State of Conservation (SOC)
Town of Luang Prabang
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee
Twenty-third session of the Committee - paragraph X.46 and Annex VIII
New information: The World Heritage Centre, its partner the City of Chinon (France) and the State Architect-Urbanist of France participated in the plenary session of the inter-ministerial National Commission for the Protection and Development of Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage, the highest organ responsible for heritage, which took place in Luang Prabang in January 2000 and attended by six ministers and vice-ministers. The draft conservation and development plan (plan de sauvegarde et de mise en valuer - PSMV) for Luang Prabang and draft building guidelines were presented to the National Heritage Commission. The Commission approved the draft plan in principle and agreed to receive a UNESCO expert mission to prepare revisions to the existing decree on heritage protection and urbanism for harmonization with the draft plan. A legal expert on urbanism and a transport expert, to be made available to the Centre under the France-UNESCO Co-operation Agreement for the Protection of Monumental, Urban and Natural Heritage, will be undertaking a mission in July-August 2000 for this purpose.
Illegal construction has to a large extent been curbed but the dramatic increase in tourism and the large number of souvenir shops and guest houses established over the past two years in the Historic Centre of Luang Prabang, as well as the planned widening of roads risk the loss of the town’s authenticity and increase in vehicular traffic in the town centre. The French Development Agency’s (AFD) 11.8 million French Francs (US$ 1.8 million) contribution to the 2-year project (1998-2000) to develop the local authorities’ capacity in managing urban heritage has, however, resulted in considerable strengthening of the Heritage House to manage urban transformation. The Centre, through the decentralized co-operation scheme between Chinon and Luang Prabang is currently negotiating a second contribution from AFD for US$ 3.5 million for urban infrastructural development. This AFD project is expected to be carried out in close collaboration with the Asian Development Bank’s US$ 4 million infrastructure project for Luang Prabang, of which US$ 2 million is provisionally earmarked for the historic centre.
Action RequiredThe Bureau notes with appreciation the mobilization by the World Heritage Centre and the City of Chinon of substantive international development co-operation for the protection and sustainable development of Luang Prabang and expresses gratitude to the Government of France, the French Development Agency and the Asian Development Bank for support in the safeguarding. While noting the progress made by the national and local authorities in strengthening the legal and management framework for urban heritage protection in Luang Prabang, the Bureau expresses concern over the rapid and ill-prepared growth of tourism which risks the loss of the town’s authenticity. The Bureau requests the State Party to approve the conservation and development plan of Luang Prabang as soon as possible to ensure adequate legal protection of the site and for the national tourism strategy to give greater importance to heritage protection concerns. The Bureau requests the Centre to mobilize technical support to assist the State Party in this regard.
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Requests Approved: 0
Total Amount Ap proved: 92,242USD
|1998||Promotion of WH Convention in Town of Luang Prabang, Laos||5,000 USD|
|1997||Luang Prabang Workshop and Training material for enhanced ...||25,000 USD|
|1996||Conservation of Traditional Houses in Luang Prabang||39,900 USD|
|1996||Preparation of a Manual on guidelines for the conservation and ...||7,342 USD|
|1994||Preparation of a nomination file for Luang Prabang||15,000 USD|
July 1999: World Heritage Centre mission; September 2000: World Heritage Centre / France-UNESCO Convention mission
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Inappropriate conservation methods
- New constructions
- Need for a Safeguarding and Development Plan of the town
- Urgent need for the enactment of a Cultural Properties Protection Law
Current conservation issues
Asfollow-up to the decision of the twenty-fourth session of the Bureau, the Secretariat:
Ø informed the State Party and the Asian Development Bank
Ø received technical support from the Agence Française de developpement (AFD) to prepare the terms of reference for the ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission
Ø technical documents and TOR for a soil mechanic/hydro-engineering expert was transmitted to ICOMOS on 5 September 2000 but identification of expert is still pending
Ø ADB and the State Party agreed to delaying the planned works pending results of ICOMOS technical advice on cause of riverbank erosion (surface water drainage or river current), possible alternatives to riverbank consolidation
Ø ADB and AFD have agreed to merge their project to ensure complementarity (total US$ 8 million) and the Centre currently negotiating to merge EU-AsiaUrbs project (US$ 400,000) provided through UNESCO/WHC-Chinon-Luang Prabang decentralised co-operation
Ø WH Fund co-financed conservation plan; pedagogical manual; posters and brochures now completed and used in training workshops for local authorities; heads of villages and local population – all with excellent results
Ø Centre’s expert mission under France-UNESCO agreement took place in September for consultations with the State Party to identify necessary revisions to national heritage protection law and local regulations and to establish implementation modalities on Fund for Conservation Aid to the Local Population.
Ø The Centre initiated in co-operation with the AFD and Caisse des depots et consignations (CDC- French national financial institution for savings account and housing loans etc) cases studies on systems of subsidies, loans and fiscal advantages offered to private owners of historic buildings not only in Luang Prabang, but in other developing nations of Asia.
Analysis and Conclusion
Link to the decision
The Secretariat reported that the conservation and development plan of the Town of Luang Prabang developed under the Luang Prabang-Chinon Decentralized Cooperation Programme was presented to the National Interministerial Commission on Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage in January 2000 and was approved in principle. However the plan has not yet been officially adopted, hence does not have legal enforcement power. The Secretariat also recalled that despite the repeated requests by the Bureau and the Committee for revision and subsequent enactment by the National Assembly of Laos of the Decree on the Protection of National Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage (issued on 20 June 1997 as Presidential Decree), this was still pending. The Bureau was informed of the rapid growth and ill-planned tourism development in Luang Prabang and incidents of illegal construction, despite the strengthened capacity of the local authorities in the management of urban heritage. A particular concern was raised over the planned consolidation of the riverbank with concrete gabions and the widening of the quay under a project financed by the Asian Development Bank’s Secondary Cities Programme. This project may undermine the view of the historic peninsula from the opposite embankment and permit increased vehicular traffic into the core historic centre. The Bureau was informed that the State Party and the Asian Development Bank have been requested to carry out a geological survey to determine the need for the use of concrete gabions. The Bureau was also informed of the exemplary urban infrastructural improvement projects undertaken by the French Agency for Development (AFD) under the first phase of a multi-year programme of urban conservation and development (US$ 1.8 million) and of the on-going negotiations for a second phase for an amount of US$ 3.5 million.
The Bureau noted with appreciation the mobilization by the World Heritage Centre and the City of Chinon of substantive international development co-operation for the protection and sustainable development of Luang Prabang, and expressed gratitude to the Government of France, the French Development Agency and the Asian Development Bank for supporting the safeguarding and development of this living historic town and that Luang Prabang was not intended to become a town museum. While noting the progress made by the national and local authorities in strengthening the legal and management framework for urban heritage protection in Luang Prabang, the Bureau expressed concern over the rapid and ill-prepared growth of tourism, incidence of illegal construction and the planned widening of the roads and riverbank quay which risk the loss of the town’s authenticity and the World Heritage value of the site. The Bureau requested the State Party to approve the conservation and development plan of Luang Prabang as soon as possible to ensure adequate legal protection of the site and for the national tourism strategy to give greater importance to heritage protection concerns. The Bureau invited the State Party, in conformity with paragraph 56 of the Operational Guidelines, to inform the Committee through the UNESCO Secretariat, of all major infrastructural works at the planning stage. The Bureau requested the Centre to write to the Asian Development Bank, inviting them to submit the technical plan of the riverbank consolidation and quay improvement project of Luang Prabang to the Committee prior to the finalization of the implementation agreement with the local authorities. As suggested by the Delegate of Hungary, the Bureau proposed that the advisory bodies study the technical plan and present their analysis of it to the Committee so that it can better treat this complex issue. The absence of a co-ordinating committee meant, amongst others, that ICOMOS or other advisory bodies were not involved in the conservation and development of the site.
The Bureau then requested UNESCO to mobilize technical support, notably by involving ICOMOS, to assist the State Party in the selection of appropriate technical solutions in this regard.
Link to the decision
VIII.35 Brasilia (Brazil)
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (China)
The Potala Palace, Lhasa (China)
VIII.36 Islamic Cairo (Egypt)
VIII.37 Roman Monuments, Cathedral St Peter and Liebfrauen-Church in Trier (Germany)
Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin (Germany)
Classical Weimar (Germany)
Hortabagy National Park (Hungary)
VIII.38 Khajuraho Group of Monuments (India) Sun Temple of Konarak (India) Petra (Jordan) Luang Prabang (Lao People's Democratic Republic) Byblos (Lebanon) Ksar Ait Ben Haddou (Morocco) VIII.39 Island of Mozambique (Mozambique) Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha (Nepal) Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo - San Lorenzo (Panama) Archaeological Site of Chavin (Peru) VIII.40 Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines)
VIII.38 Khajuraho Group of Monuments (India)
Sun Temple of Konarak (India)
Luang Prabang (Lao People's Democratic Republic)
Ksar Ait Ben Haddou (Morocco)
VIII.39 Island of Mozambique (Mozambique)
Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha (Nepal)
Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo - San Lorenzo (Panama)
Archaeological Site of Chavin (Peru)
VIII.40 Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines)
VIII.41 Baroque Churches of the Philippines (Philippines)
VIII.42 Cultural Landscape of Sintra (Portugal)
VIII.43 Istanbul (Turkey)
Complex of Hué Monuments (Vietnam)
The Bureau may wish to adopt the following and transmit it to the Committee for noting:
“Having examined the report of the Secretariat, the Bureau expressed appreciation to the State Party and the Asian Development Bank for halting the planned works on the riverbank consolidation and the quay to take into consideration the outcome of the ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission. The Bureau notes with interest the report by the Secretariat on its co-operation with the Agence Française de developpement (AFD) to establish a system of subsidies and soft loans to be offered to owners of historic buildings located within the World Heritage protected area through a “Fund for Conservation Aid to the Local Population” and requests to be kept informed of developments. The Bureau requests the State Party to prepare, with support from the Secretariat, a full report for the twenty-fifth extraordinary session of the Bureau on the national heritage protection laws and regulations related to Luang Prabang and on the subsidy scheme to the inhabitants to encourage conservation of the site.”
Town of Luang Prabang
- Ground transport infrastructure
- Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Legal framework
- Major linear utilities
- Management activities
- Management systems/ management plan
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).