The State Party submitted a progress report on 20 February 2011. A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission visited the property from 18-24 January 2011. Its report is available online at the following web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM. The mission verified that the situation in Zabid has progressed positively in the following areas, which the State Party report also mentions:
a) Institutional and Legal Framework
i) Political support and commitment
Overall the State Party maintains that progress continues to be made, thanks to the efforts of the SFD/GIZ (Social Fund for Development/German International Cooperation) project, improved stakeholder coordination, public sector efforts lead by GOPHCY (General Organisation for the Preservation of Historic Cities) in Zabid, and the SFD’s continuous investment in civic projects. A high profile Inter-Ministerial Commission has now been established, while another Commission is also proposed, with its members to be appointed from citizen interest groups (arising from the Conservation Plan hearing process).
ii) Finalizing and implementing the Conservation Plan
The Zabid Conservation Plan for the property (part of the overall Zabid Development Plan), was formally adopted in December 2010. A number of seminars have been organised with selected groups from the city in order to get their support and raise awareness of the importance of the plan for the future development of the city.
The new Conservation Law, which is to provide the needed framework for the overall restoration and building control programmes, is scheduled to be presented to Parliament after the April 2011 elections. This should help to stop violations which the Mission noted were still happening – such as building on public open spaces.
b) Drafting and approving a Management Plan
The Mission reports that the GOPHCY Zabid branch has established a “first rate” management system with well-trained staff, regular monitoring protocols and a process for issuing building permits. The enforcement of building control has been an on-going problem, but improvements have been made in the past year, and the new Conservation Law is expected to further ameliorate the situation. The Management Plan is currently under preparation, and is expected to be completed by September 2011.
c) Conservation projects
Field work has progressed, and some 250 houses (160 according to the Mission) have been variously repaired and/or restored, as well as several mosques and public buildings. There is a noticeable stopping of concrete based constructions. The GOPHCY ‘impoverished’ home restoration projects has been launched, with six historical buildings restored and six planned for implementation this year. Training and capacity building have been integrated in the conservation projects, resulting in an increased qualification and employment of local personnel.
A street-paving project has been launched and four new paving segments are scheduled by 2012 (covering an area of 42,600 square meters). This includes renewing the infrastructures, repairing the adjacent walls and stabilising infringement into open public spaces.The Mission noted the need to consider alternative street paving materials that are locally procured which would support local industry and avoid the current costly import of stone. It also noted that as a part of the paving project, it is still necessary to research the potential effects of traffic vibrations, street cleaning and rain impact on the historic wall surfaces, as well as the potential to recycle water from roadways.
The souq rehabilitation and revitalisation project has included 50 shops, and the proposed rehabilitation of another 10 shops and two mosques under the Ministry of “Awqaf”. A contract has been let for the replacement of 110 cement concrete walls with traditional brick material in the historic town. Capacity has been strengthened in restoration techniques and traditional crafts, including a national level training programme sponsored by the World Heritage Centre thanks to the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust and organized by CATS/GOPHCY (Centre for Architectural Training and Studies) in Sana’a in July 2010.
At the same time both the State Party and the Mission acknowledge issues that remain to be addressed if the overall decline is to be completely reversed. These include matters such as the defining of clear regulations for what is permitted and what constitutes a violation, providing adequate resources to allow the Heritage Protection Bill to be finalized, as well as defining a clearly budgeted strategy, and setting out rules for house owners and inhabitants. The Mission also identified the following needs:
· Develop a viable Business Plan with the business community.
· Launch Management Plan initiatives, including a Risk Plan;
· Further develop guidelines, codes of practice and sample of design and construction standards for architectural treatments and energy efficient living conditions;
· Undertake a ‘local views study’ to influence new development.
The Mission further recommends technical assistance for research into building materials, conservation methods and modern engineering needs. This research would include assessment of the feasibility and logistics of using traditional brick (not cement products) in construction. GIZ has commenced experimentation with the introduction of kilns to promote the use of brick as a preferred alternative to the now popular use of concrete block construction.
Finally, the Mission re-considered the time frame for the implementation of the corrective measures in association with the State Party and defined a Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the World Heritage List in Danger.