1.         Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape (Lao People's Democratic Republic) (C 481)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2001

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/481/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 13,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2003

In late 2002, UNESCO Bangkok was informed by a consultant of the Japan International Co-operational Agency (JICA), responsible for environmental impact assessment at the property, that JICA has planned and financed with Laotian government approval, a new major north-south road that would traverse the entire length of Zone 1, and cut directly through the rich archaeological area of the Ancient City, Zone 3.

In February 2003, the Regional Advisor for Culture in the Asia-Pacific Region of UNESCO Bangkok, inquired about the status of the planned road project with relevant government officials of Laos. However, no response has been provided to UNESCO, while teams are currently on-site surveying the new road alignment. Since its inscription in 2001, tourism at the site has rapidly increased, benefiting from the active promotion of the property by national and provincial tourism authorities. Tourism related infrastructure projects have had a severe negative impact on the property’s World Heritage values. The most damaging of these projects, undertaken by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, has been the construction of a large parking lot, complete with access road and visitor centre, exactly on the median of visual and cosmological access of the property. This construction has severely degraded the heritage value of the cultural landscape that originally justified inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, and moreover, has endangered the archaeological remains.

With the financial assistance of UNESCO, 10 local staff of the Ministry of Information and Culture undertook training to be responsible for the on-site management and conservation work. However, only one of these trained staff members, a mid-level officer, has been retained to work on the site. The authorities have been repeatedly urged by UNESCO to redress this lack of sufficiently qualified on-site staff. The authorities have recognized this issue and have assured UNESCO that the problem will be addressed. Regretfully, no action has been taken to date, including the conservation activities that are included within the approved Management Plan. The National Inter-Ministerial Co-ordination Committee for the Safeguarding of Vat Phou and the Champasak Cultural Landscape, which was created for the preparation of the site Management Plan prior to inscription, has now ceased to function. There is no longer any inter-department co-ordination of activities that are undertaken within or impacting upon the World Heritage property. Recently, the Champasak Provincial Governor has constituted a cross-departmental heritage management committee chaired by the Chef de Cabinet of the governor’s office, who has requested UNESCO to discuss an action plan for resolving many of the outstanding management issues at the site. 

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


Decision Adopted: 27 COM 7B.51

The World Heritage Committee [33],

1. Having examined the state of conservation of the property for the first time since its inscription on the World Heritage List in 2001,;

2. Takes notes,, with appreciation, of the continued support provided by the Governments of Japan and Italy to assist the national authorities in the implementation of the activities approved in the Site Management Plan;

3. Emphasizes the importance of adherence to the government-approved management plan for the property, which was included within the nomination file originally submitted to the World Heritage Committee, in order to conserve the heritage values of all four protected zones through adequate inter-department co-ordination and on-property management;

4. Requests the State Party to:

a) ensure that any new road or other infrastructure construction within Zones 1 or 3 of the property is duly approved with respect to the applicable World Heritage zoning provisions contained in the approved management plan, and in particular, urges the State Party to submit a detailed survey plan for the new north-south road to mitigate any negative impact this road could have on Zones 1, 2, 3, or 4, detailing the protective measures being undertaken or planned,

(b) relocate the newly-constructed parking lot and visitor centre which is aligned along the property's principal cosmological axis, to an area which is outside Zones 2, 3 or 4,

(c) identify and engage sufficient professional staff to adequately manage the property,

(d) reactivate the work of the Inter-Departmental Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding of Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements with the Champasak Cultural Landscape through the activation of an appropriate authority,

(e) monitor, during the upcoming monsoon season, the effectiveness of the recently completed hydrological engineering works designed to protect one of the main temples of Vat Phou from water erosion, which has been undertaken with generous support from the Government of Japan;

5. Further requests the State Party to submit a report on the state of conservation of the property, by 1 February 2004 in order that the World Heritage Committee can examine the state of conservation of the property at its 28th session in 2004.

[33]  Decision adopted without discussion.