At the time of drafting the present document (10 May 2010), the State Party had not submitted to the World Heritage Centre a progress report on the state of conservation of the property, nor a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). However, information on the current state of conservation of the property can be obtained from a UNESCO report prepared in consequence of an ongoing Japanese funded project to safeguard Bamiyan, in addition to presentations made, and discussions held, during the Eighth Bamiyan Expert Group Meeting on 25-26 March 2010 in Munich, Germany.
Within the framework of the project, six expert missions visited Bamiyan between June and October 2009, to carry out a number of activities (see below). The World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Kabul office, in close cooperation with the Afghan Ministry of Culture and Information, the Ministry of Urban Development, and the Bamiyan provincial authorities, implemented these activities.
The emerging report, and presentations by Afghan and international experts at the Eighth Bamiyan Expert Group Meeting, indicated progress in implementing corrective measures as follows:
a) Ensuring site security
One of the most important developments in 2009 was the complete de-mining of the BamiyanValley. This was achieved through cooperation with UNESCO, the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA), the Afghan authorities, and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). Archaeological parts of the property that were heavily mined, included Shar-i-Zohak, Shar-i-Ghulghulah and the top of the Buddha Cliffs, and these areas are now cleared and accessible to specialists and visitors.
In order to ensure overall protection for the sensitive archaeological areas, prevent illicit excavations, and to safeguard the on-site expensive equipment required for conservation activities, UNESCO has continued to provide financial support for the provision of site security and surveillance.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies greatly welcome the completion of the de-mining operations as this will make it possible to initiate surveys, and implement priority conservation measures, in previously inaccessible areas. A sustainable solution must be found regarding site security and surveillance where Afghan authorities should provide for the guards’ salaries. UNESCO cannot continue to subsidise this cost over the long term.
b) Ensuring the structural stability of the two standing Giant Buddha niches
In 2009, consolidation of the back wall of the Small Buddha niche was almost completed by means of inserting fibre-glass and stainless steel dowels, and drilled wall anchors. Work also commenced to ensure the safety of access paths and stairs on the Eastern Buddha niche, in addition to the upper crossing behind the Buddha statue. This work, together with the installation of a hoist/crane inside the Eastern Buddha niche to allow for future maintenance and conservation, should be completed in 2010.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies note the significant progress made to ensure the structural stability of the Eastern Buddha niche, and requests that the design proposals for the installation of a crane in the niche be shared with them before its construction begins. They also request that, resources permitting, as soon as stabilization of the Eastern Buddha niche is completed, work should start on the Western Buddha niche.
c) Adequate state of conservation of archaeological remains and mural paintings
In close collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Culture of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (MoIC) the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (NRICPT), Tokyo, conducted a mission for the conservation of the Bamiyan mural paintings from 26 June - 9 July 2009, The mission enabled post-conservation monitoring of the condition of mural paintings located inside caves in addition to re-arranging the movable cultural property pieces stored in the Bamiyan Cultural Heritage Training Centre. NRICPT also provided a four-month training programme in Japan for two Afghan archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology in archaeological, conservation and documentation techniques (from late July to end November 2009).
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies note the progress made in the conservation of selected caves in the vicinity of the Buddha niches, and welcomes the training of two Afghan archaeologists. With the eight component sites of the World Heritage property having been de-mined, urgent condition assessments should be carried out to plan for, and implement, emergency conservation measures.
d) Implementation of the Management Plan and Cultural Master Plan (the protective zoning plan)
A UNESCO technical advisory mission was carried out in June 2009, to assist the Afghan authorities in the development and implementation of the Management Plan for the property, and of the so-called Cultural Master Plan for Bamiyan (a zoning plan for the entire valley). Discussions included opportunities for developing synergies with a New Zealand funded Bamiyan Eco-tourism Programme being carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). Subsequently, in September 2009, a training workshop on World Heritage management planning was held in Bamiyan. This was co-organised by UNESCO and the AKTC Bamiyan office and involved 50 Afghan cultural heritage professionals, the Governor of Bamiyan and the deputy Minister for Culture, in addition to representatives from the University of Bamiyan, the local community, and the Bamiyan Council leaders (Shura).
The World Heritage and Advisory Bodies welcome the progress being made in building capacity on heritage management planning by Afghan officials. Now that all components of the World Heritage property are accessible, it is hoped that progress on the development of a management plan will be possible. The World Heritage and Advisory Bodies consider that the Cultural Master Plan provisions, including development controls on the cultural landscape, should be urgently and officially adopted and enforced.
Other important developments emerging from the Eighth Meeting of the Expert Group, enabled the coordination and harmonization of ongoing activities by various international teams working at the site; a review of the main conservation issues; and the formulation of specific recommendations, accessible online (see above in “Illustrative material”). Based on the outcomes of this meeting, and with regard to the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee, the Afghan authorities consider that the desired state of conservation for the property in view of its possible removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger could be achieved by 2013.
Another important outcome of the Munich meeting was the preliminary discussion on possible long–term solutions for the conservation, presentation and interpretation of the Buddha niches that could follow their structural stabilization. In order to gain the support of the local community, there was a general meeting consensus that it was necessary to move from the present phase of studies and consolidation to more visible activities. Different options were discussed, ranging from the anastylosis of the fragments, where possible, to alternative solutions that would restore the ‘image’ of the two statues, without physically reconstructing them. However, any proposal for the conservation and presentation of the two Buddha niches would have to be discussed and based on complete studies and scientific analyses, illustrated by appropriate graphic means, and shared amongst specialists in the Expert Group, in addition to the World Heritage Centre and Afghan authorities. The World Heritage Committee should also be informed of any major restoration plan affecting the property. With a view to discussing further possible options, and if security conditions allow, the Afghan authorities expressed a wish to receive an advisory mission by the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM during Autumn 2010.
Finally, the Expert Group Meeting recommended the creation of a site interpretation area, where some restored fragments could be exposed, and a larger Museum for the BamiyanValley, to present the property in its broader geo-cultural context. UNESCO will take all of the suggestions emerging from the Meeting into account in planning a possible fourth phase of the project, to start in 2011, with funding from Japan.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies note the significant progress made throughout 2009 – 2010 towards achieving the ‘Desired state of conservation’. However, they regret that the State Party did not submit the requested report and draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value. With regard to the latter, the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies will provide assistance to the State Party in the framework of the upcoming Periodic Reporting exercise for the Asia Pacific region.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies welcome the recommendations made by the Expert Group. In particular, they consider that - if security conditions allow - the suggested joint mission to provide technical advice on long-term directions for the conservation and presentation of the property, notably of the two Buddha niches, would be very helpful. In this regard, the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies note the provisions of Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, requiring that information on any major restoration project or activity affecting the property be provided to the World Heritage Committee, via the World Heritage Centre, “before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse”.