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Maya Site of Copan

Honduras
Factors affecting the property in 2015*
  • Air transport infrastructure
  • High impact research / monitoring activities
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Legal framework
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Deterioration of construction materials due to natural decay phenomena

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • The foreseen construction of an airport in the vicinity of the World Heritage property in a national protected area
  • Deterioration of construction materials due to natural decay phenomena
  • Risk of structural failure of archaeological complexes resulting from tunnels excavated  for archaeological purposes
  • Deterioration derived from uncontrolled visitation and potential to exceed carrying capacity at specific time periods
  • Legal issues concerning the ownership of the land in the property and its buffer zone and the delimitation of the property and its buffer zone
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 11 (from 1979-1999)
Total amount approved : 226,513 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 1 February 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report and a revised version on 26 February 2015, which is accessible at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/129/documents/. In September 2014, it had submitted a report on the Management Plan, Carrying Capacity Study as well as on progress in the final design of the protective structure of the Hieroglyphic Stairway. Regarding the aerodrome in the Rio Amarillo area, the report indicates that it is under construction and will be opened in March 2015. The State Party reports that works are executed according to the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee and the 2011 Advisory mission and that the length of the runway is 1200 meters, with an additional 200 meters for security reasons (Annex 7).  A Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) was finalized in June 2014 by the Copan Association. Appropriate inspection missions, archaeological research and rescue measures have been undertaken that are documented and annexed to the report.

The cartographic information for the buffer zone is included on pages 62-63 of the Management Plan.

The Management Plan for the period 2014-2020 was prepared on the basis of a series of meetings of technical and scientific staff of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), associated researchers, staff of other national institutions such as the Permanent Committee of Contingencies (COPECO), and the Forest Conservation Institute (ICF), among others. Participation of institutions of civil society and communities was less than expected but landowners agreed to resume negotiations about land transfer to the government. The Copan Archaeological Park Contingency Plan is incorporated in the Management Plan and addresses natural disasters such as floods, fire and earthquakes and provides preventive as well as corrective measures. The COPECO is the national institution responsible for its implementation in collaboration with IHAH.

The protective cover of the Hieroglyphic Stairway, whose designs were submitted to the World Heritage Centre in September 2014, is still under development and models with different fabric are being prepared for testing. A new laboratory has been built for the conservation of sculpture and specific monitoring projects of stucco sculptures in the tunnels will be undertaken.

Overall, the State Party concludes that the conditions of the property are optimal since there have not been recent natural hazards and the number of national and international visitors has been significantly low since 2009.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

The Rio Amarillo airport was inaugurated on 10 March 2015. Works were carried out taking into consideration the specific recommendations provided by the 2011 Reactive Monitoring mission and the runway limited to 1200 meters as requested by the World Heritage Committee decision with additional 200 meters for security reasons. The Cultural HIA that was undertaken by the Copan Association with due consideration to the ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs for World Heritage cultural properties, provides useful observations, recommendations and conclusions that should seriously be considered by the relevant institutions. The efforts made by the State Party to rescue and relocate archaeological remains around the aerodrome during 2013-2014 should be noted. The proposed definition of the buffer zone for the property is noted. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit a Minor Boundary Modification, in conformity with the established procedures in paragraphs 163-165 of the Operational Guidelines.

ICOMOS undertook a Technical Review of the Management Plan and the Carrying Capacity Study for Copan transmitted to the State Party on 19 March 2015 that concluded that there is a need for improvement particularly in the areas of Carrying Capacity and visitor management, disaster preparedness and community participation. The following recommendations are made to this effect:

  • R1 – Create a public-private Task Force coordinated by IHAH to redesign the management plan (with objectives, activities, outcomes, indicators, budget, and the stakeholders involved) and an associated financial resources strategy.
  • R2 – Include a coordination strategy in the action plan between the Maya Site of Copan with other associated archaeological sites in the area, such as Río Amarillo/La Castellona and/or Piedras Negras located near the aerodrome. It would be necessary to develop a strategy to create commercial points in order to control the informal activity around the aerodrome and the archaeological sites of Rio Amarillo and Copan.
  • R3 – Promote networking with other Maya sites included in the World Heritage List to share experiences and the best practices in management plans and their implementation.
  • R4 – Establish a methodological framework for carrying capacity studies in protected archaeological sites linked to their management plans.
  • R5 – Promote a real sustainable tourism initiative according to the recommendations of the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme and in joint action with the Instituto Hondureño de Turismo (IHT).
  • R6 – Establish new trails according to the needs of the tourism sector and be consistent with the arrival of groups with limited time (such as cruise tourists and half-day trips by plane). It also would be important to promote an interpretive trail integrating environment and archaeology.
  • R7 – Consider a pre-sale electronic ticket payment system that allows not only a forecast of visitors but also allows their distribution within a schedule and the proposal of other sites that could contribute to a territorial distribution of visitors.
  • R8 – Confirm in the management plan the prohibition for airlines and charter flights to fly over the archaeological site.
  • R9 - Redesign the management plan (including communication) so that it contributes to improving the quality of life of Copan citizens, generating opportunities and inclusiveness, and promote community involvement and sustainable tourism development. Actions regarding the informal selling of handicrafts, community-based tourism initiatives and an active participation of all stakeholders are urgently needed.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7B.91
Maya Site of Copan (Honduras) (C 129)
The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.99 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Notes that the runway of the Rio Amarillo airport will be limited to 1200 meters long, as requested by the World Heritage Committee and the recommendations of the 2011 Reactive Monitoring mission, and recognizes the efforts made by the State Party to rescue and relocate archaeological remains located in the surroundings of Rio Amarillo;
  4. Welcomes the Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) that was undertaken by the Copan Association for the airport area and invites relevant institutions to consider its observations, recommendations and conclusions;
  5. Also notes the cartographic information provided by the State Party and requests the State Party to finalize the boundary clarification within the framework of the Retrospective Inventory process and to submit a final proposal for a buffer zone according to paragraphs 163-165 of the Operational Guidelines concerning Minor Boundary Modification;
  6. Appreciates the efforts of the State Party to prepare the Management Plan and Carrying Capacity Study for the World Heritage property and also invites the State Party to undertake its revision with due consideration of the ICOMOS recommendations particularly regarding the action plan and financing strategy, tourism projections and visitor management and the participation of communities;
  7. Also requests the State Party to keep it informed of further developments in the design and testing results of the protective structure of the Hieroglyphic Stairway;
  8. Further 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, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.
Draft Decision: 39 COM 7B.91

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.99 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Notes that the runway of the Rio Amarillo airport will be limited to 1200 meters long, as requested by the World Heritage Committee and the recommendations of the 2011 Reactive Monitoring mission, and recognizes the efforts made by the State Party to rescue and relocate archaeological remains located in the surroundings of Rio Amarillo;
  4. Welcomes the Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) that was undertaken by the Copan Association for the airport area and invites relevant institutions to consider its observations, recommendations and conclusions;
  5. Also notes the cartographic information provided by the State Party and requests the State Party to finalize the boundary clarification within the framework of the Retrospective Inventory process and to submit a final proposal for a buffer zone according to paragraphs 163-165 of the Operational Guidelines concerning Minor Boundary Modification;
  6. Appreciates the efforts of the State Party to prepare the Management Plan and Carrying Capacity Study for the World Heritage property and also invites the State Party to undertake its revision with due consideration of the ICOMOS recommendations particularly regarding the action plan and financing strategy, tourism projections and visitor management and the participation of communities;
  7. Also requests the State Party to keep it informed of further developments in the design and testing results of the protective structure of the Hieroglyphic Stairway;
  8. Further 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, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.
Report year: 2015
Honduras
Date of Inscription: 1980
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 39COM (2015)
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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