A report on the state of conservation of the property was provided by the State Party on 12th February 2010, and a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS monitoring mission visited the property from 22nd to 29th March 2010 in order to consider progress with the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) and a timetable for their implementation.
a) Corrective measures around the Sankore Mosque
The mission observed that the new Ahmed Baba Centre and its amphitheatre were still not in use in March 2010, 14 months after inauguration of the buildings. The mission reaffirmed that the design of the Centre may have been appropriate for an administrative area on the outskirts of the old city but are not compatible with their urban surroundings in a symbolic part of the city opposite the Sankore Mosque.
Regarding corrections to the exterior colours of the Ahmed Baba Centre, the State Party has modified the colour of the southern façade to a yellow-cream colour, but this change was not considered as having resolved the aesthetic compatibility of the building. The State Party had also constructed a fencing wall around the Centre. However this fence does not hide the Centre, does not offer much protection from sand and it has not contributed to resolve the issue of the visual integrity of the Sankore Mosque.
On the issue of relocation of classrooms of the Madrasa and toilets, the mission noted that this had not been undertaken and an alternate location had not yet been identified by the city of Timbuktu. The mission noted that the community had made the effort to change the roof and joinery details of these two blocks, which is a visual improvement.
The mission was informed that the Ministry of Culture envisages a new project for the public space around the Sankore Mosque, with the support of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). This is scheduled to commence in 2011. The mission suggested that any rearrangement of the public space in the area of the Sankore Mosque needs to be based on an accurate knowledge of the site’s history and archaeology, as recommended by previous monitoring missions. It also considered that the project should take into account ways of reducing the visual impact of the mass of the Ahmed Baba Centre complex through measures such as revision of the new fencing wall, possible planting of local trees, removal of the amphitheatre if still unused, and possible relocation of the toilets elsewhere.
b) Creation of a national coordinating committee for Timbuktu as the unique authority toreceive and evaluate projects which could impact the property
The State Party stated that an inter-ministerial Committee for Timbuktu was in existence, although no legal documents on its creation was provided to the mission, nor the list of members. The State Party however mentioned that a first meeting of such a Committee had been held in Bamako in early 2010.
c) Development of a plan for the participation of the population of the town in matters of heritage
A Management Committee established in the framework of the implementation of the 2006-2010 Management Plan is in place, chaired by the Mayor and involving local community representatives, taking into account the voices of the various parts of the Old City. The mission considered that this Committee needed to be strengthened, as the catalyst for all related works, and to meet more regularly.
d) Development of detailed building regulations and a land-use plan for the property and buffer zones
The mission noted that the draft "Urban Regulations for Old City of Timbuktu" and the draft "Manual for the conservation of the City of Timbuktu" are being finalised by the Malian authorities, who are well aware of the need for community consultation before these documents can be approved. A buffer zone for the Old City aligned with the ring road exists in the 2006 Management Plan, and previous missions have proposed larger areas. In order for a buffer zone to offer appropriate protection to the property, the mission considered that it should be defined as a result of studies of land use, including peripheral cemeteries, new residential areas and the character of the urban fabric of the Old City.
As for the issue of the extension of the World Heritage boundary to cover the entire Old City, the debate on the extension of the property to cover the entire Old City of Timbuktu has been initiated with local people since 2005 and many key s stakeholders are supporting this approach, in order to protect both the monuments and their urban context. However, in order to start a potential extension of the property, the mission considered that intensive documentation works (studies on urban morphology and typologies, condition surveys, mapping, etc.) were necessary to underpin planning and restoration programmes to sustain the distinctive local architecture. At the same time, a system of professional training is required to ensure the permanence of craftsmen to support restoration works on houses. The mission considered that at least two years work would be needed to put all these in place and that a realistic timeframe for the possible extension of the property to cover the entire Old City would be between five to seven years. There is some urgency to begin this work as, if the houses of Timbuktu lose their traditional methods of construction, this may reduce the possibility of a future expansion of the property to cover the Old City being successful. In this context, the mission recommended a pilot project to restore houses in the Old City, using traditional techniques and materials, and to rehabilitate houses now mostly in ruins, ensuring the cooperation of the Imams of the mosques and local communities.
e) State of conservation of the property
The mission reviewed the requirements for urgent restoration works to be carried out at the Sidi Yahia Mosque with the builders and the Cultural Mission, and agreed on priority actions. The Djingareyber Mosque has been restored under the direction of a team from AKTC, and foresees inauguration in September 2010. The project has become a training school for craftsmen who may train other craftsmen in earthen architecture to work on houses in the Old City. Local authorities of Timbuktu are planning to acquire ruined houses northwest of the mosque, in order to provide more space in the environs of the mosque to avoid a repeat of the recent stampede of February 26, 2010 when more than 20 people died.
As for the sixteen mausoleums, the mission noted the gates of cemeteries’ fences being torn down and waste spreading everywhere, which is a worrying situation common to the surroundings of all the mausoleums visited.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the conclusion of the mission that there is no possibility to correct the adverse impact of the Ahmed Baba Cultural Centre and amphitheatre built near the Sankore Mosque and inaugurated in January 2009. They further note the views of the mission that the project was completed without appropriate consultation that might have allowed the building to be in harmony with its urban environment. Of great concern is that since the inauguration, the centre has been unused and is already beginning to deteriorate.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the possibility of a project led by the AKTC to improve the public space around the Sankore Mosque. They consider that details of such project would need to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies in line with Operational Guidelines, Paragraph 172 before any commitment is made.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that progress in the urban building regulations and the formal delineation of the buffer zone are to be seen as the short term priority actions.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the fragility of many of the traditional buildings in the Old City, the use of modern materials, coupled with the lack of detailed adopted planning policies, means that the earthen architecture of the Old City as an entity is reaching a critical stage. They note the support for extending the property to encompass the Old City but, as the mission indicated that studies and structures necessary for such an extension could take between five and seven years, they consider that it is essential that work commences on the necessary documentation and planning stage immediately, before the prevalence of modern materials has reached an irreversible stage.
Finally, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the plan of the local authorities of Timbuktu to acquire ruined houses northwest of the Djingareyber Mosque, and consider that any proposals for demolishing houses and enlarging the public space should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, including full details of the houses concerned, for evaluation by the Advisory Bodies, before any commitment is made, in line with Paragraph 172 of Operational Guidelines.