Application of the Reinforced monitoring mechanism at the property since 2008 (32 COM 7B.79)
At its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), the World Heritage Committee in its decision 32 COM 7B.79 noted with concern further new and inappropriate development proposals between the Afrosiab and Timurid city for the re-creation of the Timurid city walls, and a new hotel with "historic facades" near the city walls. The World Heritage Committee urged the State Party to develop an overall strategic approach to the property's conservation to be agreed to by stakeholders through the adoption of the management plan, and to submit, to the World Heritage Centre, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, information about any major project proposals. The World Heritage Committee also decided to apply the Reinforced monitoring mechanism to the property in order to inform the World Heritage Committee of on any information relevant to the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The State Party was requested to submit to the World Heritage Centre a report on the state of conservation of the property, including progress made in finalizing the management plan, developing the conservation plan, documenting historic features (inventories and surveys), strengthening the Coordinating Committee, and developing proposed zoning and road schemes including proposals to close the new road between Afrosiab and Timurid city to through-traffic.
A report from the State Party that was received by the World Heritage Centre on 30 January 2009, included responses to these issues. According to the State Party, the proposal to reconstruct part of the historic Walls of Samarkand was not retained by the authorities.
With regard to the development of a management plan, the State Party has adopted – at the national level - a series of legal provisions concerning town planning, which include consideration for the protection of cultural heritage and which will apply to Samarkand. As regards the development of an overall strategic approach to the conservation of the property, the State Party has informed of its decision to prepare a “State Program on Preservation and Use of Objects of Cultural and Natural Heritage for the period of 2009-2020”, a draft of which had apparently already been developed. This programme includes a number of headings as follows:
a) Improvement of legal framework;
b) Improvement of management system and monitoring procedure;
c) Support of scientific researches;
d) Modernization of documentation and inventory;
e) Introduction of educational programs for improvement of professional skills;
f) Practical measures on preservation of objects of cultural and natural heritage;
g) Public awareness activities and mass media;
h) Development of system of social partnership with local communities;
i) Programs on development of cultural and ecological tourism;
j) Improvement of financing of measures on preservation of objects of cultural and natural heritage.
Although not requested by the World Heritage Committee, the State Party report included a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value. This is not drafted according to the format proposed by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies; however it appears to include text referring to the conditions of integrity and authenticity and to the requirements for management and protection.
A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out from 9 to 14 March 2009 based on the decision 32 COM 7B.79 taken by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008; Decision) and following an invitation from the State Party. The mission report is available at the following web address:http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/33COM/documents With regard to progress made in implementing the recommendations by the World Heritage Committee, the mission noted the following:
a) Strengthening the Coordinating Committee
The mission was informed that the government has established two Commissions, at the central and local level, to deal with the management of the World Heritage property. In November 2008, the Inter-departmental Commission on Coordination of the Protection of Cultural Heritage, established in 2002, was expanded to include experts of the State Committee on Architecture, the Academy of Arts and other higher Education Institutions. At the local level, since 2002 the Samarkand Regional State Inter-departmental Commission on Coordination of the Protection and Use of Objects of Cultural Heritage has been functioning. The government estimates that these two structures are sufficient to ensure an adequate management framework to the site and that there is no need for duplication of functions.
The mission team was not satisfied by this explanation, and stressed the need to establish an effective management framework for the site, responsible for planning and day-to-day implementation of the management plan to ensure consistency and high conservation standards.
b) Finalizing the management plan
The mission reiterated the need to develop, alongside urban planning tools, an effective management plan, as requested by the World Heritage Committee. The authorities confirmed during the mission that the final detailed management plan, covering governing, financial, planning and operational components, is in the process of development.
The mission offered the assistance of UNESCO and ICOMOS to the Uzbek Authorities in the preparation of the management plan, based on the work already outlined for the first stage of the Plan between 2007 and 2010 (pre-design researches, normative and design development, organizational activities, current construction and restoration works). The preparation of the management plan could be done within an international assistance framework, in order to bring the highest degree of expertise and practice into the scene.
The mission also noted that an important analytical and design work in the area of urban conservation had been conducted under the auspices of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture between 1995 and 2001, and the results of that project (a survey of more than 15.000 building and serial proposals) could provide a solid base for future surveys and documentation of the Timurid City and its 19th century extension.
The mission considered that a strategic approach to urban conservation is lacking as the existing Master Plan of Samarkand does not concern conservation practices, leaving the day-to-day decisions without an overarching reference. Several issues of critical importance for the conservation of the historic centre have not been tackled in this Plan and require a more detailed analysis and planning.
Among the most critical issues, the mission discussed the construction of the water and sewage infrastructure, currently an unresolved problem. While water adduction seems to present lesser problems, the construction of sewage lines remains problematic due to the fragility of the urban fabric. Furthermore, the high level of the water table limits the possibility to recreate the traditional pools (havuz) that have been for centuries the main source of fresh water for the population.
In spite of the absence of a specific regulation and planning tool, the historic urban landscape of Samarkand has been preserved remarkably well. Only a few high-rise (of maximum 10 floors) buildings have been built so far in the area inscribed. The Master Plan foreseen for the future should contain explicit limitations for high-rise construction.
After meeting all the officials concerned and visiting the site, the mission concluded that the planning and management framework is still lacking proper definition. The justifications presented by the State Party (existence of a planning legislation, of a Regional Commission for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the proposal of a new Master Plan, etc.) are not considered sufficient to ensure a proper management of the site, as they lack a specific focus on conservation and are not based on a detailed analysis of the priorities for intervention, nor include a planning of the resources needed. The direct, day-to-day management of the site has no effective autonomy, while the decision making process is highly centralized.
In conclusion, it was agreed that these problems require a different scale of planning and intervention, and suggested that the State Party might consider a cooperation project involving the Ministry of Culture, the local authorities, UNESCO and ICOMOS, and possibly other partners to be identified. A technical assistance project might be requested from the World Heritage Fund to support the start up of this process. Such collaboration could address:
- Development of the management plan;
- Conservation planning with special attention to infrastructures;
- Technical assistance to the inhabitants for the conservation of the urban fabric (guidelines for housing rehabilitation and roofing);
- Development of structural restoration projects;
- Training of technical staff for surface restoration.
c) Developing proposed zoning and road schemes including proposals to close the new road between Afrosiab and Timurid city to through-traffic
According to information provided by authorities no major road constructions are planned in the new Urban Plan for Development of Samarkand city 2004 -2025 (General Plan), that is being revised based on the recommendations of the World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission undertaken in October 2006. After the approval of this General Plan, a more detailed plan can be developed, which will be submitted to UNESCO before end of 2010.
d) Conservation of the urban fabric
The mission observed - as had many other missions conducted in the past decade - the almost complete substitution of traditional building practices of earthen architecture with modern materials. While the substitution of the vertical structures is in most cases perceptible only at close distance, the substitution of the traditional flat roofs with corrugated tin or asbestos roofs has irreversibly altered the historic roof-scape. While this trend pre-dates the inscription of Samarkand in the World Heritage List, it is unfortunate that this aspect of urban conservation has been so far disregarded, leading to a significant loss of heritage values. The mission concluded that a technical assistance programme to guide and support housing renovation and restoration would be needed, and could still improve the conservation of the urban fabric of this unique World Heritage city.
A limited number of traditional houses have been preserved, and require urgent restoration work. The mission was able to visit some examples of traditional houses and concluded that this activity should be given high priority in a cooperation scheme.
e) New Developments
New constructions of poor quality inside the Siyab bazaar were noted, especially the shopping centre covered with aluminum panels, blue windowpanes, and the new buildings behind, which spoil the view towards the Bibi Khanum complex.
f) Conservation of the main monuments
The mission also reviewed the state of conservation of some major monuments, including the Registan Ensemble, the Shakhi-Zinda, the Ishrat-Khana Mausoleum, the Mausoleum and Mosque of Abdi Darun, and the Mosque of Bibi Khanym. While some of these were restored in recent years, others need urgent attention to address both serious structural problems and issues of integrity of their setting. The report of the mission includes a detailed analysis of their situation and recommendations.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that the mission has confirmed the need for better governance of the property through a strategic planning process and a targeted management plan, based on documentation and research, which would provide the framework within which decisions could be made on infrastructure, new development, conservation and support for restoration of the traditional urban fabric. The dramatic nature of the complex property, which draws together outstanding monuments and remarkable survivals of urban fabric, and the range of problems associated with its management, conservation and development, call for an enhanced scale of planning and intervention.
A cooperation project involving the Ministry of Culture, local authorities, UNESCO and ICOMOS, and possibly other partners to be identified, could provide the catalyst for urgent action on the development of the management plan and of strategic planning approaches to urban conservation.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS do not consider that it would be necessary to apply again the Reinforced monitoring mechanism to this property, given the absence of imminent threats and the considerable timeframe required by the State Party for the implementation of the recommendations made by the mission.