quarter of 2006, to review the progress and integrate comments in the final draft. At the same time, HMCC is developing new zoning and regulations for land-use and building activities within and around the boundaries of the World Heritage properties. The State Party confirmed that the elaboration of the management plan will be carried out in consultation with the World Heritage Centre.
Finally, the World Heritage Centre was informed that a large tourist resort is likely to be constructed on the Vong Canh hill along the Huong River, with potential negative impact on the integrity of the landscape. The area is outside the current Hue World Heritage property, but within the area that could be considered for its possible extension.
The State Party’s extensive efforts in addressing the issue of the illegal constructions should be highly commended, especially taking into account the strong pressure exerted by the socio-economic and tourism development of the country and the impact of recent natural disasters. Over the next years, it will be important to monitor the progress made in completing the process for the removal of the identified illegal constructions and ensure that appropriate alternative housing solutions are identified in consultation with the concerned occupants.
Concerning the request for an inventory of traditional urban buildings, it is not clear whether the work carried out so far include consideration for all historic buildings within the World Heritage property, or just a part. Moreover, the list of “relics” prepared by the State Party does not appear to be sufficient as an instrument to inform conservation decisions. A conservation-oriented survey of all the historic elements of cultural significance within the World Heritage boundaries, but covering also areas of heritage interests in Hue, should be carried out, possibly based on a GIS data-base.
Action should be pursued to establish a management plan with a view to ensuring the long-term protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Such a plan should necessarily be based upon a full understanding of the nature and extent of the heritage present in Hue, and therefore will need to integrate the outcome of the above-mentioned survey. This Plan should include appropriate regulations for land-use and buildings and should integrate concern for all monuments and landscape areas considered as having significant heritage value associated to Hué, which are currently not included in the property inscribed on the World Heritage List, in view of a possible re-nomination of the property. It is recommended that the State Party continues its work towards the establishment of the management Plan in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS.
Finally, the State Party should consider carefully the proposal for the development of a tourist resort on the Vong Canh hill along the Huong River by conducting an environmental impact assessment, to determine its possible negative consequences on the Outstanding Universal Value of Hue.