The State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 1 February 2012. From 21 to 26 November, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out to assess the state of conservation of the property. The mission report is available online at the following web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents
a) Construction of an Aerodrome at Rio Amarillo
The mission reviewed the history of the airport project, which has been on-going since 2003, and noted that although the State Party had taken the decision to build the airport at Concepcion, the cost of constructing a road between this site and Copan has proved to be prohibitively expensive. The mission reviewed the new impact studies for the Rio Amarillo airport that had been produced following the 2005 mission. The mission considers that these demonstrate that there will be no direct impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, although the wider cultural and natural setting of the inscribed site - from which it draws its significance and which is protected by national law - will be affected. In order to minimize the impact of the airport on the landscape and to fully understand the relationship of the property to its wider setting, the mission considered that a detailed archaeological study, and if necessary, the relevant rescue excavations will need to be undertaken on the airport site.
Furthermore, they considered that the construction would need to be as limited as possible and the runway limited to 1200 metres in order that the main archaeological site of Piedras Negras would not be affected. It would also need to comprehensively plan for potential indirect effects to the property, particularly in regard to increase in visitor numbers, the limits for tourism development and the strict enforcement of regulations. These aspects would need to be considered within the framework of a coherent territorial planning and management strategy which should have a clearly regional vision.
b) Boundaries and buffer zone
A revised map and buffer zone was included in the state of conservation report. This will be evaluated as part of the retrospective inventory process of the Periodic Reporting Exercise for Latin America and the Caribbean, and during the 2013 evaluations for minor boundary modifications. The Management Plan mentions that regulatory measures prescribed, formulated in 1982 and approved in 1998, will need to be updated and harmonized with new territorial planning laws, and that regulations established in 1997 need to be updated to include all areas that are part of the area declared as national monuments. The State Party mentions that enforcement of current measures is a challenge that has been addressed through the acquisition of private lands. However, this process has been halted since 2009. The mission was not presented with new or additional cartographic material for evaluation but noted the need to clarify zoning as part of the process for updating the Management Plan. It also underscored the need to work closely with the Local Government to ensure the protection of the property, given existing development pressures and to continue the process of acquisition of land in the proposed buffer zone to mitigate impacts from changes in land use. It recommended that a monitoring system be set up to map changes in land use and to integrate these results in decision making processes and for the enforcement of regulatory and protective measures. It also recommended that the feasibility of moving the main traffic, possible through Highway CA-11, away from the World Heritage property be evaluated.
c) Management Plan
The State Party reports that the Management Plan, published in 2005, is currently under review and will be updated through a participatory process. Risk management and public use plans will be revised and made explicit in the newer version which is expected to be concluded by February 2013. The Public Use Plan, which was to be drafted by September 2011 through funding by the Inter American Development Bank, was not developed. A new process has started with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain) to articulate its formulation with the updating of the Management Plan.
The mission noted that management issues have remained unaddressed or have had limited progress due to the political and financial situation in the country. The mission also reported that no clear indications were given how the Public Use Plan and the Risk Management Plan will be integrated into the general Management Plan and how this latter Plan will be updated. It highlighted the need to coordinate planning tools for the property with those at the local and regional levels. It also noted that carrying capacity for the property has to be established and used as a basis for the development of the Public Use Plan.
d) Conservation programme for the tunnels and conservation guidelines for the property
A project was implemented at Copan, through Inter American Development Bank funding, for the consolidation of external surfaces at sections of the Acropolis and some collapsed sections of the tunnels. The report on the interventions is included. The mission noted that the overall state of conservation of the property is good and underscored issues that required attention. Among these, there is a need to centrally collect monitoring data generated by diverse projects so as to inform management decisions. Also, criteria for potential transfer of sculptures from the site to the museum are needed, as well as for roofing of sculptures that will remain in situ. As for the tunnels, the mission reports there is no formal or documented monitoring being done, there is a potential threat derived from biological contaminants, there is water filtration that can damage stucco surfaces and potentially affect the stability of the tunnels. It mentioned that interventions to date have been carried out on an ad hoc basis. The mission considers that a comprehensive action plan for the conservation and maintenance of the tunnels needs to be developed.
e) Protective shelter for the hieroglyphic stairway and laboratory for sculpture conservation
A brief preliminary report on the prototype shelter installed on Structure 9B-83 at Las Sepulturas was included. A test year of one year is foreseen to assess its functionality and carry out environmental monitoring to assess its adequacy and efficacy as an alternative to the existing shelter. The mission noted that discussions are needed not only in terms of the effectiveness of the design but also in terms of how the “sails” will be fixed to the pre-hispanic building, considering the amount of perforations and the potential for severe damage in case of strong winds. As for the laboratory, the State Party informs it will be located within the existing Museum, in an area that functions as storage space. The mission verified that no new construction has been undertaken for this purpose.