1.         Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman (Oman) (C 1207)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2006

Criteria  (v)

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

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1207/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1207/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1207/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

At the 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), the Committee inscribed the property on the World Heritage List and requested the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2007, for examination at its 31st session in 2007:

a) Documentation confirming that the enlarged areas are given adequate legal protection;

b) A management plan or system for the settlement areas, to complement traditional management arrangements, which addresses the restoration, and conservation of the traditional structures such as mosques, watchtowers, forts, houses, and wash places, the re-introduction of traditional mortars, the control of development, the management of visitors, and the presentation of the property.

In January 2007, the State Party submitted documents on legal protection and on the management plan.

Legal Protection:

The State Party submitted:

c) A list of existing laws applying to the Aflaj systems and details of some of these (Water Wealth Protection Law, 2000, the Law on Conservation of the Environment and Prevention of Pollution, 2001, the Law on Protection of Sources of Drinking Water from Pollution, Laws to Protect Natural Heritage, 1980). These laws apply to parts of the property, as established at the time of inscription.

d) A document entitled ‘Proposed New Laws and Regulations’. The document defines what the laws will apply to including agricultural land, monuments, wells, protection zones, etc, lists 35 Articles which define appropriate uses and uses not permitted, and provides a chart of Guidelines for the Aflaj Protection Zone (this covers the use of water). The Articles cover heritage properties, new building and the use of land watered by the irrigation channels. No details are given as to when these proposed new laws will come into force.

e) A ‘Ministerial Decree on the creation of a National Committee for management and development of the Nominated Falaj’. This Committee which was set up by Ministerial Decree on 4 October 2006 is headed by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Water Resources and includes the Directors or Director-Generals of all the relevant Departments in the Ministries of Heritage and Culture, the Interior, Tourism, Environment and Water Resources, Agriculture, Housing, Water and Electricity. The Committee is tasked with the management and development of the five inscribed Aflaj.

f) A Ministerial Decree, date 30 October 2006, on the creation of a Section belonging to the Directorate of Aflaj named ‘Section for Aflaj which are listed as World Heritage’. The section’s main functions are to:

(i) Prepare a management and development plan for the Aflaj World Heritage property;

(ii) Develop and maintain a database for the Aflaj Word Heritage property;

(iii) Supervise and manage a permanent exhibition about the Aflaj World Heritage property.

Management Plan

The State Party submitted a document entitled ‘Aflaj Irrigation System of Oman World Heritage property Management Plan: Action Plan’. The first sections of this document provide a description of the site and its importance; details of the legal protection, both in force at the time of inscription and being developed, and examples of the involvement of local communities and the booklets they have prepared.

Section 3 sets out an overall vision for the World Heritage property, details of the main issues to be addressed, policies and objectives and a list of actions to deliver those objectives. As the Plan was produced in a very short space of time, only a few selected issues were addressed. What has so far been achieved is seen as the groundwork for a five-year plan. Nevertheless the Plan has made very considerable progress in highlighting the scope of the issues, the need to work toward sustainable development of the falaj communities and the potential to harness the energy and enthusiasm of local communities.

What has emerged from this initial plan is the urgent need for data-gathering, particularly in the downstream areas, before starting to formulate policies or conservation work. There is also a need to ensure that there are realistic means of implementing the short-term Action Plan. The size and complexity of the inscribed sites with their wide range of technical, architectural and archaeological attributes highlighted the need for an inter-disciplinary approach and this was addressed with the setting up of an Aflaj Committee.

Simultaneously with the implementation of the short-term Action Plan, it is envisaged that the Medium-Term Management Plan will be developed. An outline of this document is submitted and this includes addressing the development of a conservation philosophy, specialist approaches to mud-brick villages, palm plantations, capacity building, conservation of the natural environment, education, research and knowledge, and economic development of the property.

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


Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7B.68

The World Heritage Committee,

1.       Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2.       Recalling Decision 30 COM 8B.37, adopted at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006),

3.       Notes that the State Party has drafted new protection laws for the property;

4.       Requests the State Party to provide further details as to when these laws will become effective;

5.       Congratulates the State Party on the development of a relevant short-term Management and Action Plan for the property, as a preliminary to a medium term Management Plan, and on putting in place an inter-disciplinary Management Committee, to oversee the development of the Management Plan;

6.       Also requests the State Party to follow-up this Action Plan with the necessary resources and to submit to the Committee the medium term Management Plan when it is developed;

7.       Also notes with approval the support for community involvement in the management of the Aflaj and the emerging local initiatives in the development of local plans for specific water management systems;

8.       Further requests the State Party to provide to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a progress report on the new laws and the medium term Management Plan, for examination by the Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.