Following the decision of the Committee to inscribe the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its twenty-third session, a UNESCO-ICOMOS Joint Reactive Monitoring Mission was undertaken in February 2000. The objectives of the mission were to hold discussions with the national and regional authorities concerned to remove the threats facing the site as identified by the Committee, and to provide technical assistance for the development of a comprehensive management plan. In spite of the information provided during the World Heritage Committee session that the construction of the two bridges within Hampi had halted, the mission witnessed continued construction and advancement of the works on the large-scale vehicular bridge as well as the footbridge. In view of the alarming situation on-site, the UNESCO-ICOMOS Joint Mission formulated a 4-Point Recommendation for Corrective Actions to remove the threats facing Hampi. These Recommended Actions were transmitted to the State Government of Karnataka and the Central Government of India, during and after the Joint Mission.
The Bureau was informed that since the site’s inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in December 1999, the Chief Minister of the State Government of Karnataka had constituted a Task Force in mid-January 2000 to examine the conditions of Hampi and to suggest long-term measures to preserve this World Heritage site. The Task Force examined closely the state of conservation of Hampi, on-going infrastructural development works within the site, and the 4-Point Recommendation for Corrective Actions of the UNESCO-ICOMOS Joint Reactive Monitoring Mission. In May 2000, the Task Force recommended that the two intrusive bridges should be relocated away from the World Heritage site. This Recommendation of the Task Force was unanimously accepted by the Council of Cabinet Ministers of the State Government of Karnataka in May 2000. On 16 May 2000, the Chairperson of the Task Force informed the Director-General of UNESCO on this decision taken by the State, which had been received favourably by the general public in Karnataka as well as within India.
However, the Bureau was informed that the Centre had received information in mid-June 2000 that the construction of the two bridges had again resumed on 31 May 2000.
The Delegate of Zimbabwe requested clarification on the intention of the Indian authorities on whether or not they wished to delete the site from the World Heritage List. The World Heritage Centre informed the Bureau that during consultations undertaken between UNESCO and the national and regional authorities concerned, both authorities had indicated their wish to remove the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger as soon as the threats facing the site were mitigated. The Bureau was also informed that the Archaeological Survey of India, the Central Government Authority responsible for the site, had informed the Centre through the UNESCO New Delhi Office, of its intentions to organize a national World Heritage cultural site mangers’ workshop in Hampi in October 2000, to discuss the state of conservation of Indian World Heritage cultural sites and enhancing management of such sites, using Hampi as a case study.
The Observer of the United Kingdom requested clarification on the degree of irreversible damage caused to the site by the construction work and what actions could be taken to mitigate further threats to the site. The Bureau was informed by the Centre that there were historic structures, such as the mandapa near Anegundi Gate, which have been dismantled and reconstructed using a combination of original and new building material in a different location, which even if returned to their original location, would have lost a degree of authenticity. The negative visual impact of the bridges, dominating the extraordinary natural setting of the site, could be reversed and removed entirely if the State Government carried out its decision to relocate the bridges outside of the World Heritage site. The Centre underlined that the greatest potential threat facing the site today was the damage expected to be caused by the dramatic increase in vehicular traffic once the large-scale bridge connects the two existing roads within Anegundi and Hampi which already pass through or adjacent to historic monuments of World Heritage value.
The Observer of Germany, recalling the request of the Committee and ICOMOS to the State Party since 1986 that a comprehensive management and development plan be elaborated for Hampi, underlined that the negative impact caused by the current development activities could have been mitigated if a comprehensive management plan had been prepared. The Observer of the United Kingdom drew the attention of the Bureau to the lessons to be learnt from the case of Hampi, and stated the need for the State Party to inform the Committee of such major public works prior to their construction, in accordance with the Operational Guidelines.
The Bureau examined the additional information presented by the Secretariat concerning the state of conservation of Hampi. The Bureau commended the Task Force for Hampi of the State Government of Karnataka for its work that led to the decision taken on 16 May 2000 by the State Government to relocate the two bridges outside the World Heritage site. However, the Bureau, deeply concerned with the new reports on the resumed construction of the two bridges within the World Heritage site since 31 May 2000, requested the Indian Authorities to implement the ICOMOS-UNESCO Recommended Corrective Measures to remove the threats facing the site, as identified by the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-third session.
The Bureau, reiterating the Committee’s recommendation to the State Party at the time of the site’s inscription on the World Heritage List, requested the authorities concerned to develop a comprehensive management plan for the site. The Bureau requested the World Heritage Centre to continue to assist the State Party in developing this comprehensive management plan, in close co-operation with the authorities concerned and the advisory bodies. The Bureau requested the authorities to submit by 15 September 2000, a report on the progress made in (a) relocating the two intrusive bridges outside the World Heritage site; (b) removing the threats facing the site, (c) implementing the Recommendations made by the UNESCO-ICOMOS Mission in February 2000, and in (d) preparing a comprehensive management plan for the site.
The Bureau recommended that the Committee retain this site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Observer of India expressed his appreciation to the Bureau and the World Heritage Committee for their interest in safeguarding this unique site of outstanding universal value, attesting to the rise and fall of the Vijayanagara Empire. He assured the Bureau that the inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger is being taken seriously by the Central Government of India and the State Government of Karnataka. A high-level task force has been set up to examine the situation in Hampi. The Observer underlined that the recent decision taken by the State Government of Karnataka to relocate the two bridges outside the World Heritage site would be implemented and that the authorities concerned were committed to protecting the site, following the Recommendations of the World Heritage Committee.