The World Heritage Committee during its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) regretted that the State Party had not submitted the report requested at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), and in particular requested the State Party, to provide a detailed topographical map with geographic coordinates indicating the boundaries of the property, and if possible those of its buffer zone by 1 December 2008, and in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, including the conditions of integrity and authenticity. The World Heritage Committee also reiterated its request to the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to evaluate the impact of projects in progress and envisaged.
The mission took place from 16 to 20 February 2009. The terms of reference of the mission included examining the state of conservation of the property and the status of various recommendations made by the World Heritage Committee from its 28th session through its 32nd session, including evaluation of major infrastructure projects, mapping projects (locating archaeological features, sources of structural risks) and planned consolidation activities. The aim was to assess any damage to the Outstanding Universal Value, and associated integrity and authenticity, for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, as well as indications of improvement in the conservation of the property since the last report to the World Heritage Committee. The mission report provides a comprehensive overview of the situation of the property over the last 25 years up to the present day.
The mission report describes in detail the difficulties suffered by the property since its inscription in 1984, given the period of war in the country (1975-1991) and risks incurred more recently as a result of both major development projects aimed at improving local infrastructure, and the 2006 conflict. The long period of instability has meant that the authorities have had difficulties to develop sustainable approaches to site management, and also that there have been long periods when the authorities lacked the capacity to control development adjacent to and within the property. The mission report also highlights the many difficulties inherent in managing a site which partly underlies the historic centre of Tyre and the modern town of Soûr, and whose ancient northern harbor is also beneath the modern town, and additionally, where nearby underwater remains probably constitute a drowned quarter of the ancient city.
Major long term conservation and management difficulties were noted, including the following:
a) The extent of the property was not fully specified on inscription;
b) Construction of many high rise buildings took place during the war period in the vicinity of the property;
c) Insufficient number of key personnel and overlapping responsibilities in jurisdiction and an outdated legal framework have hindered co-operation in property management;
d) Requirements and procedures laid out in the Operational Guidelines are little known to those involved;
e) From 1995, proposals to modernize the historic fishing harbor have threatened underwater archaeology resources associated with this property; to protect these resources, a maritime protection zone had been proposed since 2004 to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport without success;
f) A proposal to build a highway 2 km. to the east of the site’s hippodrome has been under discussion by the World Heritage Committee for many years. During this period, the World Heritage Committee has regularly been requesting a comprehensive archaeological map indicating the physical remains and designated protection zones. While the State Party has explained that an archaeological map is under preparation, the mission was able to determine that a lack of basic information and a lack of resources to implement the planned system were hindering this work.
The mission report also noted the results – both positive and negative - of more recent measures taken to improve the management system:
a) Since 2007 efforts have been intensified to create new posts for the management and conservation of cultural heritage within the Ministry of Culture;
b) A revision of the national cultural policy and the new structure for the Directorate of Antiquities is under parliamentary discussion;
c) The State Party has reported that a protection scheme for archaeological areas exists as well as an Urban Plan (revised in 1998 and 2003) that is used to manage the buffer zone of the designated archaeological area;
d) Continuing urban development pressure is difficult to resist: while the archaeological potential of development sites is investigated in advance, a three year moratorium on construction projects in Tyre ended in 2008 and has not been renewed though requested by the Directorate of Antiquities;
e) Concerning the planned highway, while the Directorate of Antiquities has secured relocation of an interchange which would have destroyed a set of rock cut Roman tombs, geophysical surveys undertaken have only covered a small area of the planned route to date. Clearly, some parts of the planned route will impact on features associated with the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including remains of the aqueduct and the ancient Necropolis. The mission notes in particular that an environmental impact study has not been included in the planning of the highway;
f) Original plans to restructure the entire fishing harbour have been altered and a tourist marina for small ships which does not impact on the underwater remains is now being developed;
g) The State Party has successfully realized a “Cultural Heritage and Urban Development” (CHUD) project for the restoration of the Old City Centre of Tyre in the direct vicinity of the property. It has now established a Centre of Submarine Archaeology in Tyre within the project, and has developed plans for improving site infrastructure and services.
i) The First phase of the Archaeological Component of the CHUD project involves emergency consolidation to be carried out in 2009-2010on selected archaeological remains in Tyre. The Second phase (2010-2012) will focus on the definition and presentation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the site for residents and visitors,
ii) While the mission noted the high quality of the damage assessment reports undertaken by the consultant to the CHUD project, the mission also noted the importance in the World Heritage context of conservation measures that maintain authenticity,
iii) From a site planning and management perspective, the mission particularly regretted that the proposed CHUD restoration and site planning measures planned for execution in 2009 have not been presented in an overall conservation strategy plan before tendering the work,
h) The mission also regretted that no progress has been made in elaborating a management plan for the site, building upon the great amount of data acquired by the consultants working on the property under the CHUD project;
i) While the 2006 military conflict did not cause damage to the site (although a bomb strike took place close to the archaeological remains), the difficult security situation in the south of the country exacerbates socio-cultural tensions and impedes meaningful stakeholder involvement in site management and planning, and in building necessary awareness.
The mission’s major recommendations included the following:
a) Encouraging the State Party to provide sufficient support and staff resources to the national Directorate of Antiquities so that it can fulfill its mandate;
b) Encouraging the State Party to bring into effect the maritime protection zone proposed by the Directorate of Antiquities;
c) Encouraging the State Party to extend the three-year urban development moratorium period, and similarly placing a moratorium on the planned highway construction until the completion of the archaeological map recordings;
d) Requesting from the State Party a comprehensive management plan for the World Heritage property including delineation of the property, buffer zone, conservation strategy, short and long term action plan, and traffic plan;
e) Supporting the Directorate of Antiquities to prepare comprehensive documentation of the archaeological remains of ancient Tyre;
f) Supporting the Directorate of Antiquities in its efforts to complete a comprehensive archaeological prospection (magnetic and geo-radar) of the planned route of the highway and its adjunct territory.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are concerned by the findings of the recent mission. In order to address the above issues, some of which pose a considerable threat to the property, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies suggest that there is an urgent need for a defined ‘recovery’ programme and that such a programme could be developed in a mission designed for this purpose to take place as soon as possible after the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee. The results of this endeavour including efforts to identify funds which could be devoted to this purpose could be reported to the World Heritage Committee during its 34th session.