The State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation on 17 March 2010 as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). In addition, the State Party submitted a Power Point presentation to underscore the work implemented at the property.
From 12 to 15 December 2009, a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out at the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) to consider progress with the implementation of the corrective measures.
The State Party reports that work continues through the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the Alexandria Governorate. The report states that conservation and preservation programmes have been applied to the core site of Abu Mena to maintain the integrity of the site. The State Party reported progress with the following corrective measures:
a) Implementation of a rapid condition survey of all excavated remains and urgent conservation measures in order to provide protection to structures against earth trembling and other forms of damage likely to result from the use of heavy earth-moving equipment
The State Party report mentions that a multidisciplinary team has been formed to carry out necessary studies and research for the protection and conservation of the property, so as to protect and conserve the site before any further excavations occur.
The mission noted that the dilapidated physical conditions of the property are largely related to the increase of water table levels, an issue that will be discussed next. Although progress has been made in addressing some of the concerns identified during the reactive monitoring mission of 2005, limited systematic work has been implemented to address all the recommendations made at that time. Actions have included geophysical surveys and archaeological excavations at places that could be impacted by earth moving operations, which led to changes in lines of channels where concentrations of objects were found. Limited work has been implemented with regard to a systematic conditions survey. Emergency consolidation and conservation work was undertaken to protect structures likely to be damaged from heavy earth-moving equipment.
b) Lowering of the water table by means of drainage ditches and pipes, inside and around the archaeological area
The State Party reports that efforts to control rising groundwater levels, resulting from the intensive irrigation at nearby areas and supplied by canals coming from the Nile, have been effectively implemented and that they no longer pose a threat.
The mission noted that the technical report on underground water had been finalised in 2006 and its recommendations were taken into account for the design of a drainage system that would be suitable to the specific conditions present at the property. This project has been developed and has been put in operation with fieldwork started in February 2006 and completion expected in June 2010. The projects are well designed and promise to be effective. However operation conditions need to consider other aspects of water management and economic and financial resources required for the implementation and operation phase. Moreover, the projects will succeed only if the farmers involved ensure their active participation, while all the state and regional authorities responsible for water management and irrigation also confirm their cooperation.
c) Establishment of an efficient system for monitoring the water table in the archaeological site and in the surrounding zones
The mission highlighted that an efficient system for monitoring the water table in the archaeological site and in the surrounding zones is essential, as its level will remain the most significant variable for assessing the effectiveness of the solution of the problem.
d) Preparation of a conservation plan, defining short-, medium-, and long-term objectives and establishing technical parameters (materials, techniques, etc)
The State Party report indicates that a team of experts is working on drafting a final management and conservation plan and the preparation of educational and training programmes to increase capacities and encourage broader community involvement. The proposed plan of action by the State Party (included in the PowerPoint presentation) entails collection of data, documentation and studies, determination of goals and objectives and development of a master and site management plan, protection and monitoring of monuments during dewatering, treatment, restoration and conservation, historic and architectural research studies for restoration and anastylosis possibilities. The presentation considers different scenarios with variables that include no reconstruction, just conservation, and the potential erection of protective shelters, among others. The presentation included projections for the potential erection of marble columns in the Great Basilica and at the MartyrChurch and the reconstruction of the baptistery. In addition to these, parallel activities will include monitoring, consolidation and protection, construction of the fence, development of signage and brochures and fundraising.
The mission noted that the SCA and the Mar Mena Community have set up working groups using national expert individuals and institutions. However, there are certain areas where international expertise is needed, and these have been identified. The State Party should explore these aspects of technological, scientific, and management expertise in association with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, as well as individual national funding agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The mission verified that the proposals for the formulation of conservation and management plans have progressed and the preliminary drafts are acceptable in general terms.
e) Other issues
(i) Buffer zone
The State Party indicated that boundaries for the World Heritage property have been established; however there are still no definite boundaries for the buffer zone.
The mission report mentions the difficulties expressed by the State Party in establishing boundaries, considering the specific characteristics of the aquifer and that there might be reluctance from farmers to accept restrictions on irrigation practices. The mission noted that the new fence under construction would include an area where the effect of water table lowering will be evident, as no irrigation will be permitted there.
(ii) Desired state of conservation and Statement of Outstanding Universal Value
The State Party has not prepared a draft Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The time frame also needs to be revised as, originally, the State Party had announced that the corrective measures would be completed by 2010.
The mission report states that the State Party is currently drafting the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value within the framework of the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting in the Arab States.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies take note of the progress made by the State Party in implementing some of the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006). Although there are achievements in mitigating the threat posed by increasing water table levels and in addressing emergency conditions that threatened the property, they remain concerned about the lack of implementation of systematic and comprehensive actions at the property that would ensure sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of Abu Mena.