1.         Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications (Sri Lanka) (C 451)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1988

Criteria  (iv)

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/451/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1997-1997)
Total amount approved: USD 3,334
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

2002: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; November 2007: UNESCO expert advisory mission; April/May 2008: UNESCO New Delhi Office advisory mission; World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission February 2010.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Need for development and management plan;

b) Intrusive and illegal constructions within the Galle cricket ground impacting on the integrity of the property;

c) Potential impacts of a proposed port construction on the integrity of the property.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

A Joint World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was undertaken in February 2010 to review the state of conservation of the property especially with regard to recent developments on the Cricket Ground and proposed development at the port; progress on conservation works; and the recommended revision of property and buffer zone boundaries. These issues had been previously examined by monitoring missions in 2007 and 2008, as a result of which the State Party’s state of conservation report in 2009 indicated acceptance of the recommendations, agreeing to the demolition of various buildings at the Cricket Ground; a reduction in scale of the proposed new building at the ground and of the proposed port development; the extension and revision of the boundary of the property and its buffer zone; as well as the conservation of structures within the property.

The 2010 mission report considered that disappointingly little progress had been made in implementing previous recommendations.

The State Party has not submitted a state of conservation report since 2009 despite World Heritage Committee’s repeated requests for 2010, 2011 and 2012. Consequently none of the issues raised in the 2010 Mission report have been satisfactorily addressed.

a) Proposed new port

The 2010 mission reported that the development plans for the port, albeit reduced in scale, still lacked any firm detail and therefore its potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and on the newly discovered submerged archaeological wrecks in the harbour remained unclear. No detailed proposals including a statement regarding its impact on the marine archaeology and on the overall Outstanding Universal Value of the property were submitted by the State Party.

b) Cricket Ground

The mission considered that the buildings in the Cricket Ground seemed likely to remain in the short term,

c) Boundaries and buffer zone

The clarification of the property’s boundaries has not been finalized. No information has been provided on reviewing the buffer zone surrounding the Old Town of Galle and its fortifications and marine archaeology in the context of protecting its setting from the adverse effects of any future development.

d) Management Plan

Copies of the Galle Management Plan have now been submitted to the World Heritage Centre. The Plan contains a detailed description of the background to inscription and the main features of the property as well as describing the inter-relationship between the property and the expanding modern town. It accepts that the present situation in conservation, management, funding and presentation is poor and must be improved, and provides an Action Plan with recommendations for improving management effectiveness.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the submission of the Management Plan for the property. However, the document falls far short of what is required to provide guidance to relevant management agencies to improve conservation work. Also it is far from clear whether the Plan has received formal endorsement from the listed public bodies responsible for its development. It lacks any details of potential developments affecting the property, including in the port area or the Cricket Ground. While it makes welcome suggestions for new staffing and management structures, development control, funding opportunities and strategies for tourism development and access arrangements, it is unclear as to how implementation is to be achieved or how the future management of the property is to be improved. It advocates the development of Conservation Plans for key buildings and refers to conservation schemes already undertaken without addressing the criticisms in the 2010 mission report about the quality of the conservation work.

The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies underscore that the Management plan is very general and therefore it requires underpinning by more detailed Conservation Plans with specific specialist guidance and conservation principles to be adopted for projects in the property: may also consider that a Supplementary Planning Guidance to assist with development control in the property is needed, as well as an agreed management structure responsible for implementation of the plans, and an endorsement from appropriate authorities. Separate plans for Tourist Development and Access and Parking arrangements are also desirable.

Further, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the Committee request the State Party to undertake a heritage impact assessment for the proposed port development to assess the impact of the proposed works on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and on the recently discovered wrecks in the harbor. They recall that Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines emphasizes that notice be given to the World Heritage Centre as soon as possible and before drafting basic document for the proposed new developments. 

They note that the Management Plan reiterates the benefits of revising the boundaries and buffer zone of property to include the harbor and recommend that the World Heritage Committee consider the lack of progress in submitting such proposals regrettable.

The lack of dedicated professional staff and funding has a serious impact upon the successful management of this property. In this regard, international assistance from the World Heritage Fund might be usefully sought to further the ambitions articulated in the Management Plan.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.68


The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.   Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.78, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.   Regrets that no state of conservation report has been submitted by the State Party since 2009 despite the requests of the Committee at its 34th and 35th sessions and notes that the concerns raised by the 2010 reactive monitoring mission remain unaddressed;

4.   Also notes the submission of the Galle Management Plan (2010) by the State Party, and urges the State Party to continue his efforts and develop more detailed Conservation Plans;

5.   Expresses its concern at the lack of management system and control, coherent conservation principles and plans, appropriately qualified staff and suitable levels of funding risk which jeopardize the conservation of the property;

6.   Strongly urges the State Party to review the buffer zone surrounding the Old Town of Galle, its fortifications and marine archaeology, in the context of protecting its setting from adverse effects of any future development;

7.   Reiterates its request to the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, details of the proposed developments in the port area accompanied by heritage impact assessment detailing potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and the newly discovered marine archaeology within the harbour;

8.   Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, detailed information concerning any significant new developments before their approval, for review by the Advisory Bodies;

9.   Invites the State Party to explore all the possibilities to attract financial and technical assistance for conservation schemes including through international assistance from the World Heritage Fund;

10.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and progress with the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.