1.         Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications (Sri Lanka) (C 451)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1988

Criteria  (iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1997-1997)
Total amount approved: USD 3,334
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

2002: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS mission; November 2007: UNESCO mission; April/May 2008: UNESCO mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Post tsunami response;

b) Need for development and management plan;

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

Following concerns expressed by the National Commission of Sri Lanka with regard to the construction of an international test cricket stadium in the buffer zone of the property, as well as a port development project in the Bay of Galle, two missions have been undertaken to assess the situation and to provide advice to the national authorities. With the support of the UNESCO Italian-Funds-in-Trust the first mission was carried out in November 2007 by an expert in port development projects. The second mission was carried out from 27 April to 7 May 2008 by the UNESCO Office in Delhi with a view to assess the general state of conservation of the Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications, to examine the issues related to the construction of the cricket ground and to review of the plans for the port development project in the Galle harbour.

General state of conservation

The property faces a number of challenges ranging from a large number of illegal constructions and unregulated interventions to historic properties and buildings, as well as decaying private homes and public buildings, both linked to problems in the planning and building permission processes;lack of professional capacity and monitoring ability on site, lack of advice and guidelines for private and public owners, both resulting in sometimes low  conservation standards; lack of tourism strategy, lack of archaeological and historic research on which to base conservation decisions, and last but not least lack of a comprehensive conservation and management plan. It has been envisaged for several years to change the core and buffer of the property to include outstanding marine archaeological remains in the harbour of Galle and protect them from the current threats of the port development. It is the recommendation of the 2007 mission to improve on the above shortcomings and increase staffing and funding for the Galle Heritage Foundation.

Cricket Stadium

The construction of the international test cricket stadium was planned over a number of years with several planning stages and also objections. The stadium in its current built form consisting of two tribunes, a three storey viewing building, raised grass embankment, fences and gates, a large screen, as well as foundations for further constructions, has never been given final approval by the planning authorities. Several buildings are thus illegal. In addition, although the World Heritage Centre had repeatedly asked for clarifications and documents on these constructions in conformity with the Operational Guidelines no detailed documentation was received.

The international test cricket stadium has a strong impact on the physical and visual integrity of the property. The buildings, fences, gates and the screen are all obstructing the views of the Fort and increased traffic at the time of the games in this central part of Galle will create congestion.

The Urban Development Authority, together with the Municipality has offered an alternative ground for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board to build a stadium and comprehensive sports facility, which is strategically better placed, also in terms of traffic management.

Therefore the mission has recommended that the international cricket test stadium should be removed from the buffer zone of the World Heritage property. However, the mission has recommended proceeding in two stages, short term and long term:

- In the short term (until 31 March 2011), lower the middle building by one storey; remove the illegal building to the west of the ground as well as all related structures (batting area, temporary buildings, embankments, plantations, screen) and reduce the impact of fences.

- In the long term (after 1 April 2011), fully remove all structures of the international test cricket stadium on the ‘Esplanade’, including fences, parking, embankments, and restore ‘Esplanade’ to an earlier state on the basis of archaeological investigations and historic research.

Galle Harbour

The development of Galle Port as a multipurpose port for regional needs is an important 150 million USD project financed as a loan with Japanese funds and jointly proposed since 1991 by the Sri Lanka Port Authority (SPLA) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The feasibility study and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were completed in November 2000 by Japanese consultants and Sri Lankan Engineering Consultants respectively. The mission carried out in November 2007 assessed the impact of the construction of the port on the property, with specific reference to the expected modifications of the wave pattern induced by the new works and to the potential risks of blasting for dredging the submarine rocky seabed. On both aspects, while recognizing that this new development would “affect the present bay hydro-morpho-eco dynamics”, the mission found that the proposed port would not critically affect the World Heritage property and the adjacent underwater heritage, if the recommendations of the Environmental Impact Assessment are fully implemented.

The planned port development, however, will have a strong impact on the visual and physical integrity of the property and the bay. The recommendations made by the two missions are to reconsider the feasibility of the overall project and, if total abandonment was not possible, to scale down and modify the port layout and design with respect to the sensitive environment and its integrity. In connection with the conservation of the bay and its underwater archaeology, the missions recommend the revision of the boundaries of the core and buffer zone.

Complete or partial revision of project

In light of the development of a new large-scale industrial-commercial port in Hambantota 150 km east of Galle, the Galle port could be rehabilitated and modernized for cruise and tourist boat traffic. In this way the overall appearance and setting of Galle Bay will not change and its character as a major historical (port) and tourist attraction will remain untouched and may be even enhanced. The UNESCO mission also found that the port development would be coupled with industrialization of the urban environment and the increase in cement factories close to Galle Fort, which would have an impact on the environment.

Modification of existing project

The modifications for the port layout and its design aim at reducing negative visual and physical impact. The port should be adapted to the morphology of the bay and constructions should only come up away from sensitive areas and historical sites such as of the underwater archaeological remains of shipwrecks, which were clearly mapped in a 2007 survey by an Australian team.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.77

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 7B.56, adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),

3. Notes the findings and recommendations made by the 2007 and 2008 UNESCO missions to Galle concerning the port development project in Galle Harbour and the international test cricket stadium in the buffer zone and the general state of conservation of the property;

4. Urges the State Party to:

a) remove the intrusive and illegal construction within the cricket stadium as recommended by the mission;

b) consider abandoning or downscaling the current port development project to an acceptable size respecting the Oustanding Universal Value of the property;

c) submit to the World Heritage Centre revised boundaries of the property and buffer zone;

d) improve the capacity and processes of the relevant authorities to plan, monitor, manage and conserve the urban heritage of Galle;

e) develop a comprehensive conservation and management plan;

5. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a detailed report on the progress made concerning the above mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.