By letter dated 3 November 2003, the State Party submitted a report on the progress achieved with respect to the recommendations made by the Committee at its 27th session. The General Directorate of Antiquities (DGA) of the Ministry of Culture has submitted to the Ministry of Transports, for adpproval, a proposal for the protection of the underwater heritage around Tyre. This proposal, prepared in cooperation with the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) and the team of the World Bank Project, identifies three protection zones around the coast of Tyre:
a) Marine protection zone: would constitute a buffer zone for the other two zones, and would extend 500 metres from the coast;
b) South Archaeological protection zone: should include the archaeological remains to the south of the peninsula, identified through the joint UNESCO-DGA-CEDRE project in the past two years;
c) North Archaeological protection zone: should include all the archaeological remains identified by the DGA in 2001 near the northern (Sydonian) harbour.
At the time of the preparation of this report, the Centre had not received confirmation on whether this proposal has been accepted by all the competent authorities and has been applied.
Concerning the illegal construction of an Islamic Research Institute within the archaeological area of the property, the Ministry of Culture had requested its halting. However, owing to the strong interests involved at local level, the Municipality could only negotiate the lowering of one floor of the building, which is near completion.
In July 2003, moreover, the Scientific Committee for the International Safeguarding Campaign of Tyre carried out another mission to the property. After commending the national authorities for some considerable progress in the protection of the site, the members of the Scientific Committee made a number of recommendations concerning: the urgency to complete an archaeological map of the entire property, as an indispensable tool for the protection of the site; the importance of developing specific detailed Urban Conservation Plans (Plans d'Aménagement Detaillés -PAD) for the entire historic centre; and a series of other specific issues regarding single buildings or areas within Tyre.
The Scientific Committee was informed of the work carried out at the Early Christian basilica of Tyre, restored through a joint World Monument Fund- Samuel Kress Foundation - UNESCO project. The activities included the consolidation of the main structures of the Basilica, the re-burial of some fragile exposed remains and the preparation of a study on the interpretation of the monument. Within the framework of the International Safeguarding Campaign, it is worth mentioning that a survey of Greek and Latin inscriptions found in Tyre has been carried out, in view of their study and publication. This activity provided also an opportunity to train Lebanese junior archaeologists.
In January 2004, the Centre received from an NGO some information concerning the alleged negative impact of three new development projects on the property, including works for the enlarging of the Sydonian Port; the damage caused to potential archaeological areas by the projected route of the Highway (which had been partially changed further to concerns expressed by the scientific community); and the excessive scale and scope of some tourist development schemes within the Natural Reserve to the south of the peninsula. With a view to assess the situation on the ground, and in coordination with the State Party, UNESCO carried out a mission to the site in February 2004.
On the issue of the works in the Sydonian Port, the mission found that these had been stopped by the DGA, in line with the recommendations made by the World Heritage Centre in 2002. The proposed transformation of the commercial port into a tourist harbour would not involve any new construction or major modification to the existing structures. Concerning the route of the Highway, this is a long-standing issue that had been discussed a number of times between UNESCO and the Lebanese authorities, including in the framework of the periodical missions of the Scientific Committee for the International Safeguarding Campaign for Tyre. UNESCO had in the past recommended that attention be paid, in choosing the route of the Highway, to avoid any negative impact on the archaeological remains of the property. As a result, the initial project had been revised and the route of the Highway moved further west. The DGA confirmed to the UNESCO mission that soundings carried out along the current projected route of the Highway have not revealed any significant archaeological structure. Finally, on the subject of the tourist development scheme within the Natural Reserve, the President of the Management Committee of the Reserve explained to the UNESCO mission that the proposed interventions were limited, according to the existing Law, to an area of 1700 X 220 metres destined to public use. Some 30 light pavilions, entirely in wood and completely reversible, would be installed from June to September along the beach, as well as twenty bathing huts, near a non-asphalted parking area. Seventeen underground septic tanks, all linked among them, would be also executed, to ensure the evacuation and treatment of all organic waste. In conclusion, while recognizing that considerable damage had been caused to the property in the past by uncontrolled development, and that constant monitoring is essential to ensure the preservation of Tyre, the UNESCO mission found that the more recent developments did not provide reasons for additional concern.