Following Decision 28 COM 15B.55 of the Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004) and at the invitation of the Government of China, a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring Mission was undertaken to the property from 4 to 7 May 2005.
The World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS monitoring mission noted that:
(i) Generally speaking, development on a large scale in the historic city of Lhasa had already started when the ICOMOS Mission was carried out in 2003. Although the current mission team observed the extensive spreading of the urban development in Lhasa city, developments along the major streets did not appear to affect significantly the overall urban landscape or atmosphere of the town, keeping in line with the scale of the surrounding structures.
(ii) Weakness in coordinating activities in the past had led to inappropriate constructions in or adjacent to the heritage zones. Because the overall development pressure in Lhasa is so strong, close cooperation amongst the different government agencies responsible for heritage protection and development planning is crucial for better protection of the property. According to the Chinese authorities, however, due to the current administrative arrangements between the cultural heritage and religious institutions, the establishment of an independent management and development agency (recommendation by the Committee), which could be responsible for the management of Old Lhasa and the World Heritage properties, would not be appropriate for the time being. The authorities stated that action has been taken to solve such problems and that a coordination system for the clearance of building permits by the Administration of Cultural Heritage of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has been established. The mission team recommended that a Steering Committee be established at the TAR level, with regular meetings to review the overall management of the whole Lhasa city and the day-to-day management of each of the World Heritage sites of the property, as appropriate.
(iii) Most of the conservation works in the three World Heritage sites in Lhasa are currently scheduled to terminate, at least the first phase, before the end of July 2005, so that the authorities can celebrate in September 2005 the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region. In order to meet this deadline, a large budget was allocated for restoration works at many sites, particularly at Norbulingka. While these efforts should be commended, such hasty work may cause some negative effect on the property. More studies and analysis would need to be carried out before conducting restoration interventions.
(iv) The mission was informed that a Master Plan for the development of the southern and eastern parts of Lhasa city had been prepared and was awaiting official approval. The new Master Plan should be implemented as soon as approved, in order to ease the development pressure on the city centre. However, the mission did not receive a copy of the Conservation Plan for 1999-2015, as requested by the Committee. This is supposed to be provided by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of China (SACH) to the World Heritage Centre shortly. It was also confirmed that the Plan is still subject to further amendment by the Chinese authorities.
The mission noted with satisfaction that the immediate environment and setting of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka are well protected at present by the existing regulations. The responsible authorities were encouraged to give careful consideration to a possible reappraisal of the Overall Lhasa City Development Plan, as well as to the Conservation Plan 1999-2015. This would guarantee that the conservation of the World Heritage property be integrated in the overall planning process.
(v) In view of the rapid change in the character of Lhasa city, the TAR has taken action to protect all remaining historic traditional buildings in Lhasa. Inventories of such buildings and households were established by the Lhasa Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage and some of them proclaimed cultural relics for protection at the TAR level.
(vi) Concerning the World Heritage boundaries of the property:
a) There have been some uncertainties regarding the perimeters of core and buffer zones of the Potala Palace since 1994. The protective buffer zones of the Potala Palace were different in the World Heritage extension nomination files for the Jokhang Temple (1999), Norbulingka (2000) and the National Periodic Report (2003). The mission was able to assert that the boundary delineated in the original nomination dossier of 1993, still stands as approved by the Committee at its 18th session in December 1994.
b) The core area of the Jokhang Temple World Heritage site should include not only the Jokhang Temple compound but also Barkhor Street, while the buffer zone should be extended to the whole circle of Lingkhor Kora. The new boundaries of the buffer zone could be therefore demarcated as follows: East: Lingkhor East Road; South: Jiangsu Road; West: Duosenge North Rd and South Road; North: Lingkhor Beilu, amounting to a total area of 1.3 square kilometers of the historic centre.
c) With regard to Norbulingka, the western and southern sides of the core zone are being rapidly redeveloped. Since the size of these areas is considerable, height control should be enforced to protect the green landscape of the property.
d) The mission recommended that the overall zoning delineation for the three World Heritage sites in Lhasa be drawn up on a single map so as to avoid any possible misunderstanding about the boundary of each site of the property. Furthermore, since the development pressure in the historic centre of Lhasa is increasing, an extension of the buffer zone for the three sites should be seriously considered in order to protect the traditional urban fabric, while taking into consideration the heritage values of the surrounding landscape and environment.
(vii) Regarding the conservation and rehabilitation of historic traditional buildings, the mission was able to visit all the on-going restoration works being carried out at the Potala Palace, the Shöl Area, Potala Palace Square, Chapori Hill and Norbulingka.
In the Shöl Area, which is composed of a number of buildings that historically related to the Potala Palace, many incompatible additions and alterations have taken place over the past four decades. This area, which was occupied by private institutions and owners, was taken over by the Management Office of Potala Palace in 2002 under a special Conservation and Improvement Project, which provided alternative accommodation for inhabitants. Plans have been made to convert the Shöl Area into an Exhibition Complex of Tibetan Folk Arts and accommodate only those activities which are compatible with the functioning of the Potala Palace. This seems to be in line with the recommendations made in the 2003 ICOMOS Mission Report.
The development of the Potala Palace Square, which is part of the buffer zone, has been integrated into the Lhasa City Development Plan and provides an area for relaxation and enjoyment for the general public. The Square is undergoing an improvement project, worth 140 million RMB (US$16.9 million). 142 households and nine different institutions, which were built in the 1970s and 1980s next to the Square, have been relocated to make more space for the new Potala Palace Square, enlarged to 15.5 hectares. The mission team thought that the design of the Square blended with its surroundings.
(viii) With regard to the Committee's concern about the demolition of traditional historic buildings took place within the protective buffer zone of the Barkhor Historic Area around the Jokhang Temple, the mission was informed that renovation/restoration projects in Barkhor were carried out following a careful scientific approach, including:
· the restoration of highly important traditional architectural examples using traditional Tibetan building techniques and materials;
· the renovation of ordinary residential Tibetan houses by the retention of their external facades and the upgrading of their interiors to meet the needs of the contemporary lifestyles;
· the demolition of modern buildings dating from the 1970's onwards which were not harmonious with either the surrounding traditional urban setting or subsequent new constructions of Tibetan-style houses which blend into the historic urban tissue of Lhasa;
· the improvement of fire-prevention in the Jokhang Temple Monastery by establishing a semi underground candle-burning chamber in front of the Temple. Meanwhile, a fire protection passage encircling the Temple has been created.
At present, there seem to be very few immediate threats to the Jokhang Temple. Conservation works for the structure seem to be quite authentic and most of the candle lights have been removed from the traditional wooden buildings to the semi-underground chamber, the appearance of which is quite compatible with the Temple.
With regard to the Barkhor Historic Area, piped water and sewage mains have been installed and the roads covered with clean stones, creating more favorable conditions around the Temple. Specific building height control around the Bakhor Area has been established and should be strictly adhered to. The height of the Jokhang Temple, with its rooftop view overlooking the city and the Potala Palace, is the same as that of ordinary buildings in the area. As the rooftop is open to visitors, this important view should be preserved by controlling urban planning around the Temple.
(ix)Around the Barkhor Area, some non-traditional buildings have been replaced by new ones of traditional design and scale. Although the general urban landscape has kept its integrity, detailed design guidelines should be prepared to further improve the buffer zone. These should take into account the protection of important views and traditional facades.
The mission was informed that the Tibet Academy of Architectural Design developed a Handbook on Design Guidelines for Traditional Tibetan Architecture in 2003, which is being circulated for review and comments. The Handbook, synthesizing the historic evolution, architectural characteristics and styles of traditional Tibetan Architecture and its design and restoration, provides an important working tool and some basic guidelines for the urban planners, architects and professionals involved in the design and restoration of Tibetan buildings. It will be published and used as training resource material for conservation experts and engineers.
(x) The site managers further informed the mission that training activities on conservation techniques of traditional Tibetan architecture and mural paintings are required for the maintenance and restoration of cultural heritage properties in Tibet. The mission suggested that exchange programmes be developed on the restoration of wooden structures and their fire protection systems with other countries, such as Republic of Korea, Japan and Scandinavian countries.
In this regard, with a view to promoting sustainable urban development and enhancing capacities of management authorities of the historic city of Lhasa and as a follow-up to the decisions taken at the 27th and 28th sessions of the Committee, the World Heritage Centre supported the organization of a two-week study tour to Europe (France and Portugal) from 6 to 12 November 2004 for ten Chinese and Tibetan experts in urban heritage conservation, headed by Mr Jagre Losang-danizin, Vice-Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region. With support from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Portuguese authorities, the Chinese and Tibetan experts were provided with examples of “best practice” on conservation of cultural heritage in the selected European cities and several on-site training activities were organized for the Delegation, presenting different types of operations and legal frameworks in the domain of heritage conservation and urban development.
(xi) Regarding information sharing and communication of World Heritage values, the mission noted that further action needs to be taken by the site management authority to communicate to the public the nature of the conservation programmes, including by announcing proposed plan or outline of projects. An English web page introducing conservation projects in Lhasa city could also promote the heritage protection work being undertaken to the international community.
(xii) There is a lack of on-site presentation and interpretation of the World Heritage values of the Potala Palace. At present, there is no good signage, little printed information material available for visitors and no indication of the sacred character of the property. The Management Office is well aware of these issues and has proposed to use the Shöl Area as a visitor centre. Since 2003, the Potala Palace Management Office has been limiting the number of visitors to 1,300 per day. In the future, the Management Authority may need to develop other mechanisms to address the challenge of tourism pressure at the site. The proposed Exhibition Complex at the Shöl Area could divert the visitor flow from the Potala Palace. However, training activities on sustainable tourism management and planning need to be developed by the authorities for the better protection of cultural heritage properties in Tibet.