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Maya Site of Copan

Honduras
Factors affecting the property in 2003*
  • Air transport infrastructure
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Conservation of stone and stuccos in need for special attention (issue resolved)
  • Need to redefine the boundaries of the Park (issue resolved)
  • Heavy rains and storms have caused serious flooding in 1998 (issue resolved)

 

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2003
Requests approved: 11 (from 1979-1999)
Total amount approved : 226,513 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2003

At the request of the State Party, a joint UNESCO - ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the site was undertaken from 18 to 24 February 2003 with the objective of assisting the authorities of Honduras in studying the impact of the existing airstrip and the potential sites for building an airport closer to the World Heritage site in order to provide an objective analysis to mediate the conflictive situations and positions that existed in this regard. The mission stated that since 11 September 2001, there is a reported increase of 18% in tourism in Honduras. It is foreseen that an increase of 3.5% in air passengers will occur during the years 2002-2005.

The existing airport "La Estanzuela" is located in the vicinity of the small city of Copán Ruinas and the archaeological site. Copán Ruinas has approximately 30,000 inhabitants, with an average annual growth of 4%. From an overall tourism flow of 531,491 visitors in 2002 for Honduras, it is assumed that the air traffic demand regarding Copán Ruinas is 50,000 passengers today, doubling to 100,000 within the next 10 years. The Ministry of Culture, Arts and Sports designated a Technical Archaeological Commission to evaluate the proposed site for an extended airstrip at La Estanzuela. In their report, it was indicated that there were no major archaeological obstacles to undertake infrastructure works and approve the project considering that the location corresponds to Zone III of the Management Plan, meaning that infrastructure can be built and rescue archaeology would be undertaken should remains be found.

However, staff from INAH also produced three evaluations at the site and they placed a different level of significance on the existing archaeological remains, which could be indirectly affected by operating the airstrip. Their objection to an extended airstrip at La Estanzuela also stems from considering that the integrity of Copán could be compromised and, most importantly, the fact that in case of emergency the only clear area in the vicinity for aircraft to land would be the archaeological site. The Civil Aviation Entity in Honduras has undertaken several evaluations at La Estanzuela site and they recommended limitations for aircraft operation and specific aircraft to land there, particularly with regard to safety, because of existing aeronautical limitations and conditions. They have also designed an approach and take-off route so that no airplanes would fly directly over the site if they were to use the airstrip. However, they indicated that in case of an emergency, the only clear space where aircraft could land would be at the Main Plaza in the Archaeological site of Copán.

Taking various aspects into consideration, such as pollution, noise, topography of the location, setting of the existing airstrip and presence of archaeological remains and human settlements, the mission's conclusions were that the current airstrip at La Estanzuela is not equipped to facilitate commercial aircraft and that there is no possibility that the site, after extension, can comply with the minimum required international safety standards. The statistical possibilities of an accident occurring at the site are very high because of its conditions; if no accident has occurred to date it has been largely due to good weather conditions and the limited number of aircraft that have landed here. It recommends that even if there is no airport built in the future, a restricted flying zone should be established over the Archaeological Park of Copán, with no low-altitude flights over this area. After examining three alternatives, being Llano Grande (4 km from Copán Ruins), Rio Amarillo (17 km from Copán Ruins) and La Entrada (located 70 km from Copán Ruins), it further recommends that the most suitable site would be La Entrada, despite its relative distance, as it provides the most secure site for a commercial airport, with possibilities for future expansion and local economic and tourism development, and absence of archaeological remains. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2003
27 COM 7B.93
Maya Site of Copan (Honduras)

The World Heritage Committee [56],

1. Takes note of the February 2003 joint UNESCO-ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission's findings and recommendations;

2. Expresses its appreciation to the State Party for inviting the joint UNESCO-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to examine the impact of proposed development of the airstrip at the archaeological property of Copán and possible alternatives;

3. Invites the State Party to discard plans for extension of the airstrip at Copán Ruins and follow the recommendations made by the mission;

4. Requests that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2004 a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property with particular reference to its decision concerning the development of a commercial airport to operate at the archaeological property of Copán in order that the World Heritage Committee can examine the state of conservation of the property at its 28th session in 2004.

[56] Decision adopted without discussion.

Draft Decision: 27 COM 7 (b) 93

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Takes note of the February 2003 joint UNESCO-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission findings and recommendations,

2. Expresses its appreciation to the State Party for inviting the joint UNESCO-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to examine the impact of proposed development of the airstrip at the archaeological site of Copán and possible alternatives,

3. Invites the State Party to discard plans for extension of the airstrip at Copán Ruins and follow the recommendations made by the mission,

4. Requests that the State Party submit, by 1 February 2004, for review  at its 28th session, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property and in particular with regard to its decision concerning the development of a commercial airport to operate the Archaeological site of Copán. 

Report year: 2003
Honduras
Date of Inscription: 1980
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 27COM (2003)
Exports

* : 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.


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