1.         Taj Mahal (India) (C 252)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1983

Criteria  (i)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/252/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1986-1994)
Total amount approved: USD 35,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/252/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Urban and tourism development pressure; Absence of communication and co-ordination between concerned authorities responsible for the conservation, management and development of the properties

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/252/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2004

The World Heritage Committee, at its 27th session in July 2003, requestedthe World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS to undertake a Joint Reactive Monitoring Mission to hold consultations with the State Party concerning the state of conservation of these World Heritage properties. At the invitation of the Government of India, the mission was carried out from 10 to 15 January 2004 to the World Heritage properties of Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. The mission examined the proposed “Taj Corridor Project” with the Indian authorities and assessed the potential negative impact of this project on the World Heritage property and also identified urgent conservation and management needs.

 

(a)     The “Taj Corridor Project”

This reactive monitoring mission was undertaken to evaluate the “Taj Corridor Project”. However, not much can be said about the project, since the mission members never received any project plans or details. Most of the information is either verbal or from the media. It is obvious that this project was very ambitious and if carried out would have caused serious damage to the World Heritage properties of Taj Mahal and Agra Fort:

Evidently the project is not continuing; a very courageous decision by the relevant Indian authorities to stop a project on which millions of US$ have already been spent. Located between the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, the project would have certainly had a negative visual and cultural impact on the heritage values of these properties as they were built facing the river, which plays a very important role in the design of these sites.

 

What remains on site is a dry wall of local red sandstone (about ten meters wide), built into the bed of the Yamuna river. The purpose of the wall was to create a promenade which could be a place for commercial and tourism activities. There is also a sloping revetment of the river bank, made of the same red sandstone. The mission suggested that a development plan for the whole area and town should be prepared. Such a plan would prevent similar experiences such as the “Taj Corridor Project” from occurring again. It is also important to indicate that the river, although very attractive from a distance, is extremely polluted.  Cleaning the river and preventing its use as a sewage canal should become a priority, at least in this important section between the two World Heritage properties.

 

(b)     The state of conservation of Agra Fort

The mission visited parts of the Fort and observed some very impressive gardening work being carried out following excavations and research.

The condition of the large part of the Fort still used by the army is unknown.  Judging from the part which was in military use until recently however, there is cause for concern. Conservation works are being conducted in this wing. Otherwise, it seems that many of the conservation issues are basically due to deterioration over time and visitor pressure. Neither of these seem critical and the property appears well-managed. It should still be recommended that, while considerable effort is going into the gardens’ development, more should go to regular maintenance and conservation (mainly plasterwork).

 

(c)     Plans and state of conservation of the Taj Mahal

Not surprisingly, such an important and much-visited site is continually being conserved and maintained. The work being conducted is very impressive and the use of traditional workmanship is of high quality. New plans for improved visitor management have been presented, the main idea being to attract visitors to areas other than solely the main axis. The aim is to avoid the overuse of this axis, to show other parts of the monumental complex, to keep visitors on site longer and to provide better services and information using two identical visitor centres in two of the side courtyards. This will require incorporating two doors into an original wall, which does not compromise in any way the cultural and visual aspects of the property.

 

The contrast between the extraordinarily beautiful inner area of the compound and the immediate vicinity is striking.  This is not simply a matter of funding but of planning and management. The mission recommended that the Indian authorities should clean and enhance the whole area surrounding the monument, within a defined distance, as such an important monument deserves.

 

(d)     Fatehpur Sikri

The stone used to build this wonderful site suffers from a certain amount of natural decay, mainly erosion.  This phenomenon is much more pronounced where water makes contact with the stone and evaporates through it. The evidence of erosion is particularly severe on some of the stone ceilings.  It is recommended to specially monitor this and wherever possible provide improved insulation and water proofing for roofs and better drainage. Plans for the new entrance and commercial complex were presented. The location seems appropriate and will permit the relocation of commercial activities from the immediate vicinity of the site (mainly the mosque compound). It is recommended to clarify the signage on the site. The most visited area is clearly signposted and described in guides and plans, but it would be useful to provide more information on the site as a whole.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

N/A

Decision Adopted: 28 COM 15B.58

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Takes note of the UNESCO-ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission findings and recommendations concerning the World Heritage properties of Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri;
  2. Congratulates the Indian authorities for having suspended the “Taj Corridor Project”;
  3. Underscores the importance of reinforcing the management and regional development planning mechanism relating to the protection of World Heritage properties in the Agra District;
  4. Requests the State Party to:
    1. set up a body to coordinate and address all the conservation and development challenges of the three World Heritage properties in the Agra District by involving all the stakeholders,
    2. evaluate and possibly redefine the World Heritage protective boundaries and management guidelines pertaining to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Note should be taken of recent research which indicates that the original design of the Taj monument included the Mehtab Bagh and other relocated cultural properties across the Yamuna River. These constitute an essential part of the whole area and therefore require integrated protection,
    3. integrate the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort as one protected World Heritage area to ensure better management of the property, with a possible inclusion of Fatehpur Sikri subject to a broader regional planning scheme
    4. elaborate a comprehensive site management plan, including a specific visitor management plan, based on a regional plan for conservation and development of the World Heritage properties, and ensure its implementation,
    5. improve the on-site interpretation and visitor management at the World Heritage properties,
    6. set up on-site monitoring mechanisms, by using traditional and new technological means, to assess the impact of urban development on the World Heritage values of the properties and their surrounding areas so as to integrate the protection of urban landscape into the overall heritage protection mechanism;
  5. Further requests the State Party, as a first step, to organize a National Workshop on the Elaboration of Site Management Plans for the preparation of the World Heritage extension(s), including the upgrading of the protective boundary and buffer zones;
  6. Requests the World Heritage Centre, the Advisory Bodies and other international partners to support and strengthen co-operation activities with the competent national and local authorities by providing appropriate assistance;
  7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2005, a report on the progress achieved in the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations, for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005