1.         Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panama) (C 790bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(vi)

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/790/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/790/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

March 2009: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission; March 2010: On the occasion of the joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to Portobelo and San Lorenzo, a technical visit to the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo and the Historic District was undertaken, as requested by the authorities of Panama; October 2010: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/790/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

The State Party submitted a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property on 31 January 2013 and complementary information was submitted on 12 February 2013. Additional detailed information on the Cinta Costera III project, including information on the impact of the project and on the urban transportation and mobility strategy for the Historic District of Panamá had already been submitted by the State Party on 21 September and 9 November 2012. On 14 March 2013, the State Party made a presentation at the World Heritage Centre on progress with the formulation of the joint Management Plan for two World Heritage properties in Panama: The Fortifications of the Caribbean side of Panama, Portobelo and San Lorenzo in conjunction with the Historic District and Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo.

a)   Buffer zone and retrospective inventory

A request for a minor boundary modifications was submitted by the State Party on 29 January 2013 and related additional information on 15 February 2013. On 14 March 2013 a supplementary map was also submitted. However, the proposal for minor boundary modification did not comply with the requirements of the Operational Guidelines and the State Party has been requested to clarify and complete it.

b)   Legislative framework, management system and policies for the property

The submitted information included a report on the progress with the elaboration and implementation of the standards and procedures manual for the restoration and rehabilitation of the Old Quarter of Panama City that was approved in 2004. This manual sets out the basic requirements for approval of plans and building and occupancy permits. No precise information was yet provided on the actual enforcement of these tools.

The State Party also provided information about the formulation of the “Panama UNESCO Heritage Management Plan” in a presentation made at UNESCO on 14 March 2013. The information provided notes that a protocol was prepared for the management of the two cultural World Heritage properties in Panama on August 2012; it is stated that the protocol subscribed to by all the main actors guarantees an operational plan. A coordinating body has been established and also a National Natural and Cultural Heritage Commission that will function as a technical assistance body. The Commission integrates several ministries and the management entities of Portobelo and San Lorenzo as well as for Panama Viejo. The Presidential Decree to officially set up this Commission is currently under revision. 

The outline Management Plan included in the report lists a series of aims for the conservation and management of both cultural World Heritage properties in Panama. The Plan contains background information, an assessment of the current situation and proposed strategies and actions for different sectors, structured under the following headings: knowledge plan, protection and conservation plan, urban planning, public space and landscape plan, economic development plan, cultural promotion plan, and monitoring plan. The document also includes a table of actions to be implemented, with proposed costs and identified timeframes for implementation (urgent, medium and long term). While the Management Plan includes a useful systematic assessment and identifies specific activities, it would benefit from the identification of a precise course of action to address the state of conservation of the built environment, and criteria and guidance for interventions that could be used as a coherent framework to guide decision-making in consideration of the conditions of authenticity and integrity of the property. Further information is needed on whether the proposed management arrangements are fully operational and on whether funding has been secured to implement the identified urgent actions.

The report submitted by the State Party also included the Master Plan for the rehabilitation and restoration of the historic monumental ensemble of the Casco Antiguo of Panama City, dated January 2011. The extent of the implementation of this Master Plan was not provided and clearly it will be essential to integrate it with the developing Management Plan.

c)   State of conservation of the property

Since 2008, the World Heritage Committee has expressed its concern about the state of conservation of the Historic Centre, particularly in regard to the existence of a significant number of largely deteriorated and neglected historic buildings.

The State Party reports progress with certain measures to begin to address these issues. For example, actions have been undertaken for the replacement of sidewalks and painting of curbs, for paving, for the installation of storm drains, for the underground burial of electric and telecommunications installations and for the rebuilding of sewage infrastructure. It also notes that visits through the historic centre were carried out to monitor progress on actions implemented, including the state of conservation of the historic buildings.

Further detailed information presented by the State Party analyses the extent of the problem: of the 845 lots in the Historic District, 40,3% are considered to be in good conditions, 5,8 % have unfinished works, 9,8% are vacant lots, 26,4% are inhabited and in bad conditions and 17,6 % are uninhabited and in bad conditions. It is stated that this analysis will be used for the citation of their owners to start processes of “unlocking value” by the National Heritage and to enforce fines where applicable. However, no further information has been provided on whether the Emergency Plan for interventions, drafted in 2009, will be reviewed in accordance to the provisions made in the outline Management Plan to identify priority measures for implementation and to include a practical plan for implementation, including required resources and expected timeframes for implementation. This review has been requested by the World Heritage Committee since its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011).

As for the Via Cincuentenario, the State Party reports that work has continued for its relocation outside the Archaeological site of Panama Viejo. In consideration of the new alignment, actions such as archaeological surveys, relocation of utilities, and relocation of affected families, are being implemented. As requested by the Environmental Impact Study (EIS), a Plan for the Archaeological Rescue in Panama Viejo was implemented. However, no Heritage Impact assessment has been completed yet for review.

d)   Cinta Costera project

i. Background

The 2009 reactive monitoring mission to the property noted that the Phase II of the Cinta Costera project, located at the seaside area of Terraplan, had been constructed without carrying out environmental impact studies or a heritage impact assessment, and without informing the World Heritage Committee. Additionally, the mission noted that the Phase III project foreseen at the time could have an impact on the property; consequently the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) requested the State Party to provide a final report, including the analysis and monitoring of the impacts derived from the construction of the Cinta Costera Phase II and the potential impacts on the property from the possible continuation of Phase III.

In 2010, the state of conservation report examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010) noted that Phase III of Cinta Costera was expected to continue at the time with a tunnel that would cross approximately 1 km. of the Historic Centre or by surrounding the Peninsula of the Historic District. The 2010 reactive monitoring mission to the property verified that works had continued on Phase II and that no additional information could be procured regarding the social impacts, conservation requirements, or impact assessments of the project. It also noted that Phase II of the Cinta Costera had resulted in the radical transformation of the waterfront and the impacted on the character of the old harbour area at Terraplan. The mission noted that the proposal of Cinta Costera Phase III to surround the peninsula could have an aggressive impact on the view sheds to and from the Historic Centre and could impact on the conditions of authenticity and integrity of the property. It further noted that no other alternatives for the continuation of the project at Phase III had been sufficiently explored at the time. In Decision 34 COM 7B.113, the World Heritage Committee requested the State Party to halt the Cinta Costera Project and to submit the necessary technical studies and impact assessments prior to approval and implementation, as well as to explore and submit other alternative proposals to address the traffic concerns effectively. 

At its 35th Session (UNESCO, 2011) the World Heritage Committee noted the commitment made by  the State Party at the Committee session to submit all projects, studies and proposals related to alternatives for future works of the Cinta Costera Phase III for evaluation, including technical specifications and heritage impact assessments. The Committee also requested that the construction of Phase III of the Cinta Costera be discontinued, as it would potentially have an adverse impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

On 31 January 2012, the State Party presented, as the only alternative it was submitting for consideration and review by the World Heritage Committee, a definitive proposal to construct a Maritime Viaduct, Phase III of the Cinta Costera, to the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS. In the state of conservation report examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012) it was noted, based on the evaluation of the Heritage Impact Assessment, that the project posed a potential threat to the integrity and authenticity of the property as it would transform the Historic District’s traditional form, its appearance on the coastline and would irreversibly compromise the existing relationship between the Historic Centre and the sea and particularly impact the setting of the property in the peninsula and the singularity of the fortified precinct. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies considered that alternative solutions had not yet been sufficiently explored nor had comprehensive technical assessments to discard other options had been presented. The statement requesting the evaluation of only one proposal also precluded the possibility for dialogue about other potential solutions. The World Heritage Committee requested, in Decision 36 COM 7.B103, that impact studies on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property be carried out and also requested the State Party to implement a series of measures to comprehensively address the precarious state of conservation of the property.

On 21 January 2013 the State Party provided a report “Solution for the future traffic demand of Panama City”, elaborated by Halcrow Consulting. This report explains the rapid growth of Panama City and details of the traffic problems and states that the Maritime Viaduct will have urban expressways with three lanes in each direction, connecting directly to Avenida de Balboa and Avenida de los Poetas. The report does not provide any details for alternative options to face the acknowledged increasing growth of traffic.

ii. Current situation

On 7 September 2012, the State Party made a presentation at UNESCO of the “Impact Study of the Cinta Costera III Maritime Viaduct to its Outstanding Universal Value under the currently inscribed criteria of C790 Property, Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo and Historic District of Panama”. In further communications with the World Heritage Centre, throughout September 2012, the State Party indicated that the presented option had been revised to address impacts identified through the incorporation of mitigation measures and compensations. It underscored that the San Felipe Island, which would have faced the Presidential Palace, had been removed from the final design.

On 24 September 2012, a letter from civil society organizations in Panama was received by the Director General of UNESCO providing notification of the construction of the maritime viaduct. On 17 October 2012 a letter from the Permanent Delegation of Panama to UNESCO was received in response to the request for information regarding claims of the commencement of construction works. The State Party indicated that the impact study delivered in September 2012 for evaluation was considered as formal compliance with paragraphs 6 and 7 of the decision of the World Heritage Committee (36 COM 7B.103) and that it therefore considered the construction of the Road Interconnection on Maritime Viaduct could commence. The letter also confirmed the disposition of the State Party to receive suggestions, contributions and inputs on the necessary technical viability for optimizing the design and informed that Delegations of the World Heritage Committee had visited the site to this purpose. As of January 2013, information available in the public domain states that almost 50% of the Viaduct has been constructed. By official communication, the State Party confirmed on 25th April 2013 that 55% of the infrastructure has already been completed.

 

iii. Assessment of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property

The impact study submitted by the State Party noted that the Maritime Viaduct, Phase III of the Cinta Costera does not affect the criteria for inscription of the property. However, the report highlighted the attributes of the property in terms of the shape and design that influenced the evolution of military architecture in the Americas. It underscored their low profile and adaptation of the settlement to the shape of the peninsula, and considered the prime importance of the location and the setting, both critical attributes to the authenticity of the property. The report indicates “the main reason why the city was moved after the destruction of Panama Viejo was the desire to fortify it. As the site of the cove lent itself to the building of a walled enclosure, it was chosen despite its narrowness. The peninsula afforded an additional advantage: on its eastern and southern flanks the beach has a surface of sharp rocks that would have significantly hampered any attempt to attack from there. Given these characteristics, this environment was an integral part of the defensive system”.

The study highlighted that the setting and current landscape, understood as being comprised of the Historic District, the surrounding Bay of Panama and its panoramas, the waterfront, the skyline of Panama City and Ancon Hill, that had remained unaltered in terms of the location of the Historic Centre, the environment of sharp rocks to the east and south of San Felipe, around three crags which appear in historical cartography as "The Three Sisters”, would be altered. The report included a photo, taken from Google Earth, corresponding exactly to a 18th century map of the city and it further highlighted that “from a distance, the landscape of the Historic Centre seems to be largely unchanged since the 19th century”. The report also mentions that “the unobstructed view, in its perception of foreground and background, is part of the collective memory of the capital's population”. The indirect impacts noted are classified to include visual repercussion, noise impact, tidal, background of the metropolitan scene, functional, and territorial relation on the site. The report acknowledges the indirect, visual impact on the waterfront setting of the property and ranks them as large to very large major changes (pages 209, 213-215). Notwithstanding these considerations, the report considered that the visual impact on the waterfront setting could be mitigated through changes to the design. No technical details were provided in terms of the mitigation measures foreseen to ensure the viaduct did not impact adversely on the waterfront setting.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the current state of conservation of the property, where 44% of the historic buildings inventoried are reported to be in an extremely poor condition, an issue that has remained unaddressed since 2008. Although the proposed development of the Management Plan can be considered as a positive step forward, so far there are no indications that the prescribed system is fully operational or that adequate resources have been secured.

To date, in spite of the requests made by the World Heritage Committee, there is unfortunately no indication as to whether the Emergency Plan for interventions, drafted in 2009, will be reviewed in accordance with the provisions made in the outline Management Plan in order to identify priority measures and to include a practical plan for implementation, including required resources and expected timeframes to carry out actions. This needs to be urgently implemented to ensure the conservation and protection of the built fabric.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies concur with the need to consider improvements to road infrastructure to meet increasing traffic demands but point out that no alternatives to the Maritime Viaduct were sufficiently explored and that the construction began without allowing the World Heritage Committee appropriate time for evaluation, and identification of possible recommendations. They note the efforts made in carrying out the impact studies but consider that, although adverse impacts had been identified with the option selected for the Maritime Viaduct, there was not a clear explanation in any of the documents provided on why other alternatives were totally rejected. In addition, the report “Solution for the future traffic demand of Panama City” underscores the accelerated growth of Panama City and the challenges it faces in regard to traffic demands and the urgent need to reorganise road infrastructure. However, it focuses on justifying why the Maritime Viaduct is the only alternative without contemplating any other alternatives or balancing their pros and cons. There are no substantiated justifications that would indicate that the viaduct will effectively and, most importantly, sustainably provide long-term solutions to these traffic issues. 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies underscore the negative visual impacts of the Maritime Viaduct that will adversely impact on and transform the setting of the Historic Centre. They further note that the Maritime Viaduct is a structure of a very strong shape with a high visual impact which does not integrate harmoniously with the Historic District and establishes an undesirable contrast with regard to its maritime context. They consider that the ability of the property to convey its Outstanding Universal Value, as a fortified settlement in a Peninsula and as a testimony to the nature of the early settlements, with a layout and urban design adapted to a particular context, are being adversely compromised. The urban layout and scale and the relationship between the city and its setting, attributes crucial to the understanding of the evolution of the property, will also be adversely impacted.

The Maritime Viaduct, which, when complete in a few months’ time, will closely encircle the coastline that has been the edge of the Historic District since its foundation in the 17th century, will alter view sheds to and from the Historic Centre. Furthermore, the work already carried out on this large-scale infrastructure is impacting significantly and adversely on the integrity and the authenticity of the property, in terms of the way it conveys its historic strategic and defensive location on the Central American isthmus, a crucial attribute of its Outstanding Universal Value.

Given the current degree and extent of the adverse impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property derived from the construction of the Maritime Viaduct and the state of conservation of the built fabric, the World Heritage and the Advisory Bodies note that the World Heritage Committee might wish to inscribe this property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.100

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

  2. Recalling Decisions 33 COM 7B.141, 34 COM 7B.113, 35 COM 7B.130, 36 COM 7B.103 , adopted at its 33rd (Seville, 2009), 34th (Brasilia, 2010), 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 36th (Saint Petersburg, 2012) sessions respectively, and its concern that the construction of the Cinta Costera Phase III (Maritime Viaduct) would irreversibly impact on the property,

  3. Also recalling the state of conservation reports and reactive monitoring mission reports of March 2009, March 2010 and October 2010 that underscored the impacts of the Cinta Costera project, in particular the Maritime Viaduct, and the poor state of conservation of the property;

  4. Notes the progress with developing a Management Plan, with quantifying the number of buildings at risk and with work on the streetscapes, and undergrounding networks, and reiterates its deep concern about the overall state of conservation of the property and regrets that no sufficient progress has been made in comprehensively and sustainably addressing issues, or in implementing the emergency Action Plan agreed in 2009;

  5. Also regrets that the State Party decided to launch the construction of the Cinta Costera Phase III (Maritime Viaduct) that modifies in an irreversible manner the relation of the historic centre with its wider setting;

  6. Requests the State Party to submit by 1 February 2015 a significant modification to the boundaries to allow it to justify a revision of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

  7. Also requests the State Party to invite as soon as possible a high-level World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring Mission, guided by the World Heritage Centre, to discuss the different possibilities of this modification;

  8. Considers that in the absence of the implementation of the request made in this decision, the property would be deleted from the World Heritage List at its 39th session in 2015 , in conformity with Chapter IV.C of the Operational Guidelines . 

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 8E

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Documents WHC-13/37.COM/8E and WHC-13/37.COM/8E.Add,

2.  Congratulates States Parties for the excellent work accomplished in the elaboration of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in their territories;

3.  Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-13/37.COM/8E, for the following World Heritage properties:

4.  Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in Danger will be reviewed by the Advisory Bodies in priority;

5.  Further decides that, considering the high number of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value to be examined, the order in which they will be reviewed by the Advisory Bodies will follow the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting, namely:

6.  Requests the World Heritage Centre to harmonise all sub-headings in the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value where appropriate and when resources and staff time allow to carry out this work;

7.  Also requests the State Parties, Advisory Bodies and World Heritage Centre to ensure the use of gender-neutral language in the Statements proposed for adoption to the World Heritage Committee;

8.  Further requests the World Heritage Centre to keep the adopted Statements in line with subsequent decisions by the World Heritage Committee concerning name changes of World Heritage properties, and to reflect them throughout the text of the Statements, in consultation with States Parties and Advisory Bodies;

9.  Finally requests the States Parties to provide support to the World Heritage Centre for translation of the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value into English or French respectively, and finally requests the Centre to upload these onto its web-pages.