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Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa

China
Factors affecting the property in 2014*
  • Commercial development
  • Deliberate destruction of heritage
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Uncontrolled urban development and expansion of tourism-related facilities in and adjacent to the boundary of the property;
  • Negative impact of the rehabilitation projects on the protection of the traditional urban tissue of the historic centre. 
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2014
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2014**

March 2001: ICOMOS monitoring mission; April 2003: UNESCO/ICOMOS expert mission; May 2005: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission. 

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

 On 26 January 2014, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report; an executive summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707/documents. It responds to concerns expressed in the letters of 28 May and 21 October 2013 from the World Heritage Centre to the State Party concerning reports of inappropriate modernization projects and wide scale demolition of historic buildings in the old city. The report states that:

  • Experts from professional cultural and urban planning institutions have conducted an evaluation of the property and surrounding areas in response to the concerns.
  • The three elements of the property – Potala Palace, Norbulingka and Jokhang Temple enjoy protection at the highest level. The government also protects the buffer zones and significant numbers of individual historic buildings. There has been a recent investment of RMB 470 million (USD 77.69 million) in conservation, management and infrastructure projects in the property.
  • In July 2013, Lhasa city adopted the Regulation on Preservation of the Old Town of Lhasa (Appendix 2 of the Report), and has launched the Old Town Protection Project to address problems of: infrastructure; excessive commercialization with uncontrolled spread of street vendors; inappropriate post-1950s construction; inadequate tourist facility provision. The project is revising conservation plans for the Barkhor Area and Jokhang Temple.
  • Lhasa city engages with stakeholders through questionnaires, meetings and participatory projects.
  • In order to provide alternative venues for the 3031 street vendors, as well as improved visitor facilities, the Barkhor Mall is being constructed, and the Shenli Mall is planned; they lie outside the Barkhor Historic Area and at the edge of the buffer zone of the Jokhang Temple. The two Malls have a height of 16 and 14 metres respectively, exceeding the height control requirement of 12m in the Jokhang Temple buffer zone. The Shenli Mall is planned in a modern style, while the Barkhor Mall is traditional Tibetan architecture. It is reported that an assessment concluded that the new structures do have an impact to some extent on the surrounding historic area, but the impact on the overall landscape at the Jokhang Temple and the visual corridor between Potala Palace, Norbulingka and Jokhang Temple is slight. It is considered that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property including authenticity and integrity is unaffected.
  • The State Party intends to strengthen protection by completing and implementing the Conservation Master Plan and revising the existing conservation plans for Barkhor Area in Lhasa and Jokhang Temple.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2014

No details of the construction of the two large shopping malls appear to have been provided to the World Heritage Centre for comment before construction commenced, in non-compliance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.  The State of conservation report does not supply plans, photographs or details of the scale of the two commercial malls other than acknowledging that they are 16 and 14 meters high, in contravention of the State Party’s own regulation.  Without any supplementary information it is impossible to assess the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property.  The report does not mention the underground car park beneath the Mall which, according to a letter to the Word Heritage Centre (reference http://highpeakspureearth.com/2013/ourlhasaisonthevergeofdestructionpleasesavelhasabywoeser/), required a drainage scheme which could have structural and water supply implications for the property; the apparent drying up of the Kyichu river gives cause for concern.  The demolition of historic buildings also referred to are not mentioned in the report; the only demolition described is the demolition of modern and inappropriate office buildings. Road improvement schemes, undertaken apparently without any prior archaeological work (also illustrated in the reference) are also not described.

The apparent scale and nature of the new developments, including tourist facilities and new commercial infrastructure, do give cause for concern but cannot be verified without a reactive monitoring mission.  It is recommended that the Committee consider requesting the State Party to invite a reactive monitoring mission to the property to enable a formal assessment of the new developments and their potential impact on the OUV.  The mission could also review the management system for the property, progress with the revision of the Conservation Master Plan and conservation plans for the three component parts of the property, and ways to harmonize these with the Lhasa Urban Development Plan as per Committee Decision 35 COM 7B.65.

 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2014
38 COM 7B.10
Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (China) (C 707ter)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Recalling Decisions 35 COM 7B.65 and 37 COM 7B.103 adopted at its 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) sessions respectively,
  2. Notes with concern the information provided by the State Party concerning reports of development issues,
  3. Regrets that the State Party has not sent to the World Heritage Centre details of the two new commercial shopping malls, ancillary car parking and drainage and road works in advance of commencement of development as requested in Decision 37 COM 7B.103 and in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;
  4. Notes the State Party’s assessment of the impact of the developments undertaken in response to the World Heritage Centre’s requests for information and also regrets that this assessment seems only to have been undertaken retrospectively with no evidence of Heritage Impact Assessments having been undertaken;
  5. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission to the property to consider the new development, the demolition of structures and new road and drainage work, in order to assess their impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property; and also to review the management system for the property, progress with the revision of the Conservation Master Plan and conservation plans for the three component parts of the property, and ways to harmonise these with the Lhasa Urban Development Plan as per Decision 35 COM 7B.65;
  6. Notes with appreciation the copy of the Regulation on Preservation of the Old Town of Lhasa provided by the State Party (Appendix 2 in the State of conservation report), but also requests that copies of the revised Conservation Master Plan and Conservation Plans for the three component parts, with syntheses in English, be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, before their finalisation, as requested by Decision 35 COM 7B.65;
  7. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2015, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
Draft Decision:   38 COM 7B.10

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Recalling Decisions 35 COM 7B.65 and 37 COM 7B.103 adopted at its 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) sessions respectively,

2.  Notes with concern the information provided by the State Party concerning reports of development issues,

3.  Regrets that the State Party has not sent to the World Heritage Centre details of the two new commercial shopping malls, ancillary car parking and drainage and road works in advance of commencement of development as requested in Decision 37 COM 7B.103 and in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

4.  Notes the State Party’s assessment of the impact of the developments undertaken in response to the World Heritage Centre’s requests for information and also regrets that this assessment seems only to have been undertaken retrospectively with no evidence of Heritage Impact Assessments having been undertaken;

5.  Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the property to consider the new development, the demolition of structures and new road and drainage work, in order to assess their impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property; and also to review the management system for the property, progress with the revision of the Conservation Master Plan and conservation plans for the three component parts of the property, and ways to harmonise these with the Lhasa Urban Development Plan as per Decision 35 COM 7B.65;

6.  Notes with appreciation the copy of the Regulation on Preservation of the Old Town of Lhasa provided by the State Party (Appendix 2 in the State of conservation report), but also requests that copies of the revised Conservation Master Plan and Conservation Plans for the three component parts, with syntheses in English, be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, before their finalisation, as requested by Decision 35 COM 7B.65;

7.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.

Report year: 2014
China
Date of Inscription: 1994
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2014) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 38COM (2014)
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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