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World Heritage Convention

Decision 18 BUR VI.B
Timbuktu (Mali)

The three mosques of Djingareiber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia were placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1990. These properties are threatened by obvious, precise and imminent dangers:

a) serious alteration of the mud construction materials

b) serious alteration of the structures

c) the climatic factor of desertification.

The Bureau was informed of the content of the report, produced in French, concerning the state of conservation of the three mosques, by the UNESCO consultant. In 1990, this consultant elaborated the proposal for the placing of the mosques on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and in his present report he noted that the situation was more or less the same as in 1990 and that the mosques remained threatened by the dangers which were identified at that time. The consultant also highlighted the threats to the mosques during the annual maintenance work. This work, which is coordinated by the religious authorities in consultation with the management committees and the masons attached to each mosque, is organized by means of an appeal for donations of material and voluntary labour. The voluntary system in force contributes to the rapid degradation of traditional technology. The poor quality of the mud construction materials ("banco") prepared and applied each year by inexpert hands causes water infiltration and attack by micro-organisms, and this attempt at creating a protective coating for the building also tends to weaken its structure.

The report recommends a method of intervention involving the local population which, since the construction of the mosques, has been responsible for their upkeep, thus perpetuating a living religious culture. This method foresees the organization of a pilot work site in a restricted zone of each mosque, to be implemented in three stages:

1) preparation of a documented study recording all the stages of the annual maintenance work, so as to clearly determine the organization of the voluntary work sites;

2) identification, together with specialists, of the appropriate additives and stabilisers for the "banco" of Timbuktu;

3) organization of a pilot work site which should be entrusted to a Mali architect assisted by municipal technicians. The architect would also have the responsibility for defining a long­term conservation programme taking account of the local realities, whilst respecting and improving traditional techniques.

The Bureau requested the World Heritage Centre to ask the Mali authorities to prepare a report to be submitted to the eighteenth session of the Committee, concerning follow-up action with regard to the report of the UNESCO consultant. Considering the grave situation of the city where insecurity abounds, and which is threatened by the advance of the dunes, the World Heritage Centre should define, together with the Mali authorities, appropriate cooperative action to meet this situation.

Decision Code
States Parties 1
Properties 1
State of conservation reports
1994 Timbuktu
Report of the Rapporteur
Context of Decision