1.         Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications (Sri Lanka) (C 451)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1988

Criteria  (iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1997-1997)
Total amount approved: USD 3,334
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

2002: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; November 2007: UNESCO expert advisory mission; April/May 2008: UNESCO New Delhi Office advisory mission; World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission February 2010;

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Need for development and management plan;

b) Intrusive and illegal constructions within the Galle cricket ground impacting on the integrity of the property;

c) Potential impacts of a proposed port construction on the integrity of the property.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2010

The State Party did not submit a state of conservation report, as requested by the World Heritage Committee. However, a mission was invited and took place from 14 to 20 February 2010. Its report, which can be accessed at http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM, provides the basis of this report. The report notes that the mission team was unable to adequately address all issues because documentation including plans showing the revised boundaries of the property and buffer zone, a final comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and a detailed report on current intentions with regard to the International Cricket Stadium and proposed new port, was not available. However, the mission was able to report as follows:


a) Proposed port development

The proposed scale of the port development has been reduced but details of the proposal are not available. Its impact on the World Heritage site cannot yet be properly assessed. The mission was told that a major new commercial port is being constructed at Hambantota (121 km from Galle – just over two hours by road). Consequently the Galle harbour development will now include a yacht marina, and a single berth for cruise ships in the non-monsoon tourist season (October to March), which will accommodate commercial shipping at other times.

The mission notes that as well as a possible adverse visual impact on the World Heritage property when viewed from the east, the new port may impact adversely on the important marine archaeology in the bay, which is still to be fully identified.


b) Cricket Stadium

A municipal building on the cricket ground has been demolished, but there is no intention to demolish the dominant Mahinda Rajapraksa Pavilion or other buildings. The Pavilion was built after the 2004 tsunami and opened in December 2007 by the President of Sri Lanka, whose name the Pavilion bears. The Cricket Stadium is within the buffer zone.

The mission suggests that the World Heritage Committee should seek a binding assurance from the State Party that no further buildings or structures will be erected on or surrounding the Cricket Stadium, and that the State Party consider removing the building to the eastern side of the Cricket Stadium (closer to the bay) within a reasonable timeframe such as 2020, when the renewed lease of the ground from the Municipality will have expired. This would give the State Party and Sri Lanka Cricket time to transfer allegiance to the much larger new stadium being constructed at Hambantota for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. However, the mission report did not include a photograph of the relationship between the Cricket Stadium buildings and the ramparts of the World Heritage property.


c) Conservation and management capacity of the Galle authorities

While repairs to a number of buildings in the Old Town have been completed since the 2008 mission was undertaken, and repair of the storm water drainage system (not sewerage, as all buildings have cess-pits or septic tanks) is 60% complete, other significant buildings continue to decay and inappropriate illegal alterations and constructions are taking place. Conservation objectives need to be accepted by the local community and residents and property owners need to be educated in this respect. However resources including both funds and skills are lacking in this area.

The mission considers that it could be beneficial to create a Conservation and Development Authority with delegated executive authority to manage all planning and development issues within the World Heritage Site, including the buffer zone, as the Galle Heritage Foundation (GHF), which was created as a legal entity to coordinate the conservation of Galle, apparently lacks the status, funding and resources needed for overall management of the property.


d) Property boundaries and buffer zone

The mission understood that following a maritime archaeological survey of Galle Harbour, which identified a number of wreck sites, a proposal to extend the buffer zone to include the bay to the east of the site had been gazetted but had not yet been given legal status. No map showing the area was provided. However an earlier buffer zone proposal that included this area is shown on the map of Galle in the Periodic Report summary included in the 2003 publication ‘State of Conservation of the World Heritage Properties in the Asia-Pacific Region’.

The mission considered that the areas of the bay which contain or are likely to contain significant marine archaeology should be protected either by an extension of the property or as part of an extended buffer zone.


e) Overall conservation of the property

The mission acknowledges the considerable work that has been undertaken to conserve individual buildings but also noted the apparent lack of control of some of this work which did not follow appropriate conservation standards.

A list of 87 buildings to be classified as of international importance is stalled because of objections from owner occupiers.


f)  Management Plan

The mission was handed a draft Management Plan during its visit. However, the mission considers that this requires considerable further work.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that a further request for information on the details of the proposed new port needs to be made. The possible impact on the maritime archaeology of the bay is a major concern. The mission reported (4.4.6) that documentary evidence indicates that at least five ships were wrecked in the vicinity of Galle harbour between 1659 and 1776, only two of which, including Hercules have yet been located. Given that the shipwrecks are important tangible attributes of the outstanding universal value of the property as a 17th-18th century fortified port on maritime trading routes, it can be argued that they should be included as part of the World Heritage property, rather than protected only by a buffer zone.

In the absence of convincing evidence of the visual impact of the cricket ground buildings on the ramparts of the World Heritage property it would be preferable to wait rather than request removal of the buildings by 2020 at this stage.

An alternative to the setting up of a new management authority for the World Heritage property as recommended by the mission would be to properly fund and resource the Galle Heritage Foundation, which as noted by the mission is already empowered by Act of Parliament [1994] “to promote the preservation, conservation and development of the Galle Fort together with its historic hinterland....”. It would perhaps be preferable to encourage the State Party to support its existing agency, the GHF, and empower it (through further legislative enactment if necessary) to stop illegal construction, initiate conservation projects, take on a much more proactive role with the other government agencies and stakeholders and become an agency in relation to the World Heritage property. In addition as recommended by the mission, the GHF should educate the public and property owners, provide conservation guidelines and establish a skilled building conservation team to undertake projects and set standards.

Finally, as recommended by the mission, in view of increased tourism since the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, and consequent burgeoning accommodation and retail development, completion of the Conservation and Management Plan for Galle must be an urgent priority.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 34 COM 7B.72

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.82, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Notes with regret that the requested state of conservation report including plans showing the revised boundaries of the property and buffer zone, a final comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan or a detailed report on current intentions with regard to the International Cricket Stadium and proposed new port was not received;

4. Reiterates its encouragement to the State Party to consider an extension of the World Heritage property boundary to include the maritime archaeology of the bay, and if agreeable to prepare a minor modification request to that effect;

5. Also urges the State Party to review the buffer zone surrounding the Old Town of Galle, its fortifications and maritime archaeology in the context of protecting its setting from the adverse effects of any future development;

6. Encourages the State Party to further empower (through further legislative enactment if necessary) and support the Galle Heritage Foundation to carry out its currently legislated function in relation to Galle and specifically the World Heritage property;

7. Requests details of the reduced proposal for the new port including a statement regarding its impact on the maritime archaeology and the World Heritage property;

8. Also requests advice in accordance with the Operational Guidelines, Paragraph 172, of any proposed developments that may impact on the World Heritage property, including any further building on the cricket ground;

9. Further requests that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2011, a report on progress with the above and in particular the finalized comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, including details of institutional arrangements for management of the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session.