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
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/
Requests approved: 0
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
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; February 2015: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission.
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
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015
On 24 February 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/documents/. The report provides information as follows:
- Route 14A: Work on the road construction was suspended and the proposed new road alignment will be subject to an archaeological survey prior to the development of detailed plans.
- Master Plan and Land Use Plans: As reported in 2014, the 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. The inclusion of the cultural landscape in the Master plan was debated at the Korean National University of Cultural Heritage in Buyeo, Republic of Korea, during a workshop held end of 2014. Co-ordination of the Pakse Master Plan with the various district master plans was discussed at a meeting with the Ministry of Transportation in 2014, and the subject of the ADB-backed international working group. Efforts have been made to ensure the Master Plan of Vat Phou Champasak covers neighbouring areas to allow for a comprehensive strategic vision for territorial development. Zoning plans were developed in accordance with the Master Plan.
- Urban Planning: The new urban planning document was signed in 2014 providing an initial emergency regulatory framework for heritage protection.
- Construction projects: No new constructions were completed since the last state of conservation reporting. The official gallery was reconstructed due to imminent collapse.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
The joint World Heritage/ICOMOS/ICRROM Reactive Monitoring mission to Vat Phou was undertaken from 17 to 21 February 2015. The mission reviewed the Route A14 construction and the amended road proposal, verified the information on archaeological surveys to assess the significance of archaeology along the route, as well as the status of Heritage Impact Assessments. Progress with the development of the Master Plan and land use plans, as well as the effectiveness of the management plan and management system were also reviewed. A principal conclusion reached by the mission is that the level of threats to the property does not currently warrant the property being considered for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Nevertheless, a number of serious issues exist and need to be studied and solutions urgently found in order to effectively protect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), without disadvantaging the local community.
Route A14 had already been partly completed prior to its suspension in 2014. Traffic is currently being diverted through Champassak town and over the remains of the Ancient City, while some traffic continues to pass over the suspended section. The mission recommended that an effective and efficient road system should be formulated and fully implemented before the unbuilt section of Route 14A is completed. Furthermore, the mission recommended that:
- Route 14A will be for light vehicles only and limited to visitors to Zone 4 and local residents,
- Route 14B will be the international connection for heavy vehicles between southern Lao PDR, Cambodia and Thailand,
- Tourist coaches will park in designated areas at the northern and southern perimeter of the property,
- The district road through Champasak town and the Ancient City will be strictly limited to light traffic generated by the villagers themselves The need for the proposed additional local roads will be analysed and justified before construction,
- Route 14A should be completed according to the original alignment 24 metres from the north-west corner of the fourth enclosure wall of the Ancient City, rather than according to the proposed realignment 100 metres from the corner.
The mission noted that a number of new constructions have been undertaken in the monumental complex, without notification being given in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and despite previous Committee decisions. These contribute to the haphazard densification of the main monumental complex. Therefore, it is vital that the State Party develops a control system to enforce planning laws and regulations. The Management Plan should be reviewed and updated and to reflect the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV). Both of these should ensure that no new construction should be permitted along the section from Km 29 to Km 34, which is adjacent to the Ancient City and has high archaeological sensitivity. Consideration should be given to removing any constructions that have occurred along Route 14A since 2010, in order to reinforce the authority of the control system.
The mission also noted that the Master Plan and Local Land Use Plans were adopted in November 2014, awaiting the presidential approval. The plans focus mainly on the area of Champasak Town and were prepared in a consultative process with local stakeholders and authorities. However, there is an urgent need to improve the Master Plan to address long-term planning issues and to effectively control the transformation of the cultural landscape. A detailed statement of the Master Plan’s overall vision should be prepared, that makes clear how the various local plans relate to each other.
The mission also recommended further enhancement and strengthening of inter-agency cooperation, including between provincial and national level authorities, should be put in place in order to continue to address the conservation and management issues at the property by the Lao PDR National Committee for World Heritage. In particular, the various committees concerned with the World Heritage property should be convened regularly and their decision-making processes reinforced through provision of greater technical support.
Finally, the mission noted the need for a clearer definition and understanding of the physical and other attributes of the property that convey its OUV, particularly in relation to the wider landscape and Champasak town. Such consideration should involve meaningful consultation with the local community.
Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.68
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.17, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
- Takes note of the findings and recommendations of the joint World Heritage/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property;
- Urges the State Party to formulate and implement an effective and efficient road system before the unmade section of Route 14A is completed and opened to traffic, and requests the State Party to:
- Limit the use of 14A to light vehicles, residents and visitors only; with Route 14B being used as the international connection for heavy vehicles between southern Lao PDR, Cambodia and Thailand,
- Arrange for tourist coaches to park in designated areas at the northern and southern perimeters of the property,
- Limit the use of the district road through Champasak town and the Ancient City to light traffic generated by the villagers themselves,
- Analyze and justify the need for proposed additional local roads,
- Complete Route 14A according to the original alignment 24 metres from the north-west corner of the fourth enclosure wall of the Ancient City, rather than according to the proposed realignment 100 metres from the corner;
- Regrets that in spite of previous recommendations a number of new constructions have been undertaken in the monumental complex, without overall site planning, thus contributing to the haphazard densification of the main monumental complex;
- Reiterates its requests to the State Party to develop, as a matter of urgency, a Master Plan based on landscape approach, taking into consideration the nature of the property as a cultural landscape and the buried archaeology, and the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and to
- Ensure that the local land use zoning plans conform to the Master Plan,
- Provide within the Master Plan an overall strategic landscape protection and development framework addressing long-term planning issues,
- Ensure co-ordination with emerging wider territorial plans,
- Submit copies of the Master Plan to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to final approval;
- Also urges the State Party ensure the provisions of the management plan are put in place and reflect the OUV of the property, as well as to render it more practical and operational by including, among other things, an improved monitoring framework;
- Notes the need for a clearer definition and understanding of the physical and other attributes of the property that convey its OUV, particularly in relation to the wider cultural landscape and Champasak town. Such consideration should involve meaningful consultation with the local community;
- Recommends to the State Party to further enhance and strengthen inter-agency cooperation, including between provincial and national level authorities, in order to continue to address the conservation and management issues at the property by the Lao PDR National Committee for World Heritage and to ensure that the various committees concerned with the World Heritage property should be convened regularly and their decision-making processes reinforced through provision of greater technical support;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, and the remaining recommendations of the reactive monitoring mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.