Following the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List in 1982, no State of conservation report was presented until 2004, when the World Heritage Committee, at its 28th session, formulated the following requests to the State Party:
a) to redefine the exact boundaries of the World Heritage property, as well as the necessary buffer zones;
b) to ensure, through the appropriate legal and planning instruments, including a Management Plan, the adequate protection of the property;
c) to conduct a comprehensive survey of the conservation of the property and to develop appropriate solutions for the various types of deterioration processes;
d) to reassess its policy concerning archaeological excavations and major restoration works on the property to direct all available resources towards the strengthening of the capacity of the technical staff of the Department of Antiquities.
The State Party submitted a report to the World Heritage Centre in March 2006, mainly constituted of photographs accompanied by documents in Arabic and Italian. Therefore, this report was returned to the State Party at its request, recalling the demands formulated in Decision 28 COM 15B.49 and asking for a report in French or English according to the Decision.
Consequently, the Libyan Department of Antiquities requested the World Heritage Centre to send a mission in order to assist in preparing the state of conservation report for the next session of the Committee and in elaborating a plan of action for the management of the property.
Further to this request, a mission was carried out by an expert from INRAP (Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives) for the World Heritage Centre from 13 to 22 May 2006. The mission report, in summarizing the state of conservation of the property noted both improvements and pending issues. Among the improvements, the following were noted:
a) A proposal for the delimitation of the World Heritage property, as well as the necessary buffer zones, was prepared by the Department of Antiquities and these elements were submitted to the local authorities.
b) The foreign scientific missions working on the property are, or are going to be, engaged in operations of restoration and are not limited to the excavation work. They will also contribute to the training of local technicians. Indeed, the former restorations of the monuments appear inadequate and will need to be taken over gradually.
c) A first set of measures aiming at improving the conservation of the remains and the awareness of the local populations was proposed by the Department of Antiquities in its report, prepared during the mission, and should be implemented starting from 2006. These include the conservation of mosaics; cartographic documentation of the remains; set-up of a visitor route; conferences for the local public and pedagogic work with schoolchildren.
The following conservation issues were also identified:
a) The monumental tombs carved in the rock, located around the ancient settlement, are insufficiently protected and are suffering from vandalism, development works in the rural area, and construction works in the urban area (buffer zone);
b) The past restorations of the monuments (reinforced concrete and cement) appear inadequate and will need to be removed gradually;
c) The polluted effluents from the sewers of the agglomeration flow in the Wadi Bel Ghadir, through the World Heritage property, significantly affecting the environment of the site.
In the light of the information provided concerning the property since its inscription on the World Heritage List, the mission report concluded that the priority measure to be undertaken for conservation and management, prior to any development project, is the elaboration of aManagement plan. The mission made the following recommendations:
a) The report drafted by the Department of Antiquities constitutes only the first stage of a work which must be actively continued and developed in order to coordinate medium-term measures required for the site. This plan must be based on a suitable cartography of the site of which the urgent production is absolutely crucial to allow any type of conservation strategy and maintenance planning. These graphic documents, available on several scales, will allow:
(i) to visualize the state of conservation of the structures in order to prioritise actions for the maintenance and restoration of the remains, define visiting routes, etc..
(ii) to ensure control of development pressures threatening the property and urban encroachments and to survey areas adjacent to the main heritage site, by taking into account the archaeological potential.
b) The future Management Plan will have to clearly identify the legal protection measures and their scheme of enforcement, in particular in the buffer zones of the World Heritage property. For this reason, it appears essential to improve, by establishing an advisory commission, the sharing of information between the Department of Antiquities, which has the legal authority over the site, and the local authorities in charge of urban planning.
c) The Management plan must take into account a gradual approach in the build-up of the actionsaiming at preserving the heritage by clearly identifying the emergencies and the possible medium-termmeasures, by including the progressive reinforcement of the personnel assigned to the monitoring of the site, to the restoration of the remains, to the preventive archaeological interventions, as well as their necessary training. Each cooperation agreement with foreign institutions will have to include a clearly specified capacity-building component.
d) The immediate risks threatening the World Heritage property are related to pressure from human activities, such as urban encroachment, vandalism in the necropolises, and the pollution of the Wadi Bel Ghadir. These issues must be dealt with as a priority, and will require a significant increase of the human resources made available to the management of the site.
e) Natural risks, mainly due to climatic conditions, will have to be the addressed. These include floods and uncontrolled vegetation, for which a permanent maintenance programme should be developed.
f) The mission noted that the co-operation with foreign teams is correctly managed and encourages the Department of Antiquities to continue its collaboration with the University of Al Baida, both in the area of archaeological research and of training.
g) The mission suggested that a draft Management Plan could be presented by the Libyan authorities to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2008, and recommended that a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission be sent before the end of 2006 to assess the proposed boundaries for the World Heritage core and buffer zones, monitor progress and support the Department of Antiquities in its planning process.