Following the decision of the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004), a joint UNESCO/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was fielded to the World Heritage property from 9 to 13 September 2004. The main objectives of the mission were to assess the general state of conservation with particular reference to management, infrastructure development in the immediate vicinity and presentation of the property. The principal rock art properties are located in seven separate parks managed by different bodies. The State Party submitted supplementary information with relevant maps on 1 February 2005 which responded to each of the recommendations of the mission.
The main conservation issues for the property include:
Boundaries: At the time of the mission there were no clearly defined boundaries for the World Heritage property. The State Party has provided preliminary maps to the World Heritage Centre indicating the location of seven parks in the valley that could form the basis for the defined core zones of the property. In addition, buffer zones have been established for four of the parks. The World Heritage Centre will contact the State Party in the framework of the Retrospective Inventory project to further clarify the definition of the core and buffer zones in relation to the original nomination.
Management plan: According to the State Party, the regional Superintendency in its coordinating role, has set up a technical advisory body for the preparation of a Site Management Plan. The overall structure of this plan has been developed with the involvement of the local stakeholders concerned with the administration, management, research and teaching. The completion of the Site Management Plan is foreseen for April 2005.
Infrastructures in the vicinity of the property: The mission observed that numerous power lines criss-cross the entire landscape and significantly compromise the vistas of the World Heritage property. According to the State Party, these power lines already existed in the Valley at the time of its inscription. While no new lines have since been built, routes for several power lines have been modified respecting the location of the parks with rock art. The State Party further indicated in its report that it was not viable to bury power lines underground. The mission also considered that road networks in the Valley are negatively affecting the visual integrity of the property as well as the landscape context in which the rock art has been continuously created over the past 8000 years, and encouraged the regional authorities to establish a development plan for the area. According to the local researchers, the protection zone of the area is not always respected. The State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that the regional Superintendency had halted the construction of a stretch of road which would have passed through the property in order to guarantee the integrity of the property. The new route went through a tunnel at a depth that posed no threat to the rock art localities.
Metal walkway: The mission established that a wooden walkway at Rock No 27 (and not No 57 as previously reported) in the National Park was removed in 2003 to be replaced by a galvanized steel walkway drilled directly into the rock using at least 11 metal struts. The mission recommended that the relevant Municipality replace the current metal walkway by a wooden structure which is fully reversible, avoids direct contact with the rock surface, and is in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The State Party fully agreed with the recommendation of the mission and used the suggested method of wooden walkways for another rock in the same Park.
Conservation technique: Some rocks, such as Rock No 57 in the national park, have been affected by exfoliation and in such cases consolidation is necessary. Moreover, in order to remove deposits from rock surfaces, the regional authorities are apparently using a chemical called “Preventol” and occasionally, metal brushes. The mission strongly recommended the authorities to avoid the use of chemicals and metal brushes, and to explore alternative conservation methods. In addition, geo-chemical analyses to examine the effect of air and water quality on the rock surfaces should be conducted, as well as the monitoring of the red algae and exfoliation problems in the future. The State Party subsequently explained that a scientific commission established in 1992 had carried out a research programme which included geochemical analyses to verify the types and sources of pollution and the causes of deterioration.
Research programme: The mission met with representatives of a number of research institutions. While they independently conducted a range of research works resulting in numerous publications, it appeared that a coordinated research programme does not exist for the World Heritage property and the results of their work are not necessarily shared in an effective manner. The mission, therefore, recommended that a medium/long term research plan be established for the World Heritage property in coordination with all researchers involved in the property.
The State Party provided the additional information requested in the mission report thereby clarifying many of the issues raised. ICOMOS noted however, regardless of all the positive efforts and achievements, it would appear that some of the basic issues remain unsolved and/or require further attention. This especially concerns the need for considering alternative conservation methods to the use of chemicals and metal brushes, the further defining of the boundaries, the coordination of research programmes and sharing of the results with other institutions and researchers present in Valcamonica.
The report of the joint mission was well received and dealt with the outmost seriousness by the State Party. This demonstrates an acceptance of the actions taken and full intention to follow the advice and recommendations proposed by ICOMOS and UNESCO.