1.         Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) (C 1223bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2008

Criteria  (ii)(iii)(iv)

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/1223/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1223/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

April 2009: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission. 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Approvals for inappropriate buildings in and around the property. 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1223/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 21 January 2011, which responded to the requests made by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009).

Conservation management plan and Special Area plans

The Committee had requested Special Area plans for the property and its buffer zones in response to building approvals for inappropriate buildings, in terms of form and scale, in parts of the property and the buffer zone. The Committee also requested a Conservation plan for both cities and a schedule for implementation of conservation work.

In its response, the State Party has submitted a Conservation management plan which, it appears, will lead to the development of Special Area plans for each of the two sites that make up the property. The preparation of Special Area plans is provided under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172). The Plans, which include guidance on implementation and management, are statutory with legal support. Further statutory consultation will be needed before Special Area Plans can be put in place. It is not clear whether these will cover the buffer zones, as recommended by the 2009 Mission.

The Conservation Management plan is a flexible 6-year plan that will provide guidance for local authorities and owners. It overarches the individual management plans for the two cities. A Steering Committee will be set up to assist in its review. The Plan includes an overall vision for the property, management strategies in response to identified challenges, and planning and development control guidance that includes zoning, land use control, heritage building control, view and vista protection, public realm proposals, access and circulation measures, and proposals for improving utility and infrastructure. It also includes details of financial incentives and grants for certain types of work, a matrix of not permissible activities such as swiftlet (small birds) breeding, and the need to protect vistas and certain specific aspects such as the terracotta roofscapes. The Plan also provides, in annexes, detailed Conservation Guidelines for various types and categories of buildings, based on analyses of what exists and their spatial disposition. This states that buildings that are not individually protected - unlisted buildings located within conservation areas – and which are not seen to have intrinsic architectural and heritage interest may be demolished and replaced simultaneously subject to the conservation guidelines. The value of the overall townscape consisting of both listed and unlisted buildings does not appear to be articulated as part of the value of the property.

The Plan acknowledges that its implementation will require stronger administrative arrangements than those that are currently in place. There are many weaknesses in the existing government, institutional and administrative set-up such as shortage of staff, lack of experience, expertise, competency, bureaucracy, and also a lack of adequate procedures for assessing the heritage impact of proposed development. In order to address these, the interim institutional and management mechanisms for both parts of the property will be strengthened further so as to carry out the necessary implementation programmes. A Special Purpose Vehicle in the form of a World Heritage Office is being set up for the property. This will be responsible for providing professional and technical inputs on planning. The roles of the State Heritage Committees and the Heritage / Conservation Units in the two local authorities will be enhanced, the roles of the Commissioner of Heritage at the State and Local Authority levels will be strengthened, and coordination and collaboration between the two cities improved. The main laws will be reviewed to strengthen them further and to make them more effective in the conservation and protection of the property.

No timescale is provided as to when the World Heritage office will be set up, when the plan will be approved as a legal instrument, or when the other proposed measures will be implemented. The Plan also includes proposals for thirteen amendments to the buffer zones and these proposals will be considered under the item corresponding to minor boundary modifications.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the development of the detailed Conservation Management plan that includes Conservation Guidelines for both cites. However, they do note that the Guidelines include a presumption that buildings not individually protected might be demolished (with their replacements subject to various controls). The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the coherent townscape that characterizes both cities is based on a combination of protected and unprotected buildings that together manifest an outstanding architectural ensemble. This part of the Guidance needs re-consideration.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the Conservation Management plan remains an advisory document until the adoption of Special Area plans that are statutory instruments providing planning controls at a more detailed level than currently exists, in particular in relation to views and building heights. These Special Area plans need to encompass both the property and its buffer zones. It is not clear from the plan whether they will extend to the buffer zone.

At its 33rd session, the World Heritage Committee noted that the State Party had agreed that no approval will be given for developments higher than 18 metres in the buffer zone until the adoption of the Special Area plans. There is no confirmation of this ban in this year’s State of Conservation report.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies wish to highlight the commitment of the State Party to establish a World Heritage office and to strengthen governmental and other administrative arrangements. They do, however, consider that the timescale for achieving this reinforced management system needs to be set out clearly in order to build on the structure of the Conservation Management plan.

Due to information on the possible impact of swiftlet breeding on heritage buildings and the physical fabric of the buildings in George Town, one cluster component of the property, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party, on 14 January 2011, to carry out an impact assessment of this farming operation on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, for review by the Advisory Bodies. No assessment report has been received so far. 

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.73

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.78, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Welcomes the development of the detailed Conservation Management Plan over-arching the existing Management Plans for the two cities and the commitment of the State Party to strengthen the management arrangements for the property through the setting up of a World Heritage office and through reinforcing governmental and other administrative arrangements;

4. Notes the proposals included in the Conservation Management Plan for thirteen extensions to the buffer zones that will be examined by the World Heritage Committee under Item 8 of the Agenda (Document WHC-11/35.COM/8B);

5. Requests the State Party to re-consider the Conservation Guidelines relating to the presumption in favour of demolition of unprotected property which together with protected property makes up the outstanding urban ensembles of the two cities;

6. Urges the State Party to:

a) progress with the development of Special Areas plan that provides detailed planning constraints for both cities and their buffer zones,

b) confirm as reported to the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee that no approval will be given for developments higher than 18 metres in the buffer zone until such time as the Special Area plans are adopted,

c) ensure that all major projects have adequate impact assessments in line with the ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessment for Cultural World Heritage properties', and,

d) set out a specific timetable for achieving the reinforced management system;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property, on the development of Special Areas plans and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 8B.52

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B.Add and WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Approves the proposed minor modification to the boundary of Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca, Malaysia.