A UNESCO mission in January 2002 found that a commercial complex had been constructed within the property’s buffer zone. The construction was not authorized by the central government, exceeded height limitations and impacts on the visual integrity of the property. The World Heritage Committee requested the redesign of the complex to ensure that the height restrictions and regulations established by the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization are followed (Decision 26 COM 21B.53). The World Heritage Committee subsequently encouraged the State Party to reduce the height of the Jahan-Nama building (Decisions 29 COM 7B.54, 30 COM 7B.57).
The World Heritage Committee also requested that the State Party establish mechanisms for undertaking systematic cultural, social and environmental impact assessments prior to designing large scale development projects and nominate the extension of the property to include the historic axis of Friday Mosque, the Bazaars, the ancient bridges, the Zayanderoud River, and the South Chahar Bagh Avenue.
The State Party submitted a state of conservation report to the World Heritage Centre on 4 February 2009, which provides the following information:
a) Uncoordinated urban development - construction of a large scale commercial complex
Demolition of the top two floors (levels 13 and 14) of the Jahan-Nama building commenced in October 2005 and was reported completed at the end of 2006. The State Party reports that the demolition of the next two floors (levels 11 and 12) has commenced, as a result of an agreement reached with the Governorate of Isfahan Province to provide the necessary funds for the demolition. In addition, the Isfahan Municipality has agreed to establish an Expert Committee which will implement, coordinate and supervise the creation of green spaces between adjacent buildings and squares, as well as a hanging garden on the roof of the Jahan-Nama building as part of an effort to harmonize the urban setting.
Through the decision taken by the Council of Ministers (2004) Iranian governmental administrations are directed to evaluate the impacts of their large scale projects on the cultural assets and to conform to the conclusions of the evaluations. Under the provision of this act the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) has control over the metro project. However, many of the large scale projects predate the act of 2004.
b) Subway route through the historical axis of Esfahan
The issue of the proposed metro line passing under the Char-Bagh Avenue has recently re-emerged and the report states that:
1. Physical effects of the metro line as well as the effects of the metro stations on the cultural and environmental settings are being considered;
2. The metro company has continued its work after the technical interpretation of the decision of the Higher Council for Traffic. It has considered the metro trains to have no negative effect on the historical monuments and environment if suitable precautions are taken. These include a slight change to the route by 20m away from the Chahar-Bagh Madresseh (school) and running the trains on anti-shaking cushions, 5 meters deeper than previously planned;
3. Isfahan Governorate and the metro company have recently agreed that engineers will be asked to study the above issues and find solutions in line with World Heritage principles. Should the use of techniques and materials not be appropriate a new route for the passage of trains shall be sought. No decisions can be taken without prior approval by ICHHTO.
ICHHTO has requested by letter dated 28 January 2009, the World Heritage Centre to carry out an advisory mission to Esfahan with a view to assist the authorities in identifying the most appropriate solution for the new proposed metro line.
c) Possible extension of the property
The extension of Meidan Emam to include the cultural-historical axis or cultural landscape is underway. The identification, documentation and registration on the National Monuments list of buildings, monuments, places of worship, streets and squares in the area which may be considered for extension has been completed. The definition of the zones to be proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List however is challenging due to the size of the area on the one hand and the social, economic and urban needs on the other hand. The State Party hopes that the World Heritage Centre can assist the authorities with these questions in order for the nomination dossier to be submitted in 2010.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the slow progress in the reduction of the height of the Jahan-Nama building which has been requested by the Committee since 2003. They consider that a mission to the property to advise the authorities on the issue of the metro line would be useful, once all the ongoing studies, including an Environmental Impact Assessment, have been completed. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will also assist the State Party to prepare a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property, within the framework of the forthcoming periodic reporting exercise for the Asia Pacific region.