Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape

Lao People's Democratic Republic
Factors affecting the property in 2014*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Human resources
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • New infrastructure construction including new proposed road
  • Lack of coordinated management mechanism
  • Parking lot and visitor centre
  • Lack of sufficient professional staff
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2014

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

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2014
Requests approved: 1 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved : 13,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2014**

January/February 2011: UNESCO Mission; November 2011: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission; February 2012: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission; April 2013: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission, March 2014: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 24 January 2014 which notes progress on the following:

  • Route 14A: The road network plan has been reviewed and downsized to address potential direct, visual and traffic flow impacts from the construction of a large transnational thoroughfare. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport have approved the new design, which now limits the width of certain sectors, identifies new alignments to create a larger buffer zone, cancels the Ban Tan Khob bypass, provides a new alignment for the section near the North-west corner of the ancient city, and provides small 100m buffer zones. Other measures are also considered, such as a requirement to conduct archaeological explorations before work commences, colour treatment of railings, and a ban on trees along the edge of the road. The report also mentions that priority has been given to the upgrade of Route 14B as an alternative route.
  • Master Plan and Land Use Plan: A project to revise the overall Master Plan and to develop local Land Use Plans for the Vat Phou Champasak protected area was begun in 2012. A revised Master Plan (an annotated map) and several local zoning plans (annotated Google earth photographs) were included in the report, along with associated regulations for each area. Approval has been given, in principal, by the Provincial Government for these planning tools, subject to further consultation with different villages inside the property to identify precisely areas where potential construction is limited or forbidden. Architectural conservation recommendations will be developed at a later stage.
  • Water Towers: The delivery system in the north sector has been cancelled in consideration of the impacts to the landscape that would have been generated. Feasibility studies, including visual impact assessments, are planned to explore alternatives for the water supply system in this sector. The water system in the southern sector is currently being built. No information was provided on whether visual impact studies were undertaken prior to the construction of towers as recommended by the 2012 reactive monitoring mission.
  • Public use: The report indicates that in response to the recommendations of the February 2012 mission, the site management office, entrance gate and public toilets were repainted in grey and trees were planted around these constructions to minimise their impact. It also highlights measures undertaken to improve interpretation including publications, improvement of the website and awareness raising activities in regard to heritage management.

The report also includes information on work carried out by the World Heritage Site office to the coordination of internationally funded projects associated with the property’s tourism strategy, with the Master Plan and Road Network Plan.

  • Other issues: Concerns were raised during a visit to the property by UNESCO staff (Bangkok Office) in November 2013. These relate to a number of construction projects proposed, or already underway, in the inner monument zone (zone 4) of the property. The projects include a new bathroom block for visitors next to the eastern baray (underway), a new two-story pavilion next to be the western baray to be built in place of an existing wooden one-storey structure (plans already drawn up and budget allocated), a proposed new field office for the Korean project team on the immediate western perimeter of the monument zone, a new car park and visitor facility in the pavilion complex on the southern axis of the main temple (already constructed). On 12 November 2013, the World Heritage Centre asked the State Party to provide detailed information on these projects in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. At the time of preparing this document, no information has been received by the World Heritage Centre.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2014

The efforts made by the State Party towards implementing the previous Committee decisions are acknowledged. It is however not clear if work has been halted on the 14A road, as requested by the Committee.

With regard to the new aligned route 14 A, there is a commitment to limiting the impact of the road through revising its layout and width. However, only large scale plans of the proposed new layout have been provided, which do not give sufficient details. These plans seem to indicate at least four new entry and access points from the road to the site without any detailed explanation, this indicates that access planning is still unclear.

Although it is stated that archaeological surveys will be carried out before work commences, no details have been provided as to how these will be undertaken, or how the results will be used. Information should be provided to explain whether these surveys will take the form of rescue archaeology or, preferably, will be investigations that inform the final design of the road. The 2011 mission identified significant archaeological remains located in close proximity to parts of the road alignment that had already been affected. Also, there is no information on the implementation of Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), as requested by the Committee, which could inform ways of mitigating impact, particularly visual impact, in relation to the profound spiritual and visual alignments of the cultural landscape. 

The work undertaken at the local level to start defining no-construction zones in collaboration with local communities is noted.  The definition of such zones is needed as a crucial planning tool to control development.  It is not clear from the information provided how the development of these plans has been related to an understanding of the attributes of OUV for the overall cultural landscape, or to the Master Plan and the Management Plan of the property.

The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Vat Phou Temple complex, is inscribed for its remarkably well-preserved planned landscape that was shaped over a period of a thousand years to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, through a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some ten km. This remarkable vision should relate to a Master Plan, which should be the overall development plan for the property, and define how the attributes that carry that OUV will be protected and sustained.

A Master Plan (an annotated map) has been provided, but does not have sufficient detail to explain its relationship to the OUV of the property, nor its relationship to the Management Plan. Furthermore, the Master Plan, in its current form as a single map, is not the strategic planning tool that is needed to address the containment of potential development pressures related to the new road, potential challenges of new service infrastructure, new construction associated with tourism development, and how proposed regulations will be enforced. Such an expanded Master Plan is urgently needed to provide the necessary strategic planning tool for decision-making at the property.

This expanded Master Plan should be based on a landscape approach, taking into account the nature of the property as a cultural landscape and its attributes of OUV. This Master Plan should provide an overall strategic framework within which the Management Plan, the individual Zoning Plans, the Land Use Plan and any other strategic plans operate.

It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee express its regret that a number of construction projects are being proposed or undertaken without being notified, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. Although the many conservation and development initiatives funded by international co-operation are acknowledged, there is concern at the apparent lack of adequate co-ordination.

So far no retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property has been submitted to the Committee, and there is no mention of work progressing on this statement. Its development is of the utmost urgency in order to inform a vision for the development of the property, and provide a detailed framework for the Master Plan that could ensure that individual zoning plans respect the attributes of the overall cultural landscape.

It is recommended that the Committee express serious concern that, in spite of the extensive dialogue and assistance provided, there is still no clear road map as to how the road construction and its related developments should be planned and implemented in order to avoid potentially serious threats to the OUV of the property. It is also recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a reactive monitoring mission to the property to consider short, medium and long-term solutions to the problems outlined above.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2014
38 COM 7B.17
Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) (C 481)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling decisions 35COM 7B.72 and 36 COM 7B.64, adopted at its 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 36th (Saint Petersburg, 2012) sessions respectively;
  3. Takes note of the actions undertaken by the State Party towards addressing some of the requests made at previous sessions; in particular work to progress the redesign of the road, to formulate a Master Plan, and to define local land use zones;
  4. Notes that inadequately detailed plans have been provided for the proposed road alignment and urges the State Party to develop plans of the amended road alignment at a larger scale in order to clarify precisely the proposed details; and requests it to undertake archaeological surveys to assess the significance of buried archaeology along the proposed route, and Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA), to assess the impact of the new road alignment and the development of appropriate mitigation measures, and to submit to the World Heritage Centre for assessment by the Advisory Bodies copies of the road plans and HIAs;
  5. Also urges the State Party to suspend any work that may be ongoing on the new road until work on the expanded Master Plan, which includes a landscape approach to formulate a clear guidance for development requested below, is elaborated;
  6. Also notes the submission of a Master Plan and local land use plans by the State Party, but expresses concern that the Master Plan does not have sufficient detail and scope to act as the strategic planning framework to protect the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, or to address the large number of major planned projects and potential development threats;
  7. Further urges the State Party to develop an expanded Master Plan based on a landscape approach, taking into account the nature of the property as a cultural landscape, and its attributes of OUV, and to ensure that local land use zoning plans conform to the Master Plan; this Master Plan should provide an overall strategic landscape protection and development framework within which the Management Plan, the individual zoning plans, and any other strategic plans operate, and should ensure co-ordination with emerging wider territorial plans; and to submit copies to the World Heritage Centre for assessment by the Advisory Bodies before final approval;
  8. Regrets that a number of construction projects are being proposed or undertaken without notifying the Committee and urges furthermore the State Party to provide detailed information on these projects to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;
  9. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission to the property to consider the implementation of the above and in order to develop ways of mitigating potential threats to the OUV of the property;
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.
Draft Decision:   38 COM 7B.17

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling decisions 35COM 7B.72 and 36 COM 7B.64, adopted at its 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 36th (Saint Petersburg, 2012) sessions respectively;
  3. Takes note of the actions undertaken by the State Party towards addressing some of the requests made at previous sessions; in particular work to progress the redesign of the road, to formulate a Master Plan, and to define local land use zones;
  4. Notes that inadequately detailed plans have been provided for the proposed road alignment and urges the State Party to develop plans of the amended road alignment at a larger scale in order to clarify precisely the proposed details; and requests it to undertake archaeological surveys to assess the significance of buried archaeology along the proposed route, and Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA), to assess the impact of the new road alignment and the development of appropriate mitigation measures, and to submit to the World Heritage Centre for assessment by the Advisory Bodies copies of the road plans and HIAs;
  5. Also urges the State Party to suspend any work that may be ongoing on the new road until work on the expanded Master Plan, which includes a landscape approach to formulate a clear guidance for development requested below, is elaborated;
  6. Also notes the submission of a Master Plan and local land use plans by the State Party, but expresses concern that the Master Plan does not have sufficient detail and scope to act as the strategic planning framework to protect the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, or to address the large number of major planned projects and potential development threats;
  7. Further urges the State Party to develop an expanded Master Plan based on a landscape approach, taking into account the nature of the property as a cultural landscape, and its attributes of OUV, and to ensure that local land use zoning plans conform to the Master Plan; this Master Plan should provide an overall strategic landscape protection and development framework within which the Management Plan, the individual zoning plans, and any other strategic plans operate, and should ensure co-ordination with emerging wider territorial plans; and to submit copies to the World Heritage Centre for assessment by the Advisory Bodies before final approval;
  8. Regrets that a number of construction projects are being proposed or undertaken without notifying the Committee and urges furthermore the State Party to provide detailed information on these projects to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  9. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission to the property to consider the implementation of the above and in order to develop ways of mitigating potential threats to the OUV of the property;
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.
Report year: 2014
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Date of Inscription: 2001
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
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.


top