A UNESCO mission conducted in May 2008 considered the property to be threatened, due to the strong impact on the site’s integrity by the Galle international cricket stadium and a proposed port development project.
The World Heritage Committee requested at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) (Decision 32 COM 7B.77) that the State Party carry out a series of short- and long-term mitigation actions for the cricket stadium, as recommended by the mission, which prioritised removal of illegal buildings and all related structures, lowering of the middle building by one storey and reducing the impact of the fences. The World Heritage Committee also requested the State Party to abandon or downscale the port development project; to build capacity within the relevant authorities; to develop a comprehensive conservation and management plan for the property; and to submit to the World Heritage Centre revised boundaries for the property and buffer zone incorporating the important underwater archaeological discoveries made in recent years in the bay to the east of the Old Town.
The State Party submitted a state of conservation report to the World Heritage Centre on 30 January 2009. The report describes the progress made as follows:
a) IIlegal constructions within the Galle cricket ground
The State Party has reported the demolition of a building owned by the Galle Municipal Council within the cricket ground, but does not indicate whether this building corresponds to one of the buildings identified in the mission’s short term recommended actions or is part of the long term complete removal of the cricket ground. The State Party also indicates that “the remaining municipal buildings are planned to be demolished once the new proposed building is completed”. However, no details are provided as to what the new building will comprise or when it will be completed. Other future actions identified by the State Party include the reduction of a planned five story building to three stories and the decision to construct the sightscreen at the rampart side with a hydraulic system by which a cloth can be raised only when matches are in progress.
b) Proposed port construction
The port development project has been downscaled through several actions including the reduction of roads and reclamation area, reduction of the Container Port to two multipurpose berths to exclude gantry crane structures, conversion of flour and cement silos to horizontal silos, use of micro blasting method and monitoring stations to minimize vibrations, minimization of the height of the breakwater crests, and no multi story building are to be constructed. No plans have been provided.
c) Revision of the boundaries
Revision of the boundaries of the property and buffer zone is ongoing. The State Party has not indicated any timeframes for completion or submission to the World Heritage Centre.
Improvement in the capacity and processes of the relevant authorities has been progressed through the provision of funding and personnel by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage to the Galle Heritage Foundation. Expertise has also been provided through the Central Cultural Fund and the Department of Archaeology. A draft comprehensive conservation plan has been prepared and the State Party has indicated it will be provided to the World Heritage Centre once it has been finalized.
e) Additional information
Additional actions that have been reported by the State Party include the conservation of sixty historic houses and four other historic buildings within Galle Port area, the establishment of a maritime biological museum, planning for the future establishment of a Maritime archaeological and historical museum and Tourist information centre, delivery of several awareness raising programmes on the Outstanding Universal Value and conservation of the property, streamlining the building approval process to prevent unauthorized constructions, restoration of 75% of the Galle Port tsunami-damaged sewage system, and planning for the establishment of the Maritime Training and Research Institute for the Asia Region in Galle Fort and underwater museum in waters around Galle Fort.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the significant work accomplished by the State Party to conserve historic buildings and re-establish the sewage system within the World Heritage property. Given the commitment demonstrated by the State Party to the conservation of the property, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are confident that the demolition process that has now commenced at the cricket stadium will continue, however, they would like to request further clarifications on the demolition programme.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies acknowledge the intention of the State Party to significantly reduce the port development project, however plans need to be submitted together with an Environmental Impact Assessment. They consider that a mission to the property to assess the issues above, including the port development project, would be advisable, once the Environmental Impact Assessment has been completed.
In the framework of the forthcoming periodic reporting exercise for the Asia Pacific region, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will also provide assistance to the State Party to formulate a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property.