At its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), the World Heritage Committee agreed to defer consideration of removing the property from the World Heritage List if specific and agreed measures were taken to reverse the severe decline in the conservation and economy of the city through a legal and institutional framework being set up in one year (2008) and the physical degradation stopped immediately and reversed within two years (2009). The State Party report for 2009 requested a further three years to demonstrate progress with reversing decline.
The State Party submitted a progress report on 8 March 2010 responding to the decision of the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) and reported on overall progress with reversing decline, notably the conservation of houses, souq and streets and on associated economic and social development.
Overall the State Party maintains that progress continues to be made and it reiterates that since June 2007, and the launching of the SFD (Social Fund for Development)/GTZ (German Agency for Technical Cooperation) project, the momentum in Zabid has drastically changed thanks to the project’s efficient activities, a better coordination between the stakeholders, the continuous financial efforts of the Government and investment by the SFD. Furthermore, the office of General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY) in Zabid has been restructured and supported by new staff.(It now has some 33 staff members (professionals, engineers, architects, lawyer, craftsmen, etc.). The housing rehabilitation programme has reached more than 200 complete interventions spread all over the city and the souq rehabilitation and revitalisation project has succeeded in rehabilitating and revitalising over 320 shops in total. The business promotion and community development measures that were launched last year in parallel to the revitalization program of the old souq and the housing rehabilitation program are now said to be impacting on the situation in a very positive way.
The report of the State Party provides information on the progress in implementing the corrective measures, as follows:
a) Adequate legal and institutional framework:
i) Re-issuance of Cabinet Decree No.425 – 2006: This was issued in November 2007;
ii) Government provision to General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY): GOPHCY Zabid branch is now having a regular budget and the Minister of Culture is continuing to give an important additional annual allocation from the Fund for Cultural Development, while the GTZ/SFD project is pursuing its support to the GOPHCY office through budgets to finance staff overtimes, capacity building support and financial contributions for the removal of certain violations.
iii) Completion of heritage protection laws: This is said to have been delayed due to funding problems. However, the Government has agreed to create a Ministerial Committee to pursue the matter.
iv) Completion of the Conservation Plan The conservation plan is still being finalised. The State Party reports that a spatial strategy and a housing rehabilitation strategy, based on subsidies to the private households, are also being developed. A draft management plan has also been formulated which would be finalised in the second half of 2010 once the urban conservation plan has been adopted.
b) Physical degradation to be stopped immediately and reversed within two years (five years):
The control of building activities is much more effective and people are now almost systematically applying for building or rehabilitation permissions (thanks to the positive effect of the housing rehabilitation programme and to the improvement of the functioning of the GOPHCY office in Zabid).
i) Stopping of poor new construction and further degradation of protected heritage assets: The State Party reports that illegal constructions are no longer tolerated and measures are regularly taken to mitigate them. Even so, more efforts are still needed to convince mainly the court and the police departments to cooperate in the removal of violations. The State Party reports that GTZ and GOPHCY are discussing a strategy for handling the violations and/or mitigating them. The final approved regulations which are being prepared together with the Conservation Plan are due to be finalised at the end of June 2010.
ii) Approval of contractors and individual specialists for carrying out emergency conservation works, and appropriate house improvement design: The State Party reports that the Housing rehabilitation programme has trained teams of specialists restorers comprising architects, master builders and young professionals under the supervision of GOPHCY and Old Master builders have been hired by the GTZ/SFD project. This is a learning by doing process and has involved more than 350 interventions on properties randomly spread in the city.
iii) Good designs for new houses within Zabid: No information is provided.
iv) Starting demolition of the concrete walls on the streets and other public spaces and replacing with brick walls: No information is provided.
v) Planned, costed and programmed schedule of medium and long-term actions: The State Party states that is has started to develop baseline surveys and documentation of significant monuments and ruins.
vi) Prescription rules and regulations to be followed by inhabitants and owners: No information is provided.
vii) Adoption of Zabid Urban Development Plan: It is reported that a task force has been created under the leadership of the GTZ project, with staff from GOPHCY and GALSUP (planning authority), who will have to finalise an Urban Conservation Plan before end of April 2010, then send it to the stakeholders and authorities for discussion and approval.
In addition, within the framework of the Periodic Reporting exercise, the State Party has submitted a draft Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value.
Unfortunately, due to security constraints, the reactive monitoring mission requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session could not take place and therefore the Desired state of conservation has not been drafted,
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies acknowledge the momentum that has now been established to reverse the decline and degradation that faced Zabid, the increased resources now allocated to GOPHCY, and the progress with specialised contractors. The State Party report was helpful in setting out areas of progress and the substantial help of the GTZ/SFD project in linking heritage renewal to social and economic development, through capacity building and education.
Some progress has been made towards implementing the corrective measures and the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies urge the State Party to continue this progress by giving priority to the development of clear rules and regulations defining what is permitted and what constitutes a violation, by finalising and implementing the Conservation Plan, by approving and implementing the Urban Conservation Plan, by drafting and approving a Management Plan and by providing adequate resources to allow the Heritage Protection Bill to be finalised and approved. This would provide the much needed framework for the overall restoration, regeneration and building control programmes.