On 7 April 2010 the State Party submitted a report on the conservation of the property to the World Heritage Centre, in response to the request of the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 32 COM 7B.5. This decision noted the significant progress by the State Party in managing this property since its inscription, and a number of outstanding issues including in relation to the possible extension of the property, vehicle use, provision of funding and the revision of the management plan.
The State Party report is set out as a five-year progress report, and has been prepared by the management unit for the property, covering the period since the date of inscription on the World Heritage List.
a) Boundary changes
The State Party report mentions that an extension of the property is a long-term goal but provides no further information on this issue. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the World Heritage Committee has already provided clear guidance on the potential for extension of the property to include Gebel Qatrani, which does not need to be restated further.
b) Management of tourism, including vehicle use
The State Party report provides commendable evidence of the implementation of effective monitoring of the property, although it only presents data up to 2008. Monitoring schemes have been established in relation to the condition of the fossil resources, and the patterns of visitation to the property. The report notes a significant increase in the number of visitors to the property to a current level of 12,000 visitors per year. This appears to represent at least a threefold increase in the level of visitation since the time of inscription. The State Party report notes that 25% of visitors are from France and 7% from Japan. The report appears to indicate that the only permitted entrance to Wadi Al-Hitan is through the main gate. It notes that off-road driving within the property has almost stopped but does not provide information on the uncontrolled access to the property from the north.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the progress with managing tourism use is commendable, and notes that the increase in visitor numbers has been facilitated by a significant investment in well designed tourism facilities outside the main fossil bearing layers. Vehicular traffic has also been regulated in the open air museum.
c) Provision of adequate funding
The State Party report provides information on the budgets of several completed projects. It records Italy’s significant investment in the Wadi Al-Rayan protected area, which includes the property, through a project implemented in cooperation with IUCN. A twinning with the Grand Sasso National Park in Italy is also mentioned, together with support from Shell Egypt for on-site signage. The report notes that financial sustainability concerns are a long-term issue, and that, despite the increase in visitation, self-financing arrangements remain unresolved. The report notes a number of management needs in its conclusions.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the apparent uncertainty regarding the sustainability of funding for the property is a key concern. The property has clearly defined management needs that require ongoing and adequate financing if the success achieved since inscription is to be sustained. The issues noted in the report as challenges include some basic requirements, such as lack of adequate vehicles, lack of electricity supply and lack of an adequate water supply system. The State Party is therefore strongly encouraged to establish a secure long-term funding regime for the management of the property. Continued international support may also be appropriate to ensure that a significant investment of project funding is converted into a successful ongoing conservation project.
d) Finalisation of management plan
The State Party report does not provide specific information on this request of the World Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that, whilst the State Party should clarify this issue, there is ample evidence of the effectiveness of management to date, and the establishment of monitoring programmes is a measure of the maturity of management systems. The property is also part of a wider protected area, which is considered to have an effective management system in place. However, some concerns are raised by the lack of up-to-date survey information, and the continued reporting of concerns regarding sustainable finance and basic management requirements.