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
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/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 13,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount provided to the property: Japanese-funded project: USD 379,040 (1996-97), Total Italian-funded projects through Lerici Foundation: USD 482,194 (1996-2004; 3 project phases): Phase I (1996-1997) = USD 161,124; Phase II (1998-1999) = USD 164,000; Phase III (2003-2005) = USD 157,070
Previous monitoring missions
January/February 2011: UNESCO Mission; November 2011: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission; February 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2013: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission, March 2014: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission; February 2015: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Ground transport infrastructure (New infrastructure construction, including new proposed roads)
- Housing (New constructions contributing to the haphazard densification of the main monumental complex)
- Management systems/Management Plan (Lack of a coordinated management mechanism)
- Impacts of tourism/visitors/recreation
- Interpretative and Visitation facilities (Parking lot and visitor centre)
- Human resources (Lack of sufficient professional staff)
- Water infrastructure related to water supply
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 30 November 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/documents and provides information on the implementation of Committee Decision (41 COM 7B. 94):
- The Champasak Heritage Management Plan (No2692/PMO) has been continuously in use since 1998, now in conjunction with the updated Action Plan (2019-2023) and the 2016 Champasak Cultural Landscape Master Plan. The State Party has enforced urban control regulations accompanying the latter plan, namely the Building Code and the Land Use Plan;
- Concerning progress made with the implementation of the road network and traffic management scheme, the State Party confirms that an administrative order had been prepared to restrict and manage traffic flow along Route 14A, which will be put into use once both the bypass Route 14B and Route 14A are completed. Funding is still being secured to complete both routes;
- Effectiveness of inter-agency coordination and cooperation is ensured by national level regular meetings, and Annual International Coordination Meetings (ICM), which have taken place since 2013 with international and national partners and universities. Per the decision of the 5th ICM, the State Party established the Expert Advisory Group (EAG), in line with recommendations of the Committee and the 2015 mission, to generate closer coordination among international teams. The EAG has issued recommendations, selected specific sites for conservation improvement; recommended the enhancement of the property’s overall conservation/management; and decided to improve the working process related to national and international projects, including requesting project teams to submit detailed project proposals, documentation and reports to allow the heritage authorities to more effectively monitor conservation work;
- Two water supply projects have been proposed within the property to urgently address the local needs: (1) The Champasak Water Supply State Enterprise extending the existing water supply into Champasak town from the southern perimeter of the property at Dontalat is already underway. The project proposal is included as Annex 7 of the State Party report but is only provided in Lao, with a short English cover page. No Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) or detailed drawings have been provided to the World Heritage Centre. (2) The feasibility study and HIA for the Champasak Water Supply Project (WSP) have been submitted as Annex 8 of the State Party report, but this project awaits funding;
- A feasibility study concerning Solid Waste Management was submitted to the World Heritage Centre as Annex 9 of the report.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
Instead of updating the Management Plan, the State Party has renewed the plan’s associated 5-year Action Plan, which covers the upcoming period 2019-2023 and is attached as Annex 1 to the report. This document reflects the structure of the Management Plan, covers management and conservation priorities for the property, as well as institutional and capacity building, and is aimed at guiding actions conducted by all stakeholders. Although this practical document is useful to share the technical actions and objectives with all concerned, a comprehensive updated Management Plan using a more mission/challeng oriented approach would be useful, given the wide societal changes that the property has undergone since the establishment of the previous Management Plan in 1998.
Through implementing the Champasak Landscape Master Plan, the State Party has also enforced the accompanying Land Use Plan. This includes awareness raising actions among residents of the villages on the new urban control regulations. These provide for finer rules on different land uses with additional detailed requirements, such as buffer areas around every known archaeological remnants. It prohibits the encroachment of new construction in irrigated rice fields and in ecological nature reserves, with enhanced control of illegal construction activities. Specifically, the Land Use Plan absolutely prohibits urban expansion within the 20 square kilometres of Zone 1 (cultural landscape zone) and Zone 3 (archaeological research zone). It does not permit new urban extension areas and only allows limited urban expansion within the existing villages (in an area of 31 square kilometres).
Also, the map on the World Heritage Centre website does not comply with the requirements of the Operational Guidelines. The Committee may wish to request the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2019, an up-to-date topographic map of the property as inscribed in 2001, for its subsequent examination by the Committee.
Concerning the road network and management scheme, the confirmation of the suspension of further works on Route 14A from km29 to km34 is welcome, as is the reported prohibition of any construction along this section, except for some light weight structures in rice fields. A pre-feasibility study for the upgrade of Route 14B, which shows that the upgrade of this road for heavy vehicles bypass is economically viable as a regional transport connection, is also welcome.
The mechanism of ICMs and the EAG is valuable in providing an inclusive platform to study and address all cooperation initiatives regarding the property, and its recommendations should be closely followed up, especially as the State Party reports that important cooperation projects start in 2019 through initiatives led by France, India and the Republic of Korea. Given the importance to ensure the ownership and capacity-building of the State Party’s human resources, it is desirable that all international and national projects are duly reviewed and studied by the ICM and EAG. It is also desirable that the participation of Lao heritage experts is formalised throughout implementation of such projects, reporting to the ICM.
The Champasak Water Supply State Enterprise system extension project has the possibility to disturb both the sub-surface archaeological remains as well as the integrity of landscape and should be immediately halted until a detailed technical proposal, HIA, mitigation measures and updated progress report have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre, in one of the working languages of the Convention, for review by the Advisory Bodies.
ICOMOS has assessed the remaining two construction projects via a Technical Review.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.68
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.94, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Welcomes the progress and efforts of the State Party concerning the establishment of a 5-year Action Plan to implement the current Management Plan and the implementation of the Champasak Cultural Landscape Master Plan including the Land Use Plan with detailed regulations for each zone for preventing new constructions;
- Recommends the State Party to strictly enforce the Monument Zoning Plan to control densification in Zone 4;
- Acknowledges the progress made with the implementation of the road network (14A and 14B) and traffic management scheme and urges the State Party to urgently secure funds to complete the pending work;
- Commends the regular national and provincial meetings, along with the organization of the International Coordination Meeting (ICM) and the establishment of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) as effective mechanisms to guide inter-agency cooperation, national and international projects and initiatives concerning the property;
- Requests the State Party to develop an updated Management Plan with a more mission/challenge oriented approach to inform all activities concerning the property, and to provide a final draft to the World Heritage Centre;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2019, an up-to-date topographic map of the property as inscribed in 2001, for its subsequent examination by the Committee;
- Expresses its concern that the water supply extension project undertaken by Champasak Water Supply State Enterprise may have a potential impact on the property and also requests the State Party to halt the project extension into the property until the potential impacts are fully assessed through a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) with proposed mitigation measures, in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidance on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage properties, with a specific section focusing on the potential impact of the project on the Outstanding Universal Value, to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
- Further requests the State Party to ensure full application of the mitigation measures presented in the HIA for the Champasak Water Supply project (WSP) and report on these to the World Heritage Centre;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, an 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 45th session in 2021.