The World Heritage Committee, it its sixteenth session, was informed of the alarming state of conservation of historic buildings and monuments in the Kathmandu Valley. UNESCO and ICOMOS were requested to undertake a global review of the Kathmandu Valley and of the activities undertaken over the past 20 years from the standpoint of safeguarding the cultural heritage of Kathmandu. The objectives of the review were: to draw up broad guidelines for the preservation of the whole valley and to re-examine the boundaries of the protected zone under the Convention.
The UNESCO Division of Physical Heritage is presently executing a Japanese Trust Fund project for Patan Durbar Square, one of the seven sites in the Valley which is included in the ensemble inscribed on the World Heritage List, aimed at establishing scientific documentation of the historical building. For a three-year period, the funds allocated for this project amount to approximately US$ 375,000. Additional assistance is being sought from UNDP to strengthen the institutional capacity of the national and municipal agencies responsible for safeguarding monuments and historical urban quarters in the Valley.
As a result of a UNESCO mission, fielded at the beginning of June, it was reported that the Government of Nepal expressed its concern about the rapid deterioration of the World Heritage site in the Valley. As a remedial measure, the Government intends to reinforce the existing Monuments Protection Act No. 2013, in order to strengthen the protection of cultural heritage. As of 9 June, the Mayors of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhakutapur decided that the construction work, as a result of the demolition of historical buildings, be banned for six months. Furthermore, the World Heritage Centre was informed that the local news agency recently reported that fast-growing construction is being carried out, not only by locals but also by foreigners.
At present, the unauthorized demolition of ancient wooden buildings and the reconstruction of new concrete fabrics is becoming the norm. The World Heritage Centre recently received a report stating that on 12 April 1993, two 14th century wooden buildings in Patan (Tyagah Chapa and its adjoining Pati) were torn down by their owner, the "Guthi", and replaced with a concrete structure housing shops, assuring them of a steady income. The World Heritage Centre promptly requested the Nepalese authorities to urgently look into this matter and to provide further information. In addition, it was also stressed that urgent action to prevent such practices be sought immediately.
At the present session, ICOMOS envisaged the need to contact the Nepalese authorities to express concern and deplore the ongoing destruction of significant cultural heritage within the inscribed Kathmandu Valley sites, and to undertake, along with the Centre and the Physical Heritage Division, the planned 20-year review. Furthermore, it was proposed that efforts be made to change and improve existing legislation.
The Delegate of the United States of America, expressed deep concern for the ongoing degradation and demolition of monuments and historic buildings in the Kathmandu Valley due to weak legislation and lack of adequate protective measures, as required in the Convention, and suggested the inclusion of this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The delegate of Germany supported the suggestion of the United States Delegate and also stressed the need for substantive improvement in legislation for the protection of all historic monuments.
The Rapporteur also stressed the need for the Nepalese authorities to act in accordance with the Convention and its guidelines. Furthermore, he requested that the UNESCO Division of Physical Heritage play an active role in the protection and safeguard of the Kathmandu Valley.
Following the request of the Chairperson, the Delegations of Germany, the United States of America and representatives of ICOMOS met during the Bureau meeting and agreed on the following recommendations concerning the Valley of Kathmandu:
- It is recommended that the Secretariat, on behalf of the Bureau, write a letter to the Government of Nepal, expressing its deep concern on the destruction of monuments in Patan, as well as in the other sectors of the Kathmandu Valley, which are inscribed on the World Heritage List.
- Furthermore, an expert mission, organized by WHC/ICOMOS, should be announced to the Government of Nepal. This mission is expected to take place during the second half of 1993. The expert mission will investigate the technical problems of restoration, according to the order of the Committee given in Santa Fe. Beyond this, the mission will tackle new problems which turned out to be urgent in monitoring reports presented during the current Bureau meeting. These are:
a) The revision of the Ancient Monument Preservation Act of 1956. At present, this Act cannot prevent the destruction of monuments and it is therefore inadequate to avert the extensive threats that the monuments are increasingly exposed to.
b) The expert mission of WHC/ICOMOS intends to inspect and evaluate the boundaries of the seven sectors of the valley belonging to the World Heritage site and will, when necessary, propose an extension of the boundaries to enclose further important monuments within the site.
c) The expert mission intends to make an on-the-spot check the inventory of monuments which were listed together with the inscription of the site in 1979, and which seem to contain a large number of monuments which have been destroyed in the meantime.
d) The expert group would review the staffing of the Nepal Department of Archaeology and of the administration of the three important towns which are responsible for the protection of monuments, to assess the number of additional expert staff necessary to prevent further destruction of monuments. WHC/ICOMOS will report on the results of their actions during the seventeenth session of the Committee in Carthagena to enable the Committee to make substantive proposals to the Government of Nepal.