The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/19/43.COM/8B and WHC/19/43.COM/INF.8B1,
- Inscribes Bagan, Myanmar, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii), (iv) and (vi);
- Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
Bagan is a sacred landscape which features an exceptional array of Buddhist art and architecture, demonstrates centuries of the cultural tradition of the Theravada Buddhist practice of merit making (Kammatic Buddhism), and provides dramatic evidence of the Bagan Period (Bagan Period 11th – 13th centuries), when redistributional Buddhism became a mechanism of political control, with the king effectively acting as the chief donor. During this period, the Bagan civilisation gained control of the river transport, extending its influence over a large area. The traditions of merit making resulted in a rapid increase in temple construction, peaking in the 13th century. The serial property of eight components is located on a bend in the Ayeyarwady River, in the central dry zone of Myanmar. Seven of the components are located on one side of the River, and one (component 8) is located on the opposite side. Intangible attributes of the property are reflected in Buddhist worship and merit-making activities, traditional cultural practices and farming. The serial property of eight components consists of 3,595 recorded monuments – including stupas, temples and other structures for Buddhist spiritual practice, extensive archaeological resources, and many inscriptions, murals and sculptures. Bagan is a complex, layered cultural landscape which also incorporates living communities and contemporary urban areas.
Criterion (iii): Bagan is an exceptional and continuing testimony to the Buddhist cultural tradition of merit making, and to the peak of Bagan civilisation in the 11th-13th centuries when it was the capital of a regional empire.
Criterion (iv): Bagan contains an extraordinary ensemble of Buddhist monumental architecture, reflecting the strength of religious devotion of an early major Buddhist empire. Within the context of the rich expressions and traditions of Buddhist architecture and art found throughout Asia, Bagan is distinctive and outstanding.
Criterion (vi): Bagan is an exceptional example of the living Buddhist beliefs and traditions of merit making, expressed through the remarkable number of surviving stupas, temples and monasteries, supported by continuing religious traditions and activities. While the evidence of practices of merit-making are common in many Buddhist sites and areas, the influences established in the Bagan period, and the scale and diversity of expressions, and continuing traditions make Bagan exceptional.
The integrity of Bagan is based on the ability of the 8 components to convey the Outstanding Universal Value; the material evidence of the landscape, archaeological sites, monuments, inscriptions, sculptures, murals, cloth paintings and the overall setting; the continuing intangible heritage and cultural practices; and the management of pressures on the state of conservation. The integrity is vulnerable due to the multiple factors affecting Bagan, tourism and development pressures, environmental pressures and natural disasters.
The authenticity of Bagan is demonstrated by the landscape of Buddhist monuments of diverse sizes, scales, materials, designs and antiquity; and the rich and continuing religious and cultural traditions. The major built elements within the property, particularly the very large temples and stupas, retain a high degree of authenticity in their form and design, both internally and externally. The decorative elements of many of the individual monuments survive in their original form. The authenticity has been impaired by inappropriate interventions from the 1970s and 1990s, and by the extensive damages that resulted from earthquakes.
Management and protection requirements
Legal protection of Bagan is provided by the newly amended Law for Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions No. (20/2019), Protection and Preservation of Ancient Monuments Law 2015 (with updated bylaw 2016), and Protection and Preservation of Antique Objects Law 2015 (with updated bylaw 2016). These laws are administered by the Department of Archaeology and National Museum (DANM). Effective legal protection is dependent on the full implementation of the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions Law. The property is also protected through practices and commitment of the religious communities and local people.
Heritage zoning plans have been established and integrated into regional plans to ensure coordination. A further protective zone of 100 km x 100 km around the property has been established to control development. All developments within the protected zones are currently subject to site-specific archaeological assessment and input from the Department of Archaeology and National Museum (DANM).
The Bagan National Coordinating Committee (BAGANCOM) has been established by the national government as the decision-making body for Bagan, ensuring inter-agency coordination. The main factors affecting Bagan are past conservation interventions, tourism and development pressures, environmental pressures and natural disasters.
The management system is based on the Integrated Management Framework. While some aspects of the management system have recently established, and others are not yet fully implemented, the approach is sound. Guidelines that have been developed to support the most pressing activities. In particular, risk reduction and disaster response have been significantly improved as part of the response to the 2016 earthquake. Further elaboration of the management system should be based on a landscape approach to the management of the serial property.
Some key strategic and policy documents, including the Sustainable Tourism Strategy, Archaeological Risk Plan, Agriculture Sector Strategy and Heritage Impact Assessment System are yet to be completed and/or fully operationalised. The property contains a number of intrusive elements, such as hotels. Rigorous Heritage Impact Assessment and clear decision making processes about development are critically important to the future management of Bagan. A long-term Hotels Strategy that identifies zones where hotels can be developed in the future has been recommended.
- Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
- Completing the administrative processes to revise the boundaries of components 6 and 7, and the buffer zone for component 4, and submitting the revised maps to the World Heritage Centre,
- Conducting further research and documentation of the historical water management system of Bagan, and ensuring that the elements of this system are conserved and managed as attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property,
- Completing as a priority the ‘One Map’ initiative to bring the legal maps into a single GIS, completing the Bagan monument inventory and grading of monuments, and working to bring all the site datasets into an integrated data management system,
- Completing the program of installation of markers along the boundaries of the property components and the buffer zone, and removing the redundant boundary markers of the former ‘Heritage Protection Zone’ to avoid confusion,
- Completing the proposed Archaeological Risk Map and ensuring that its findings and associated procedures are communicated to all relevant stakeholders,
- Requiring all international missions working at Bagan to enter into formal agreements that include compliance with the provisions of the Integrated Management Framework, BAGANCOM decisions and advice from the Bagan ICC,
- Reviewing the current planning and development controls and associated approval processes, including the Urban and Regional Plan of the Environs of the Bagan Heritage Zone, to ensure that it is no longer possible to construct new buildings within the property or the buffer zone that are of an inappropriate height, scale or form,
- Ensuring that a landscape approach is incorporated into the continuing development and implementation of the management system,
- Further developing the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) system to rigorously evaluate the potential impacts of change and development on the Outstanding Universal Value of Bagan, and ensuring that HIA are compulsorily required for all new developments within Bagan, in accordance with the amended framework of legal protection. In the immediate timeframe, ensuring that this is required for all new tourism infrastructure developments and the expansions to Bagan Airport,
- Further evaluating the ‘carrying capacity’ and management of the future growth in tourism for Bagan, including consideration of the constraints arising from the physical and social circumstances of each component,
- Establishing and convening a regular forum between officers of BAGANCOM, the regional governments and representatives of the hotel and tourism industries to facilitate dialogue, communicate regulatory requirements and conservation programs, and identify tourism management issues,
- In addition to the removal of intrusive hotels and tourism facilities, and taking account of the need for a phased approach and longer-term strategy for hotels in Bagan, preparing a Hotel Strategy in consultation with ICOMOS and the World Heritage Centre which creates zones within which hotels can be developed (including all changes to existing facilities). All new developments should be subject to heritage impact assessment, and the establishment of zones where hotel developments can occur should be accompanied by regulations concerning building heights and other site and design issues, and be integrated into the regional Tourism Strategy,
- Placing a moratorium on the construction of new viewing mounds or other purpose-built viewing structures/buildings pending a review of visitor facilities and needs and finalisation and implementation of the Bagan Sustainable Tourism Strategy,
- Allocating additional resources to further develop the monitoring system,
- Providing professional development opportunities in cultural heritage management to staff of BAGANCOM and relevant regional government officials,
- Allocating the needed resources to ensure the comprehensive implementation of the actions specified in the Bagan Disaster Risk Management Plan,
- Completing and implementing the proposed Bagan Agriculture Sector Strategy following review by BAGANCOM, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS,
- Following a process of consultation and careful consideration of the interests and welfare of residents, establishing a staged plan for the progressive removal of dwellings that have been illegally constructed within the property boundary;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2021 a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session in 2022.