In 2006, a joint UNESCO/ICOMOSreactive monitoring mission was carried out to evaluate the impacts of the construction of a road through the archaeological park by the Yanacona indigenous community and the state of conservation of the inscribed property. On 7 February 2009, the World Heritage Centre received the State Party’s report, which details progress made to date in implementing the decision made by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007). In addition, the report includes the project outline for the Integral management plan for the Archaeological Park, updated cartography for the San Agustin Archaeological Park, restructuring and intervention project for public use, plans for the interpretative walkway and comprehensive report on communications with national, regional and local authorities.
a) Develop an effective management plan within the framework of a participatory, value-driven approach
The Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History has formulated an Integral management plan for the San Agustin Archaeological Park and the Alto de los Idolos site. The resulting plan encompasses 9 programmes and 50 projects focused on environmental management, conservation of archaeological heritage, education and outreach, research, dissemination, infrastructure and administration.
b) Identify precise limits and buffer zones for the sites inscribed in the World Heritage List and formally submit the proposed new boundaries of the buffer zone for approval by the World Heritage Committee
The State Party submitted a preliminary map based on high- resolution aerial photographs and stereoscopic analysis. A project is currently underway using the baseline map to generate a geo referenced database of archaeological and natural elements inside the park and to assess current land use. It is foreseen that buffer zones will be defined upon extensive consultation with involved entities so as to subsequently include these maps in other planning tools such as land use and development planning.
c) Define adequate uses for the existing infrastructure at the properties
The State Party reports that a zoning project is underway to define appropriate uses for existing structures. A proposal for improving the museum facilities, pathways, fences and protection of the archaeological remains was also included in the report.
d) Close down the built road and forbid vehicular traffic, develop an interpretative walkway to communicate the indigenous settlement, promote its visitation and submit alternative options to improve the road system for local communities
Regional and local authorities and local communities were informed of the World Heritage Committee’s Decision 31 COM 7B.124 by translating recommendations from the monitoring mission and the official decision. Measures were implemented to prevent vehicular traffic including fences and signage and collaboration is in place with the Municipality to improve existing roads that provide access to inhabited areas. However, the State Party reports the infringement on these measures and increased difficulties between the Park’s administrator and workers and local inhabitants which led to the request to the Municipality, the Corporación Autónoma Regional del Alto Magdalena and the Police to implement relevant controls and sanctions. Consultation has continued among different levels of government and the communities to mitigate conflict, reach a consensus and proceed with the development of the interpretative walkway. Permits, plans and materials have already been secured and it is expected that support from the local authorities will allow for the implementation of the project.
No alternative to improve the road system for local communities has been submitted.
e) Continue work and close collaboration with national and municipal authorities, as well as involved stakeholders, to control development at the site and anticipate potential impacts on the World Heritage property
The State Party included in its report several communications among different entities regarding improvement of access to the Archaeological Park and its surroundings, maintenance of protective infrastructure, pollution control, tourism development, education, handicraft sales and services, requests for archaeological research and other issues.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the management plan was not submitted so the adequacy of the methodological approach and the derived proposals cannot be assessed at this stage. It is critical to evaluate interventions planned to mitigate existing stone decay, both directly and indirectly (wind breakers, shelters and drainage). Also, it is important to assess how proposals will conserve and promote the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, an issue which closely relates to planned interventions to enhance public use.
A point of concern is that the plan apparently focuses only on the San Agustin Archaeological Park but the inscribed property comprises also two other archaeological sites, Alto de los Idolos and Alto de la Piedra. Current mapping activities and definition of buffer zones should also consider these sites to promote the integration of the three inscribed properties and regulate land use to preserve existing integrity with the setting, a viable option given the broad collaboration that exists today among different levels of government and other stakeholders.