1.         Kathmandu Valley (Nepal) (C 121bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (iii)(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/121/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1979-1998)
Total amount approved: USD 315,679
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

There have been UNESCO Funds-in-Trust projects funded by the Government of Japan and activities supported by the UNESCO Division of Cultural Heritage within the framework of the International Safeguarding Campaign (see Information Document WHC-99/CONF.204/INF.13). Other earmarked voluntary contributions to the UNESCO World Heritage Fund from NGOs (US$ 90,000) and private sector donors (US$ 20,000) for pilot project implementation have been mobilized by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for enhanced management of the Kathmandu Valley site.  

Previous monitoring missions

November 1993: UNESCO / ICOMOS joint mission; October 1999: World Heritage Centre mission;  September 2000: High level mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 2000

Previous deliberations:
Twenty-third session of the Bureau - paragraph IV.69
Twenty-third session of the Committee - paragraph X.42

New information: Following the request of the Committee at its twenty-third session, the World Heritage Centre has made arrangements for a High Level Mission to be undertaken by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, two eminent international experts, and a representative of the World Heritage Centre. This High Level Mission is expected to take place in September 2000.

A mission was undertaken by a World Heritage Centre staff to Kathmandu Valley in April 2000 to prepare for the High Level Mission in September 2000. The mission noted continued concern that the public resthouse in Patan Darbar Square Monument Zone, had been illegally dismantled without the approval of the Department of Archaeology in September 1999 and despite the conditions of the historic building which permitted in-situ repair, had been reconstructed using new building material. This public resthouse within the Patan Darbar Square Monument Zone had been recognized by ICOMOS and international experts as being in good condition in 1998.

Action Required

The Bureau requests HMG of Nepal to continue making all possible efforts to protect the remaining authentic historic urban fabric within the Kathmandu Valley site. The Bureau requests the Secretariat and the advisory bodies to continue to assist the State Party as appropriate and to strengthen its capacity in controlling development, retaining historic buildings in-situ, and in correcting illegal construction and alteration of historic buildings within the Kathmandu Valley site. The Bureau requests the World Heritage Centre to ensure adequate preparation of the High Level Mission scheduled for September 2000 and to report on the results to the twenty-fourth session of the Committee.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2000

The High Level Mission to Kathmandu Valley, composed of the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, a Vice President of the World Heritage Committee also representing ICOMOS, an eminent international expert on Kathmandu Valley and President of the International Safeguarding Campaign for Kathmandu Valley who assisted the Nepalese Government in formulation the original nomination dossier in the 1970’s, a former Minister of Housing of the Government of France, the Director of the World Heritage Centre and the Centre staff, was undertaken between 24-29 September 2000.

The findings and results of this High Level Mission will be reported to the Bureau at its twenty-fourth extraordinary session. 

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

N/A

Decision Adopted: 24 BUR IV.B.70

The demolition and new construction or alterations of historic buildings within Kathmandu Valley have persisted in spite of concerted international and national conservation efforts.  This has resulted in the loss or continuous and gradual deterioration of materials, structure, ornamental features, and architectural coherence making the essential settings of the Monument Zones as well as in their authentic characters.  In view of the above, the Committee, at its twenty-third session, requested a High Level Mission to be undertaken to hold discussions with representatives of HMG of Nepal in early 2000. The Bureau was informed that the tentative dates for the High Level Mission, 23-30 September 2000, had been proposed to HMG of Nepal. The participants of the Mission would be the Chairperson of the Committee, an eminent international expert on Kathmandu Valley, a former Minister of Housing of the Government of France, the Director of the World Heritage Centre, and Centre staff. The Chairperson informed the Bureau that the High Level Mission could not be undertaken earlier, as the dates proposed in September were the only dates convenient to the participants and the Government.

The Centre informed the Bureau that the public rest house in Patan Darbar Square Monument Zone, which had been illegally dismantled without approval of the Department of Archaeology, in September 1999 despite conditions which permitted in-situ repair, had been reconstructed using new building material.

The Delegate of Zimbabwe noted with disappointment that the High Level Mission had not been undertaken earlier in the year as specified by the Committee, especially in light of further information on continued illegal demolition of historic buildings within the World Heritage protected areas. He was concerned about the delay with regard to the application of the extension of the site.  Recalling the extended discussions during the twenty-third session of the Committee concerning the serious loss of the authentic urban fabrics within the site over the past years, the Delegate reiterated the Committee’s recognition of the gravity of the situation, which should not be underestimated. Although the Committee had decided to again defer the inscription of the Kathmandu Valley site on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its twenty-third session, the Delegate underscored that continued illegal demolition of historic buildings was unacceptable and the commitment and capacity of the State Party in implementing existing regulations were seriously questioned.

The Bureau recalled that at the twenty-first session of the Committee, in view of the continued deterioration of the World Heritage values in the Bauddhanath and Kathmandu Monument Zones, affecting the integrity and inherent characteristics of the site, the Committee had requested the Secretariat, in collaboration with ICOMOS and the State Party, to study the possibility of deleting selected areas within some Monument Zones, without jeopardizing the universal significance and value of the site as a whole. This review was to take into consideration the intention of HMG of Nepal to nominate Khokana as an additional Monument Zone. The Bureau also recalled that this study, undertaken during the UNESCO-ICOMOS-HMG of Nepal Joint Mission in 1998, found that although Khokana’s characteristics could add to the recognized World Heritage values of Kathmandu Valley, it was not possible for the vernacular architectural characteristics of Khokana to replace the lost characteristics within the existing Monument Zones. It was recalled that the Committee requested in 1998, HMG of Nepal to take the necessary measures to ensure adequate protection and management of Khokana prior to its nomination as an additional Monument Zone to the Kathmandu Valley site. The Bureau was informed that the nomination file for the inscription of Khokana Mustard Seed Village as an Additional Monument Zone to the Kathmandu Valley site, had been received in early 2000, but the requested protective measures were not included amongst the documents submitted.

The Representative of ICOMOS informed the Bureau that they had not received a demand for extension of this site, as requested by the Bureau and the Committee on previous occasions.

The Delegate of Hungary expressed his concern, pointing out that the High Level Mission and the extension of the site were two separate issues that should be dealt with separately.

The Bureau requested HMG of Nepal to continue making all possible efforts to protect the remaining authentic historic urban fabric within the Kathmandu Valley site, and in implementing the 55 Recommendations and Time-Bound Action Plan of the UNESCO-ICOMOS-HMG of Nepal Joint Mission. The Bureau requested the Secretariat and the advisory bodies to continue to assist the State Party as appropriate in order to strengthen its capacity to control development, retain historic buildings in-situ, to address the problem of illegal demolition and new construction, and redress illegal alteration of historic buildings. The Bureau requested the Centre to ensure adequate preparation of the High Level Mission scheduled for September 2000 and to report on the results to the twenty-fourth extraordinary session of the Bureau and the twenty-fourth session of the Committee.

Finally, the Bureau expressed appreciation for the Government's effort to nominate Khokana Mustard Seed Village as an additional Monument Zone to Kathmandu Valley. However, in view of the absence of legislative protection of the core and buffer zones of the sites, the Bureau reiterated the Committee’s request to HMG of Nepal to take the necessary measures to ensure that adequate protection and management are put into place at Khokana.

Decision Adopted: 24 COM VIII.32

VIII.32 Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)

The Committee recalled that it had repeatedly expressed concern for this site and repeatedly deferred inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 1992. The Committee recalled that it had decided again to defer decision on in-danger listing at its twenty-third session, pending a report from a High Level Mission that the Committee decided to send to Kathmandu in 2000 for consultations with representatives of His Majesty's Government of Nepal. This mission, headed by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Mr Abdelaziz Touri, would also transmit the Committee's concerns and try to convince the Nepalese authorities of the merits of in-danger listing. This mission took place from 24 to 29 September 2000. The High Level Mission was well received by the State Party and met high level authorities including His Majesty the King and the Prime Minister of Nepal.

The Director of the World Heritage Centre presented the conclusive findings and final considerations of the Report of the High Level Mission to Kathmandu Valley (23-30 September 2000), WHC-2000/CONF.204/INF.17. The Director informed the Committee that no new plans had been put forth by the Nepalese authorities to redress the persistent and continued deterioration of the materials, structures, ornamental features, and overall architectural coherence in most Monument Zones. He drew the attention of the Committee to the state of conservation of the site, highlighting the fact that in general, publicly owned historic monuments were in good condition, but the problem lay in the urban fabric within the Monument Zones. Thus, essential and authentic urban fabric had been severely altered to the point that in a number of Monument Zones, the changes were irreversible.

The Committee was informed of the continuing commitment of His Majesty's Government of Nepal to protect the seven Monument Zones composing the site. The Director reported that the authorities had emphasised the difficulties in imposing international standards in the conservation of privately-owned historic buildings without substantial subsidy and technical support. The Director informed the Committee, however, that the mission was unable to convince the representatives of His Majesty's Government of Nepal on the constructive aims of the system of in-danger listing, notably to mobilise the support of policy makers at the highest level and international donors. In light of this, the High Level Mission concluded that the deterioration of the historic urban fabric will persist, irreversibly damaging the vernacular architecture surrounding the public monuments, and consequently destroying the World Heritage values of this unique and universally significant site. The problem was compounded by the lack of technical capacity and the population pressures giving rise to encroachment from the periphery to the Monument Zones. As a result of this, the Bureau at its twenty-fourth extraordinary session, transmitted the recommendations presented in WHC-2000/CONF.204/4 to the Committee.

The Committee examined the state of conservation of the Kathmandu Valley and the discussion of the Bureau. The Committee also took note of the two information documents tabled on 27 November 2000, WHC-2000/CONF.204/INF.21 (Updated progress report on the implementation of the 55 Recommendations for Enhanced Management of Kathmandu Valley and Time-Bound Action Plan for Corrective Measures, submitted by His Majesty's Government of Nepal on 22 November 2000) and WHC-2000/CONF.204/INF.22 (Conclusions of Mr. Henrik Lilius, Vice-President of the World Heritage Committee and ICOMOS Representative during the High Level Mission to Kathmandu Valley).

The former Chairperson, Mr Abdelaziz Touri, who headed the High Level Mission, noted that the serious state of conservation of Kathmandu Valley had been examined at 20 sessions of the Committee and Bureau since 1992. The situation was indeed grave. However, he informed the Committee that the Bureau had formulated a recommendation for the Committee's consideration at its twenty-fourth extraordinary session, which allowed two more years for the Nepalese authorities to further implement the 1998 UNESCO-ICOMOS-HMG of Nepal Joint Mission's 55 Recommendations for Enhanced Management and Time-Bound Action Plan for Corrective Measures adopted by the State Party.

The Committee, recalling that it had deferred the inscription of Kathmandu Valley on the List of World Heritage in Danger numerous times, expressed its disappointment that the State Party was not convinced of the constructive objectives of the List of World Heritage in Danger, as a mechanism for strengthening further political commitment and mobilizing international technical cooperation and greater awareness at both national and international levels.

During the ensuing debate, discussions focused on the objectives of the Convention and international cooperation. The Committee underlined the need to ensure the credibility of the World Heritage Convention, its Committee and the World Heritage List, while effectively implementing the mechanisms provided under the Convention and appropriately assisting States Parties in safeguarding the World Heritage properties, especially when both ascertained threats faced sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. Most members of the Committee agreed that it would be desirable to define procedures for examining cases such as Kathmandu Valley, where certain values or components justifying World Heritage inscription have been irreversibly lost.

The question of whether or not consent by a State Party was necessary for inscribing a property on the List World Heritage in Danger was debated at length, especially in relation to the interpretation of Articles 11.3 and 11.4 of the Convention. Some delegates and the Observer of Nepal felt that the Committee was not empowered to inscribe a property on the List of World Heritage in Danger without the consent of the concerned State Party and without the request for assistance by the State Party. However, other members of the Committee and Observers stressed that Article 11.4 allowed the Committee to inscribe a property on the List of World Heritage in Danger without the consent of the State Party concerned, although it was preferable to have the State Party's consent in advance.

The Delegate of Belgium underlined the crucial importance of clarifying this point. Recalling the obligation of UNESCO to provide legal advice to Members of the Committee when requested, the Delegate of Belgium formally requested legal advice concerning this question on behalf of his Government.

At the invitation of the Chairperson, the UNESCO Legal Adviser pointed out that this subject was quite controversial. It had most recently been debated at the Canterbury International Expert Meeting on the Revision of the Operational Guidelines where the experts had recommended that legal advice be sought on the matter. The Legal Adviser had been informed that certain States Parties in fact had obtained legal advice from eminent jurists on this question, and that these jurists apparently had provided legal opinions that were widely divergent.

The Committee was reminded that the UNESCO Legal Adviser had no authority to provide any definitive interpretations of the terms of the Convention. Under international law it was only the States Parties as a whole who could make definitive interpretations of the terms of their Convention. In his view, there were various options available to the States Parties. They could:

a) exchange copies of the expert legal opinions which they had obtained or would obtain, with a view to reaching a consensus as to which legal arguments were the most persuasive,

b) agree to have the matter decided simply by a vote of the General Assembly of States Parties, or

c) agree to have the matter arbitrated by some competent legal body such as the World Court at the Hague.

The Legal Advisor concluded by indicating that while he was not in a position to give a spontaneous opinion on this matter without the benefit of appropriate research, especially on the relevant preparatory work preceding the adoption of the Convention, he remained at the disposal of the States Parties to provide, in due course, any further advice or opinions as may be considered useful.

The Delegate of Belgium, expressed regret that the UNESCO Legal Advisor would limit himself to mentioning general principles concerning the interpretation of the World Heritage Convention. He requested that the UNESCO Legal Advisor would clearly declare whether, in his opinion, prior consent of the Government concerned is or is not necessary and that his advice would be transmitted to all States Parties to the Convention through the World Heritage Centre early enough for the question to be discussed during the forthcoming Meeting for the Revision of the Operational Guidelines to be organized by the Secretariat or at the next Bureau or Committee session. The Delegate of Belgium underlined that the advice and view of the UNESCO Legal Advisor could only be an interpretation and would not provide a definitive answer to the issue in question. Finally, the Delegate of Belgium stressed that should the view of the UNESCO Legal Advisor and those of international legal experts in various States Parties be divergent and States Parties do not reach an agreement on the interpretation of Article 11 of the Convention, this question must be submitted to the International Court of Justice of the Hague or arbitrated by another competent legal body.

The Committee decided to consider the issue of the inscription of properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger in a broader context, in order to develop appropriate criteria and procedure for the Committee to evaluate situations such as Kathmandu Valley. To this end, the Committee accepted the offer by the Government of Morocco to host a meeting on this issue, and decided to consider developing a draft agenda and allocation of funds for the organisation of this meeting, within the context of the revision of the Operational Guidelines.

The Committee expressed its appreciation to Nepal for the continued efforts to enhance the management and conservation of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage site. The Committee reiterated its deepest concern for the state of conservation of Kathmandu Valley, where urban encroachment and alteration of the historic fabric in most of the seven Monument Zones composing the site have significantly threatened its integrity and authenticity.

The Committee requested the State Party to produce a new structured framework for monitoring all corrective measures by the State Party, to be reviewed by the Committee within the context of the Asia-Pacific Regional Periodic Reporting exercise in 2002. In the interim, the State Party was requested to submit a progress report for consideration by the Committee at its twenty-fifth session in 2001. The Committee further recommended that other States Parties be engaged in the conservation and monitoring effort by providing technical and financial assistance to the concerned authorities of His Majesty's Government of Nepal. In this regard, the Committee decided to consider reserving an appropriation within the 2001 International Assistance budget, to finance specific time-bound activities related to the protection of the urban fabric within the World Heritage site.

The Observer of Nepal expressed to the Committee his Government's appreciation for the favourable response to requests for technical and financial assistance which the Committee and UNESCO have been providing for Kathmandu Valley since the 1970s. He recalled the great pride of the Nepalese citizens in 1979 when the site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but informed the Committee that they were unaware, until 1992, of the World Heritage conservation standards, hence the errors made. The Observer reiterated the Government's strong commitment to ensure the implementation of the 16 Recommendations of the 1993 Joint Mission, the 55 Recommendations and Time-Bound Action Plan resulting from the 1998 Joint Mission, and requested that the Bureau provide the Government of Nepal sufficient time to redress the situation and defer decision on in-danger listing until 2004.

The Committee finally decided to adopt the Bureau's recommendations including the acceptance of the invitation extended by the Government of Morocco.