State of Conservation (SOC)
Abu Mena (2005)
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Total Amount Ap proved:7,000USD
|2001||Technical advice on ground water related problems at the World ...||7,000 USD|
September 2002, UNESCO mission of an expert in hydrology.
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
Raising groundwater level, lack of consolidation, engineering and management measures.
Current conservation issues
Two reports were submitted to the World Heritage Centre by the Egyptian National Commission for UNESCO: A report about the state of the monumental area of Abu Mina, submitted in December 2004 and A technical report concerning the project of decreasing the underground water levels in the monumental area of Abu Mena (2 pages), submitted in January 2005.
The first report (which is undated) recapitulates in three pages the measures taken since the site was discovered in 1905 to address the problems associated with the rising underground water level. These problems have become more acute since 1990, and recognition in 1998 of the severity of the situation led to the initiation by the Supreme Council of Antiquities of a comprehensive analysis of the site and proposals for its solution. The project was put out to tender without response. Meanwhile, again quoting this report, ‘the level of the underground water which threatens the monumental area of Abu Mena is still increasing as some monumental hills in the area collapsed.’ This is accompanied by a poor photocopy of a map with a legend in Arabic referring to the 1956 decree of national registration of the site.
Attached to this report is a paper entitled On the water problems at Abu Mina by Peter Grossman (whose affiliation or qualifications are not stated) dated 12 November 2004, which sets out two alternative approaches to the problem: the first involves the digging of a series of shafts linked below ground by tunnels from which the water could be pumped, thereby lowering the water table by 1–2m (inadequate in the view of the author); the cheaper and more effective alternative would be to stop any further supply of water from a much larger area around the archaeologically sensitive area (entailing paying compensation to those farmers who would lose their land).
The second report (which is also undated) briefly summarizes twenty ‘works’ (including, inter alia, financial estimates) to be undertaken within a period of three years, which provide a minimal response to the Committee’s request for an Action Plan to solve the problem of the rising groundwater.
However, these reports, complementing the alarming report received from the State Party in February 2004 and presented to the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004), increase the fears about the loss of the outstanding universal value for which the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List and its integrity, and add to the criteria which led to its inscription on the World Heritage List in Danger. Should the situation continue to deteriorate and should no concrete action be taken by the State Party as regards the implementation of the recommendations, the Committee could envisage, according to paragraphs 192 to 198 of the Operational Guidelines, the possibility of removing the site of Abu Mena from the World Heritage List in the future.
Analysis and Conclusion
Link to the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-05/29.COM. 7A,
2. Recalling Decision 28 COM 15A.17 taken at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004),
3. Takes note with concern of the information provided by the State Party of Egypt and expresses its concerns over the deterioration of the property caused by rising groundwater levels and other threats;
4. Invites the international community to support the State Party in its efforts towards removing the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger;
5. Urges the State Party to adopt long-term and sustainable measures with all the concerned national institutions, along the lines of the recommendations contained in the UNESCO Mission Report of 2002 and the Committee’s Decisions 27 COM 7A.18 and 28 COM 15A.17;
6. Requests the State Party to invite a joint mission of the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, within the next two months, to the property in order to:
a) assess the situation of the property – both in terms of the state of conservation of the archaeological remains and in terms of the hydrological issue;
b) evaluate the loss of outstanding universal value of the property and of its integrity;
c) review the proposed project;
d) determine the necessary steps towards the implementation of the recommendation referred in paragraph 5, including the setting up of benchmarks with a time frame for their fulfillment, the setting up of an emergency plan while the project is taking place, and the formulation of proposals for a buffer zone ; and
e) provide the necessary elements to orient the Committee in recommending a program of corrective measures;
7. Further requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2006, a report on the progress made in implementing the abovementioned recommendations for the examination of the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006).
8. Decides to consider at its 30th session, in consultation with the State Party and on the basis of the information provided by the mission and the State Party, whether the property should be retained in the World Heritage List in Danger and the World Heritage List.9. Also decides to retain Abu Mena (Egypt) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Draft Decision: 29 COM 7A.17
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-05/29.COM. 7A,
2. Recalling Decision 28 COM 15A.17 taken at its 28th sessions (Suzhou, 2004),
3. Takes note with concern of the information provided by the State Party and expresses its concerns over the deterioration of the property caused by rising groundwater levels and other threats;
4. Urges the State Party to adopt long-term and sustainable measures with all the concerned national institutions, along the lines of the recommendations contained in the UNESCO Mission Report of 2002 and the Committee’s Decisions 27 COM 7A.18 and 28 COM 15A.17;
5. Requests the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, in co-operation with the State Party, to undertake a mission to the property in order to assess the situation – both in terms of the state of conservation of the archaeological remains and in terms of the hydrological issue – review the proposed project, and determine the necessary steps towards the implementation of the above recommendations;
6. Requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2006, a report on the progress made in implementing these recommendations for the examination of the Committee at its 30th session of 2006;
7. Decides to retain Abu Mena on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
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Lack of consolidation and engineering measures
Inscription on the Danger ListYear: 2001
Threats to the Site:
A land-reclamation programme for the agricultural development of the region, funded by the World Bank, has caused in the past ten years a dramatic raise of the water table. The local soil, which is exclusively clay, is hard and capable of supporting buildings when in a dry state, but becomes semi-liquid with excess water. The destruction of numerous cisterns, disseminated around the city, has entailed the collapse of several overlying structures. Huge underground cavities have opened in the north-western region of the town. The risk of collapse is so high that the authorities were forced to fill with sand the bases of some of the most endangered buildings, including the crypt of Abu Mena with the tomb of the Saint, and close them to the public. A large banked road, moreover, was executed to enable movement within the site.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities is trying to counteract this phenomenon by digging trenches, and has enlarged the listed area in the hope of lowering the pressure of the irrigation. These measures, however, have proved to be insufficient, taking into account the scale of the problem and the limited resources available.
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).