On 28 January 2008, the State Party submitted an extensive report on the World Heritage property of Angkor, describing the set of actions carried out at Angkor since the early 1990s and containing copies of all the presentations delivered at the December 2006 and July 2007 ICC sessions. The report includes as well two documents concerning ongoing and planned initiatives funded by the New Zealand and Australian Agencies for International Development.
With regard to the issue of land management and governance within zones 1 and 2 of the property, a study conducted in 2006, in the context of a project funded by the New Zealand Agency for International Development, has confirmed the worrying conclusions of the 2005 mission. This project, called “Angkor management plan”, focuses mostly on “organisational development and appropriate resource allocation” within the Agency for the Protection and Safeguarding of Angkor (APSARA). In this sense, it has a broader, if somewhat different scope from the management plan for the property of Angkor that the World Heritage Committee had requested the State Party to develop and implement (see below).
According to this study prepared in close cooperation with APSARA, “land use and occupation and development within the boundaries of the protected zones is not being administered according to the intention of the legislation”, the most significant issue being “the inability over the succeeding years to limit urban development to the outer boundary of zone 2 (buffer zone), north of Siem Reap”, resulting from the extraordinary growth in tourism and population. The resulting maps show that a major and irreversible negative impact to the integrity of the property will take place unless the authorities are able to exert effective control on land management as a matter of urgency. Significant threats to the property appear to be associated to the excessive consumption of groundwater to cater for the tourism sector, which might destabilise the monuments of Angkor, as well as to the related waste and pollution management.
Noting that the same “disorderly urban expansion” affected the entire urban area of Siem Reap, a 2005 Study for an “Integrated Master Plan for the Sustainable Development of Siem Reap/Angkor Town”, funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), sets out a vision for an urban development approach and proposed provisions for coordinated planning. Although this Master Plan does not cover zones 1 and 2 of the property, its implementation would be beneficial for the safeguarding of Angkor, since it would reduce considerably the pressure on the protected areas. APSARA and the Siem Reap authorities have gradually started some concrete realisations, through infrastructural projects outside of zone 2.
With regard to these issues, it appears that a number of measures have been taken by APSARA. In 2006, the boundaries of zones 1 and 2 were finally demarcated on the ground. According to the Director of APSARA's Department of Monuments and Archaeology, new procedures were also established for obtaining building permits, while brochures were prepared and distributed on appropriate building standards based on traditional Khmer architecture. A new Department for Order and Cooperation has also been created to enforce the existing land use regulations within zones 1 and 2. To reduce pressure within the protected areas, moreover, APSARA has identified a 1000-hectare plot of land to the east of zone 2 where a new residential programme will be launched. APSARA believes that if this pilot initiative proves successful, it could be replicated elsewhere.
The New Zealand Aid funded study, however, considers that in order to ensure the safeguarding of Angkor it would still be necessary for the Cambodian authorities to pass urgent legislation to bring certainty to the rights of community members living in the Park area, further clarify the planning provisions within the protected zones and allocate the necessary resources to strengthen the institutional capacity of APSARA. These recommendations are very similar to those made by the 2005 mission, endorsed by the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 30 COM 7B.61 in 2006.
With respect to the requested management plan focused on the conservation of the outstanding universal value of the property, a proposal for its development has been put together by the World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh, in consultation with APSARA, and has been submitted to the Australian Government for its consideration. This project is meant to complement and integrate the above-mentioned “Angkor management plan” programme funded by New Zealand. To avoid any possible ambiguity, the project submitted to Australia for funding has been entitled “Heritage Management Framework: World Heritage Site of Angkor”.
If funded and implemented, this three-year initiative would finally provide Angkor with the comprehensive management framework that the World HeritageCommittee recommended on various occasions. It is important to note that the scope of this initiative is larger than the actual area inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Greater Angkor Project, undertaken by the University of Sydney, in conjunction with the école Française d'Extrême-Orient and APSARA, has indeed identified the extent of Angkor as a medieval urban complex, covering about 1000 sq km. An important implication of this new research might be the need to reconsider appropriate boundaries for the property and related management zones, in due time.
Finally, as concerns the establishment of an ad hoc group of experts on sustainable development, three experts, designated in 2007, have already attended, and contributed to, the last technical session of the ICC Angkor in July 2007.