In 2009, in the framework of a reactive monitoring to the World Heritage property of Samarkand, the Director of the World Heritage Centre had had the opportunity to visit the city of Bukhara and discuss its state of conservation with the local authorities. On 4 January 2010, the World Heritage Centre received a technical report comissioned by the UNESCO Office in Tashkent, titled “Creation of the Management Plan for the Historical City of Bukhara” and primarily concerning the Khodja Zaynuddin area of the Historic Centre of Bukhara. While covering only one area of the Historic Centre of Bukhara, this comprehensive report contains a number of insights and observations highly relevant for the conservation of the entire World Heritage property and was prepared in close cooperation and consultation with the Board of Monuments of Uzbekistan. The report identifies a number of issues affecting the World Heritage property, as follows:
a) Lack of a proper conservation and management plan;
b) Recent hotel constructions which would negatively affect the integrity of the property;
c) Heavy traffic, pollution and poor sewerage system;
d) Use of new building material and methods (mainly burnt bricks and cement, which are replacing traditional timber-framed earthen architecture);
e) Varying state of conservation of monuments.
Based on this report, and considering that Bukhara has not been the subject of a state of conservation report to the Committee since its inscription in 1993, the World Heritage Centre requested comments and complementary information from the State Party in February 2010.
On 12 March 2010, a detailed “Report on conservation and preservation of the Historic City of Bukhara” was submitted by the State Party accompanied by several other documents including “Report: Conditions of objects’ safety of the World Heritage”, “Project suggestion on conservation and restoration of walls of Bukhara city”, “State programme for the conservation, restoration and utilisation of cultural heritage of Bukhara city until 2020 (in Russian)”, and “Amendment to the law on the protection of the cultural heritage in Uzbekistan (in Russian)”.
The report by the State Party provides a summary of past and ongoing projects and activities carried out in Bukhara and related to its conservation. Particular emphasis is given to the above-mentioned ‘State Programme’, which according to the State Party is currently at the stage of approval by the Cabinet of Ministers. The Programme, some activities of which have apparently already started, will be carried out in two phases for a total amount of around 20 million US dollars and includes the development of a GIS. It will aim at developing cultural tourism and sustainable development through the conservation and presentation of the cultural heritage, incuding the continuation of a major project for the rehabilitation of the city-walls. It is expected that the Programme will provide job opportunities for some 4000 persons and increase revenues from tourism by 50 %.
The State Party report does not comment on the specific issues raised in the technical report commisioned by the UNESCO Office in Tashkent. However, it recognises the need for the finalisation of the preparation of a management plan of the historic centre of Bukhara as well as the importance of exchange of experience with other countries in the world.
While welcoming the efforts being made by the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that the issues identified through the technical report commissioned by the UNESCO Office in Tashkent require further investigation and would justify a reactive monitoring mission to assist the authorities in the integrated response to the many technical conservation and tourism development issues raised by the report. This could also review the scope and progress of the announced State Programme for the conservation, restoration and utilisation of cultural heritage of Bukhara, with special attention paid to the proposed project for the conservation of the city-walls. At the same time, the mission could advise the Uzbek authorities on the appropriate form and contents for an effective conservation and management plan for the property that could include capacity-building issues.