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Town of Luang Prabang

Lao People's Democratic Republic
Factors affecting the property in 1999*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Legal framework
  • Major linear utilities
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Inappropriate conservation methods
  • New constructions
  • Need for a Safeguarding and Development Plan of the town
  • Urgent need for the enactment of a Cultural Properties Protection Law
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1999
Requests approved: 5 (from 1994-1998)
Total amount approved : 92,242 USD
Missions to the property until 1999**

July 1999: World Heritage Centre mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1999

Previous deliberations:

World Heritage Bureau, twentieth extraordinary session – Chapter III.C

World Heritage Committee, twentieth session - Chapter VII.51

World Heritage Bureau,  twenty-first extraordinary session – Chapter III.C

World Heritage Bureau, twenty-second extraordinary session - ChapterIII.C

World Heritage Committee, twenty-second session - Chapter VII.43


New information:The draft conservation and development plan for the core historic centre within the World Heritage Site of the Historic Town of Luang Prabang is expected to be completed by the end of October 1999. This draft plan, when examined by the inter-ministerial National Commission for the Protection of Cultural, Natural and Historic Properties of Laos in December 1999, is expected to be enforced provisionally for a period of one year during which time necessary adjustments will be made. The conservation and development plan will be finalized only after this trial period, at the end of the year 2000. This draft plan prepared under the decentralized co-operation scheme between the local authorities of Luang Prabang and Chinon (France) under the aegis of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, with support from the Government of France, European Union and other donors and organizations will be presented by the Luang Prabang Provincial Government at an international donors’ meeting to be held in January 2000 under the auspices of the National Commission to ensure that multilateral, bilateral and national infrastructural development projects do not undermine the World Heritage value of the site.

During the World Heritage Centre’s mission to Luang Prabang in July 1999, concern over the following on-going and planned public works was expressed:

·  the riverbank consolidation works along the Mekong and Nam Tha rivers being carried out by the Asian Development Bank which foresees the use of concrete gabion. The Centre has advised the national and local authorities to request the Asian Development Bank to carry out a geological survey of the riverbank to assess whether or not the use of gabion is necessary ;

·  electricity transmission poles along the Mekong River installed by the Electricite de Laos (EDL) being too close to the riverbank undermining the landscape ; future installation should be more environmentally sensitive ;

·  proposed bridge across the Mekong River only 1.5 km from Mount Phousi currently under funding consideration by Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) may be too close to the core historic area of the World Heritage Site. A study of the impact on the World Heritage site of the bridge, the vehicular traffic it will entail among other considerations is deemed necessary.

·  Part of the drainage and sewage up-grading works financed by KWF (German co-operation project) has resulted in drying up a section of the urban wetland of Luang Prabang which is an essential part of the World Heritage value of the site as well as of ecological, social and economic importance. In spite of the importance of continuing these public works for public sanitation, UNESCO has requested that more environmentally sensitive measures be adopted in the future.

Furthermore, UNESCO remains concerned by the rapid development of tourism in Luang Prabang and the conversion of heritage buildings into guest houses and other tourism facilities which risks the expulsion of the local inhabitants and irreversibly changing the identity of the town which is characterized by the town’s multi-ethnic occupants. The Centre was therefore involved in defining the terms of reference of a study to elaborate a sustainable tourism development strategy to be carried out by Chinon and the French Development Agency (AFD).

Finally, the Secretariat notes with concern that the law for the protection of national cultural, natural and historic properties issued as a decree of the Council of Ministers in 1997 has not yet been officially enacted by the National Assembly. Moreover, the elimination from this decree of any reference to tourism tax (taxe de sejours) which is meant to finance the cost of conservation and maintenance of the World Heritage site causes concern over the long-term sustainability of the important conservation cost hitherto met from international aid.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1999
23 COM X.B.46
State of conservation reports of cultural properties noted by the Committee

X.46 The Committee noted the decisions of the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau as reflected in the Report of the Bureau session (Working Document WHC-99/CONF.209/6) and included in Annex VIII of this report on the following properties:

Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis (Argentina and Brazil)

The Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana (Argentina)

The Potala Palace, Lhasa (China)

City of Quito (Ecuador)

The Delegate of Ecuador informed the Committee that the volcano Pichincha had erupted on 5 October and November 26 1999 and that the National Institute for Cultural Heritage (INPC) and the Municipality of Quito had taken preventive measures to protect the population and the monuments.

Historic Centre of Tallin (Estonia)

Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay (France)

Roman Monuments, Cathedral and Liebfrauen Church in Trier (Germany)

Ashanti Traditional Buildings (Ghana)

Churches and Convents of Goa (India)

Luang Prabang (Laos)

Island of Mozambique (Mozambique)

Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha (Nepal)

The Observer of HMG of Nepal assured the Committee that the conservation of the Maya Devi Temple would be undertaken following international conservation norms prescribed by the World Heritage Convention. He informed the Committee that HMG of Nepal would be grateful to receive expert suggestions from UNESCO concerning the draft conceptual design for the Maya Devi Temple conservation work, as such advice would be a guideline for elaborating the details of the design under preparation. The Observer assured the Committee that the designs for the works at Maya Devi Temple, once completed, would be transmitted to UNESCO, as assured by HMG of Nepal. The Observer informed the Committee that a technical cooperation request for the organization of an international technical meeting to discuss the proposed project for the conservation, restoration, and presentation of the Maya Devi Temple, would be submitted, following the request of the Bureau at its twenty-third session.

Archaeological Site of Chavin (Peru)

City of Cuzco (Peru)

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines)

The Observer of the Philippines assured the Committee that the long-term integrated development plan of the site, including a tourism development plan for the site, would be submitted in due course to UNESCO, preferably before 15 September 2000. To ensure that the authenticity and sustainable conservation of this fragile site is maintained, the Observer stated that his Government would avail of the generous offer of the Committee to provide technical expertise under the World Heritage Fund.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland)

The Sokkuram Grotto and Pulguksa Temple (Republic of Korea)

Alhambra, Generalife and Albaycin, Grenada (Spain)

Historic Areas of Istanbul (Turkey)

The Observer of Turkey thanked the Bureau for the sympathies expressed for the victims of the earthquake this year. The Observer stated that Istanbul is the only one among the nine World Heritage sites in Turkey located in the region impacted by the August 1999 earthquake. While the damage can only be measured over time, initial assessment has noted minor cracks in several historic monuments including the Hagia Sophia, and four museums. Severe cracks have, however, been noted in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the conservation laboratory which is housed in an historic monument, in two historic library buildings, and in more than ten tombs as well as in the city walls (ramparts). The Committee was informed that the impact report of the second earthquake (in November 1999) on World Heritage sites had not been received by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey from its regional offices. The Observer said that a detailed report would be submitted to the Committee through the Secretariat as soon as it is completed.

With regard to the urban conservation plan of the historic peninsula of Istanbul, the Observer informed the Committee that the 1/5000 scale plan has just been completed and submitted to the Greater Istanbul Council and upon approval, will be transmitted to the Regional Conservation Council for clearance. As soon as this is officially approved, the 1/1000 scale plan will be prepared for the Fatih and Eminonu municipalities. In addition, the 1/500 scale detailed conservation plan for the Zeyrek district prepared by Istanbul Technical University, which was co-funded by the World Heritage Fund is about to be completed, and will be submitted to the Fatih Municipality for approval. The Observer thanked the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for having mobilized international support for the conservation of Istanbul's urban heritage, and in this regard, expressed particular appreciation for the financial support extended by the European Commission and the Government of France.

The Observer concluded her intervention by saying that due to the need to finance earthquake rehabilitation activities, the budget of all government services had been severely cut, including that of the Ministry of Culture. While on-going joint conservation projects with the municipalities of Istanbul will be continued, no expansion in the area of work or additional activities will be possible for 2000.

The Delegate of Greece called upon the Committee to provide support to Turkey in the rehabilitation of the earthquake damage. In this regard, she recalled her statement at the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau, which pointed to the need to prioritize the object of international support in view of the vast conservation needs of the Istanbul World Heritage area. The Chairperson, in his personal capacity stated that this spirit of collaboration and solidarity expressed by Greece in favour of Turkey was a demonstration of the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.

The Bureau may wish to adopt the following text and transmit it to the Committee for noting :

“The Bureau congratulated the national and local authorities for the progress made in strengthening the legal and administrative structure for the protection of the Luang Prabang World Heritage Site, as well as in the elaboration of the conservation and development plan of the site. However, the Bureau expressed its concern over the delay in the official enactment by the National Assembly of the law for the protection of national cultural, natural and historic properties. Noting the important financial and technical assistance mobilized by UNESCO from bilateral and multilateral sources over the past four years, the Bureau requests the State Party to consider the ways and means to ensure the long-term sustainability of activities to ensure the conservation and maintenance of this World Heritage site.

Moreover, the Bureau expressed concern over the rapid tourism development and numerous infrastructural works at the site and requests the State Party with the support of the  Secretariat to ensure that these activities do not undermine the World Heritage value of the site. The Bureau requests the State Party to submit a written report to the Secretariat by 15 September 2000 for review by the Bureau at its twenty-fourth  extraordinary session addressing the concerns raised over the Asian Development Bank-funded riverbank consolidation works, KWF (German Co-operation) –funded drainage and sewage works, Electricite de Laos’ electricity transmission poles and the proposed bridge construction under funding consideration by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the results of the tourism study to be funded by the French Development Agency.  In the preparation of this report, the Bureau requests the international development co-operation agencies concerned and the World Heritage Centre to support the national and local authorities of Laos.”

Report year: 1999
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Date of Inscription: 1995
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(v)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 23COM (1999)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.