1.         Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape (Lao People's Democratic Republic) (C 481)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2001

Criteria  (iii)(iv)(vi)

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/481/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 13,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: Japanese-funded project: USD379,040 (1996-97), Total Italian-funded projects through Lerici Foundation: USD 482,194 (1996-2004; 3 project phases): Phase I (1996-1997) = USD161,124; Phase II (1998-1999) = USD 164,000; Phase III (2003-2005) = USD 157,070

Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) New infrastructure construction including new proposed road

b) Lack of coordinated management mechanism

c) Parking lot and visitor centre

d) Lack of sufficient professional staff

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

By the time of writing the present report, the State Party had not submitted the state of conservation report, which was requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011). From 15 to 21 February 2012 a reactive monitoring mission was carried out. The mission report is available online at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents

a) Route 14A

The construction of the road, which would pass through Zone 1 and Zone 3 of the property, began in April 2010. The World Heritage Committee expressed its concern about the potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and subsequently requested the State Party to halt construction work until the heritage impact assessments had been carried out. A rapid impact assessment was undertaken in early 2011 which concluded that the road would impact the property in particular the cultural landscape, buried archaeology and standing earthworks. Given its alignment, it would cut through the landscape and create adverse visual and cultural impacts. It recommended mitigation actions and to modify the design and alignment proposals, with provisions for mitigating foreseen impacts.

The mission reported that at the time of the visit, all work had been stopped from km 29 +050 to 34 +261 while the remaining part of the route has been largely finished. It recognised that the road will bring more traffic to and through the property. Number of vehicles and speed will require monitoring and control. Additionally a viable alternate route, namely Route 14 B, to the west of the property, will need to be created to redirect heavy traffic. It noted that the visual impact of the road, from all four zones, is not as large as expected. It recommended refraining from planting a linear screen of trees on the sides of the road as this would emphasize the cut through the landscape. In terms of the adjustment of the alignment, the mission concluded that it could damage archaeological remains. It reported that the bypass around Ban Tang Kob has apparently been cancelled and the existing road was being upgraded. However, it is important to obtain an official notice of cancellation of the bypass. As for the bridges, it mentioned that the colour of the bridge railings needs to be changed from white to another which is fitting better the natural landscape. The mission also noted that related infrastructure will need to be located outside the property. This requires comprehensive land use planning and zoning for the entire property, which needs to be prioritised. Street furniture plans, particularly roadside lighting, need to be planned for and submitted to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies prior for review prior to approval and committing to its implementation.

b) Other developments and construction at the property

The increase in building activity at the property over the past ten years has started to change its character. The situation is expected to be further exacerbated with the construction of the new road but cannot be assessed without a detailed land-use plan. Among other issues of concern, the construction of a new site management office and the construction of 25 meter high water tanks were underscored.

The mission reported that the water tower project to the north of the property has been cancelled, which is a positive step as it will allow sufficient time to carry out a Heritage Impact Assessment and explore other options to address the issue of the water supply system. However, there is no cancellation of the construction of the tower to the south, which still raises concerns given its potential visual impact. The mission recommends that visual impact assessments need to be carried out for both potential locations. As for the administrative/visitor facilities compound, the mission reported that the newly constructed site management office has had a negative impact on zone 4 of the property (Monument Management Zone) in terms of the location, scale, design, materials and colour used. It recommends that, at the very least, the colour of the buildings and the main entrance gate be changed to better blend with the landscape. Comprehensive landscape planning is needed to consider relocation of facilities and to ensure that actions implemented at the property sustain its Outstanding Universal Value rather than erode it. Attention needs to be placed on zoning and use but also on design guidelines for facilities, buildings and street furniture, among others.

c) Management system

The mission considers that the legal and institutional elements as well as human and financial resources are adequate and that a management plan has been produced. However, there does not seem to a monitoring framework and foreign missions continue to operate outside the action plan and there are deficiencies in coordination among decision-making bodies which allow for major infrastructure projects to be approved without appropriate consultation.

d) State of Conservation of the property

The mission reports that progress has been made with the restoration of the Vat Phou temple complex. The review of the action plan for 2011-2016 should assist in addressing pending conservation and management issues. The mission underscored that one of the existing challenges pertains to interpretation and awareness-raising about all component parts that make the property significant, including associated living communities. Interpretation materials need to be developed and a local community engagement programme launched. 

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the Committee regret that the State Party did not submit a report on the state of conservation as was requested by the World Heritage Committee and that it expresses its concern that infrastructure developments have occurred at the property without adequate heritage impact assessments carried out and that these could have eroded the conditions of authenticity and integrity of the property. They also note that the absence of comprehensive land use plan has contributed to the situation and note that addressing this gap is critical to ensure that no further impacts to the attributes that sustain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property occur. They further note that impacts that have occurred require mitigation measures that also need to be adequately planned for. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.64

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,

2.   Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.72, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.   Regrets that the State Party did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property as requested by the World Heritage Committee;

4.   Expresses its concern that infrastructure developments have occurred at the property without heritage impact assessments carried out or without a landscape plan in place and urges the State Party to implement necessary measures to mitigate their identified impacts;

5.   Notes the results of the February 2012 reactive monitoring mission and encourages the State Party to implement its recommendations, with a particular emphasis on:

a)  Monitor road traffic on route 14A and implement measures to control the number and speed of vehicles and consider creating a viable alternate route to the west of the property,

b)  Develop a comprehensive land-use plan that addresses zoning, use, potential infrastructure development and guidelines for facilities,

c)  Carry out visual impact assessments on the proposed locations for the construction of water towers and submit their results to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review prior to committing to its implementation,

d)  Implement measures to mitigate the visual impact of the new site management office and the entrance gate,

e)  Develop an interpretation and awareness raising strategy for the property, including a local community engagement programme, to enhance the interpretation of the property and appropriation by associated living communities,

f)   Develop a policy for engaging foreign missions based on actions proposed in the Management Plan instead of ad-hoc decisions;

6.   Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the recommendations set out above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.