A state of conservation report was submitted by the State Party on 8 February 2012. It includes a description of current conservation conditions and challenges faced for the property. The report notes that gradual changes have occurred both in the urban fabric and in the buildings, which could modify the character of the place if provisions are not implemented to alleviate development pressures and other factors such as impoverishment of the local population, which is unable to meet maintenance needs, leading to a serious state of disrepair in some buildings. In addition, new construction, introduction of new equipment for urban development, a tendency to cover earthen facades with baked brick or modern materials, illegal occupation and land speculation pose a challenge to maintaining the conditions of integrity and authenticity of the inscribed property.
a) State of conservation of archaeological heritage
The archaeological components of the property are also being affected by natural and man-made factors. For the latter, interventions were undertaken to mitigate decay derived from erosion. However, no updated information was provided regarding the current status of development projects in areas adjacent to the archaeological components.
b) Waste disposal problems
The historic city continues to face severe sanitation and environmental problems arising from poor solid and liquid waste management practices. The report notes that these problems have been partially addressed in some neighbourhoods by the Local Sanitation and Pollution Control Services but this, nevertheless, remains a serious concern.
The UNESCO Niger-Loire project, funded by the European Union, developed a transitional waste disposal area, provided sanitation material to the community, and trained 100 women in waste recycling. Further, a feasibility study was conducted for the final waste disposal area, envisioned 5 km outside Djenné, funding for which still needs to be raised.
c) Rehabilitation of architectural heritage
The report includes information on interventions that were completed in 2011 at the Mosque, supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and at the Djenné Museum, funded by the European Union. The third phase of the rehabilitation and conservation project is currently in place, and it is expected that six houses will be restored in Djenné. In addition, the rehabilitation of the Youth House including the development of technical guidelines for earth conservation was successfully completed with support of UNESCO/ Italy funds-in-trust in the framework of the World Heritage Earthen Architecture Programme (WHEAP).
d) Demolition of Old Courthouse
The report also states that the Old Courthouse building had fallen into disrepair and had been demolished, in order to allow for a large new construction. Given that the demolition did not have the approval of the Cultural Mission, new building works were stopped and participatory discussions have started on the new project which is foreseen to house the craft market. The current proposal is to construct a new building in modern materials that would follow the Sudan-Sahelian architectural style and be integrated with the physical and urban setting.
e) Urban regulations and management and conservation plan
The report includes a recommendation to implement the urban regulations developed in the framework of the WHEAP project and the management and conservation plan but does not provide any information on how this is to be accomplished nor where the required resources could be obtained for systematic and sustainable implementation.
f) Boundaries and buffer zone
No information was provided on the clarification of boundaries and buffer zone or on the prepared town planning and construction regulations.
The proposal for the property’s zoning has been developed with the technical assistance provided in the framework of the UNESCO Niger-Loire and the WHEAP-Conservation project for Africa funded by Italy.
The Old Towns of Djenné are located approximately 300 km from the northern territory controlled by the MNLA rebels and the Ansar Dine and AQMI rebel groups. They have remained relatively spared for the moment, even although there is a general panic in the town following the advance of the rebels to Douenza. This situation provoked the fleeing of the administrative services. A fragile calm and the gradual return of the administrative services have since been observed but the situation still remains uncertain.
The Djenné Cultural Mission no longer has the means to ensure its protection and conservation missions. This situation is all the more worrying as the property is already confronted with serious conservation problems that threaten its Outstanding Universal Value. In fact, as indicated in Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B, the implementation of the management plan and town planning regulations are well below expectations. As an example, the ancient Justice Palace that constitutes a significant element of the exceptional architectural style of Djenné was demolished, producing a negative impact on the integrity of the property.
Results of the UNESCO mission of 18 to 20 May 2012
On 20 May 2012, the State Party addressed a letter to the Director-General of UNESCO, requesting that the World Heritage Committee inscribe the properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 36th session in 2012.
The World Heritage Centre encouraged Mali to prepare a detailed state of conservation report and priorities for intervention on the World Heritage properties in Mali, in particular the properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia and to request technical and financial assistance from UNESCO and the international community.
Mali committed to finalizing the documents of adhesion to the Second Protocol relating to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, in order to impose the obligation for the integral protection of its cultural properties, notably all the scientific collections that bear witness to the Golden Age, both spiritual and intellectual, of Timbuktu, as well as all the sites and monuments in this region.