1.         Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor (China,Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan) (C 1442)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2014

Criteria  (ii)(iii)(v)(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/1442/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: UNESCO/Japan FiT project “Support for documentation standards and procedures of the Silk Roads World Heritage Serial and Transnational Nomination in Central Asia” (Phase I, USD 985,073 from 2011 to 2015); UNESCO/Japan FiT project “Support for Silk Roads World Heritage Sites in Central Asia” (Phase II, USD 697,796 from 2015 to 2018)

Previous monitoring missions

March 2016: ICOMOS Advisory mission to the Talgar component site in Kazakhstan; November 2016 : joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to eight component sites of the serial property in Kazakhstan (Talgar, Kayalyk, Karamergen, Aktobe, Kulan, Kostobe, Ornek sites and the Akyrtas archaeological complex)

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission visited all eight component sites of the serial property in Kazakhstan (Talgar, Kayalyk, Karamergen, Aktobe, Kulan, Kostobe, and Ornek sites and the Akyrtas archaeological complex) from 31 October to 9 November 2016. The mission report is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/documents. Subsequently, the State Party of Kazakhstan submitted a state of conservation report on 1 March 2017 (available at the link above) before the mission report had been received.

Although the 2016 Reactive Monitoring mission noted that a majority of the recommendations put forward by the March 2016 ICOMOS Advisory mission had not been implemented, the report submitted by Kazakhstan shows progress with a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous session. The following summary brings together the outcomes of the mission and the information provided by the State Party.

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

Talgar Component Site in Kazakhstan:

The November 2016 Reactive Monitoring mission noted that the Committee requested the State Party of Kazakhstan to halt any further road construction, but construction did not stop until October 2016, allowing the archaeological site to suffer further damage. Furthermore, none of the recommendations of the 2016 ICOMOS Advisory mission concerning the road issues have been followed, which suggests that the management structures at the component site and their links and coordination with national agencies, the Ministries of Kazakhstan and other States Parties involved in the Silk Roads World Heritage property need to be greatly strengthened. Additionally, the five options for a bypass road put forward by the State Party in January 2017 would also have negative impacts on the component site.

The construction of the road and the associated bridge has inflicted serious damage on the historic structures and archaeological layers of the Talgar site and its overall morphology. The site has also suffered from reconstruction work and illegal, uncontrolled residential developments near its boundaries. All of this implies that the state of conservation of the site has deteriorated sharply since its inscription in 2014, despite the existing national legal protection for both the component site and its Buffer Zone. It is therefore recommended that the Committee express its deep concern that the damage has reached levels that put the site and the overall property under threat, and that it endorse the recommendations of the 2016 Reactive Monitoring mission and emphasize that new options should be developed for the Birlik-Almalyk-Kazstroy-Ryskulov-Ak-Bulak road beyond the territory of the component site and its Buffer Zone. Furthermore, the Committee may wish to request that reconstruction work and illegal residential development work be halted, that the bridge be dismantled, and that remedial measures be developed urgently to strengthen the overall legal, planning and management frameworks of the site and its setting.

Other Component Sites in Kazakhstan:

Concerning road construction and development, it is recommended that the Committee also express its deep concern that road construction has already been carried out at Aktobe and Kulan, causing significant damage to the sites, and that Kayalyk, Akyrtas and Kostobe are threatened by planned or ongoing road construction.

There is also deep concern that in all sites except Karamergen, threats arising from urban development (e.g. administrative and sporting centres, industrial utilities and waste landfill sites) impact adversely on the perception of the sites in relation to the Silk Roads and the beauty of their settings. In the case of Kulan, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party of Kazakhstan to take immediate action to halt the implementation of the Master Plan of Kulan, any other development on private land, and to clarify land ownership status. It must be noted that no information on any of these road or development projects was submitted at the time of inscription in 2014, nor has any information been submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies since then.

The absence of Management Plans for all component sites and their landscape settings needs to be addressed urgently, as deadlines set by the Committee at the time of inscription and at subsequent sessions have not been met. Concomitantly, unclear boundaries, the absence of a comprehensive legal protection, inappropriate development and the construction of infrastructure projects, have put the sites under both ascertained and potential threat.

The majority of the recommendations put forward by the 2016 Advisory Mission have not been implemented, nor have the Committee’s requests from the 40th session relating to the protection and management of the property. Urgent reviews are now needed and, in the meantime, all work should be halted while the full extent of the existing damage is detailed and the full potential impacts of the projects are assessed.

Overall, it is recommended that the Committee further express its concern that most of these component sites in Kazakhstan have been impacted so adversely in a comparatively short space of time since inscription and that the state of conservation of these sites now represents a potential threat to the integrity of the overall serial transnational property.

Finally, it should be recalled that at the time of inscription, the great strength of the Silk Roads serial transnational property was the existence of an Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee (ICC), established prior to the nomination, in May 2009. For the Chang’an-Tianshan corridor, the formal agreement between all the participating States Parties (China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) was signed in May 2012 and a more detailed agreement was signed in February 2014. This arrangement refined the management mechanisms and set out suggestions for exchange and collaboration on conservation, interpretation, presentation and publicity as a means of working towards coordinated approaches for all sites along the heritage corridor. International collaboration needs to be strongly supported by national collaboration, and thus the challenge to better protect and manage the serial transnational World Heritage property lies in the coordination at both national and transnational levels. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party of Kazakhstan to establish a World Heritage Steering Committee for the Silk Roads in Kazakhstan and develop effective coordination with China and Kyrgyzstan for the management of the overall serial property through the existing agreements and arrangement.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.88

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.34 adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Takes note of the conclusions and recommendations of the November 2016 Reactive Monitoring mission to the eight component sites of the serial property in Kazakhstan;
  4. Expresses its deep concern that the component site of Talgar has been impacted so adversely in a comparatively short amount of time since the time of inscription that its state of conservation is now a potential threat to the integrity of the overall serial transnational property;
  5. Notes that significant infrastructural road construction at the Talgar component site was halted in October 2016, after serious damage to the historic structures and archaeological layers of the site and its overall morphology; also notes that five options for the revised line of the Birlik-Almalyk-Kazstroy-Ryskulov-Ak-Bulak road were put forward by the State Party of Kazakhstan in January 2017, cross the Buffer Zone; and therefore requests the State Party of Kazakhstan to develop new options for an alternative route outside of the territory of the component site and its Buffer Zone, in line with the request of the Committee, and to dismantle the half-built road bridge;
  6. Also requests the State Party of Kazakhstan to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2017 a detailed report on reconstruction work at the Talgar component site, both planned and undertaken, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Notes that the Talgar site has been affected by rural residential development in the Buffer Zone, and further requests that this be halted and strict control over this process be ensured;
  8. Also expresses its concern that local paved roads are planned or under construction at Akyrtas; and deeply regrets that the World Heritage Centre was not informed about this project beforehand, which goes against Paragraph 172 of Operational Guidelines;
  9. Further expresses its deep concern about the adverse impacts of urban development on the perception of the sites in relation to the Silk Roads and their settings, and requests furthermore the State Party of Kazakhstan to strengthen the legal mechanisms to control environmental impacts of urban growth over the component sites as a matter of priority;
  10. Requests moreover the State Party of to clarify the boundaries of the component sites, and to ensure that all sites benefit from the highest national protection in their boundaries and Buffer Zones as it was submitted at the time of inscription;
  11. Reiterates its request that Management Plans for all eight component sites of the serial property in Kazakhstan and their landscape settings be revised taking into consideration the results of Reactive Monitoring mission assessment as a matter of priority and be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2018 at the latest, along with an update on progress by 1 December 2017;
  12. Requests in addition the States Parties of China, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to develop effective coordination for the management of the overall serial property through the existing Coordinating Committee on the World Heritage Serial Nomination of the Silk Road and its Secretariat based at ICOMOS International Conservation Centre-Xi’an;
  13. Finally requests the State Party of Kazakhstan, in close consultation with the States Parties of China and Kyrgyzstan, to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, a joint updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.