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Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa

China
Factors affecting the property in 2016*
  • 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 2016
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2016**

March 2001: ICOMOS Monitoring mission; April 2003: UNESCO/ICOMOS expert mission; May 2005: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2015: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission was carried out in April 2015 (the mission report is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707/documents). On 25 November 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report; a summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707/documents.

Progress made in addressing the concerns raised by the World Heritage Committee is mentioned as follows in both of these reports:

  • Measures have been implemented to mitigate the impact of the Shenli Mall on the visual qualities of the corridor between Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace, including the dismantling of the whole glasshouse on top of the mall and the renovation of the façade in traditional Tibetan architectural style;
  • Conservation and restoration projects are continuously being implemented and Cultural Heritage Conservation Plans (CHCP) are in the process of finalisation for the three component parts of the property. These are scheduled to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by mid-June 2016;
  • Management capacities have been strengthened through the creation of specialised units at the local level and through the allocation of required resources;
  • To address pressures arising from the increase in population, the demands for social development and the improvement of living conditions, as well as the increase in tourism, the State Party has listed other significant heritage areas and developed a series of regulatory measures to protect the inscribed component parts of the property, their buffer zones and their historic environment. These include the promulgation, in November 2015, of the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Protection on the Potala Palace Cultural Heritage and the Development of the Urban Comprehensive Plan of Lhasa. No timeframe for the completion of the Urban Plan has been provided;
  • Coordinated measures have been implemented for visitor management and to accommodate both tourism and religious practices.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2016

Overall, the property is in a good state of conservation and restoration projects are continuously being implemented to address the vulnerability of the fabric of the component parts. Prevention measures against fires, a high disaster risk, are in place, along with additional monitoring of the soil erosion and bedrock conditions of the main Palace; measures are in place to anticipate potential structural stability issues. The finalisation and approval of the CHCP will be crucial to have a precise roadmap to address long-term challenges, but also to identify an overarching conservation philosophy for the three component parts of the property.

The efforts made to protect traditional building techniques and ensure the involvement of artists and craftsmen from the region are particularly noteworthy and showcase the importance of promoting traditional knowledge systems to sustain the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The conservation plans should make provisions to ensure that these practices are continued and fully integrated into the management arrangements.

Regulatory measures and implemented projects such as the Old Town Protection Project are essential to improve the current condition in the buffer zones of both the component parts and their wider setting. Furthermore, strong enforcement of the regulatory measures is needed, given the rate and extent of development currently being experienced at Lhasa. Clear provisions are needed regarding acceptable heights, visual qualities, façades, and roofs, among other aspects. As recommended by the 2015 reactive monitoring mission, the Urban Master Plan should take these aspects into account and promote the spatial linkages and visual corridors between the component parts, the historical context and the wider setting that give Lhasa its unique character. Additionally, care should be exercised in maintaining the traditional urban structure and layout in the buffer zone. The Urban Plan can also be complemented with a Cultural Environment Management Plan to provide complementary measures. Development proposals should be subject to Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), and attention should be paid to historically important archaeological sites. A coordinated development permit system should be in place to ensure the adequate enforcement of existing regulations; these aspects need to be further defined in the Urban Plan for the property, which will be developed and adopted by all stakeholders and management entities to avoid situations such as the telegraph tower which impacts the visual characteristics and predominance of this Palace on the landscape.

Furthermore, the sacred context of Lhasa, which is still a significant pilgrimage area, needs to be thoroughly articulated within the management arrangements for the property. This may potentially entail compromises with the increased tourism demands, but this essential attribute of the property warrants particular attention.

Finally, in accordance with Decision 33 COM 8B.47 (Seville, 2009), the State Party was requested to resubmit a boundary modification proposal for the delineation of buffer zones for the three components of the property, in order to align them with the boundaries defined at the time of inscription. The State Party was also requested to provide scaled maps and details of height restrictions for the three buffer zones, taking into account the protected perspectives. On 28 March 2014, the State Party confirmed that they would define the three buffer zone boundaries as inscribed in 1994, 2000 and 2001 respectively. Scaled maps need to be provided through the formal boundary clarification process, together with details of regulations for height restrictions.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2016
40 COM 7B.31
Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (China) (C 707ter)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 33 COM 8B.47, 35 COM 7B.65 and 38 COM 7B.10, adopted at its 33rd (Seville, 2009), 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 38th (Doha, 2014) sessions respectively,
  3. Notes with satisfaction the measures taken to mitigate the impact of the Shenli Mall on the visual qualities of the corridor between Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace, including the dismantling of whole glasshouse on top of the mall and the renovation of the façade in traditional Tibetan architectural style;
  4. Noting the conservation actions currently being implemented at the property, commends the State Party for the efforts made to integrate traditional knowledge systems and craftsmanship in conservation works and encourages the formal integration of this approach in conservation and management arrangements for the property;
  5. Also notes that Cultural Heritage Conservation Plans (CHCP) for the three component parts of the property and the Urban Master Plan for Lhasa are being developed and reiterates its request that copies of these documents, with a synthesis in English, be submitted to the World Heritage Centre prior to their finalization and approval, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Takes note of the outcomes of the April 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission to the property and urges the State Party to take into account and implement the following recommendations:
    1. Include provisions in the CHCP for the Potala Palace to continue the monitoring of soil erosion and bedrock conditions and to identify any measures required to anticipate potential structural stability issues,
    2. Include provisions in the Urban Master Plan to maintain the spatial linkages and visual corridors between the component parts of the property, their historical context and wider setting, and to promote and maintain the traditional urban structure and layout of the buffer zones. This should include, but should not be limited to, regulations regarding acceptable heights, visual qualities, façades and roofs,
    3. Include mechanisms in the Urban Master Plan for the approval of development projects, including requirements for Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), archaeological excavations (where relevant) and the creation of a coordinated permit system,
    4. Ensure that the sacred character and pilgrimage use of Lhasa is fully articulated with the management arrangements for the property,
    5. If necessary, develop a Cultural Environment Management Plan to provide complementary measures for the Urban Master Plan,
    6. Explore alternative locations for the telegraph tower that currently impacts the visual qualities and predominance of the Potala Palace in the landscape;
  7. Requests the State Party to provide, following the procedure for boundary clarifications outlined in the Operational Guidelines, scaled maps of the buffer zones for the three component parts of the property, in line with the boundaries approved at the time of inscription, along with details of height restrictions within the buffer zones, as requested by Decision 33 COM 8B.47;
  8. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, 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 42nd session in 2018.
Draft Decision: 40 COM 7B.31

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 33 COM 8B.47, 35 COM 7B.65 and 38 COM 7B.10, adopted at its 33rd (Seville, 2009), 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 38th (Doha, 2014) sessions respectively,
  3. Notes with satisfaction the measures taken to mitigate the impact of the Shenli Mall on the visual qualities of the corridor between Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace, including the dismantling of whole glasshouse on top of the mall and the renovation of the façade in traditional Tibetan architectural style;
  4. Noting the conservation actions currently being implemented at the property, commends the State Party for the efforts made to integrate traditional knowledge systems and craftsmanship in conservation works and encourages the formal integration of this approach in conservation and management arrangements for the property;
  5. Also notes that Cultural Heritage Conservation Plans (CHCP) for the three component parts of the property and the Urban Master Plan for Lhasa are being developed and reiterates its request that copies of these documents, with a synthesis in English, be submitted to the World Heritage Centre prior to their finalization and approval, for review by the Advisory Bodies ;
  6. Takes note of the outcomes of the April 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission to the property and urges the State Party to take into account and implement the following recommendations:
    1. Include provisions in the CHCP for the Potala Palace to continue the monitoring of soil erosion and bedrock conditions and to identify any measures required to anticipate potential structural stability issues,
    2. Include provisions in the Urban Master Plan to maintain the spatial linkages and visual corridors between the component parts of the property, their historical context and wider setting, and to promote and maintain the traditional urban structure and layout of the buffer zones. This should include, but should not be limited to, regulations regarding acceptable heights, visual qualities, façades and roofs,
    3. Include mechanisms in the Urban Master Plan for the approval of development projects, including requirements for Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), archaeological excavations (where relevant) and the creation of a coordinated permit system,
    4. Ensure that the sacred character and pilgrimage use of Lhasa is fully articulated with the management arrangements for the property,
    5. If necessary, develop a Cultural Environment Management Plan to provide complementary measures for the Urban Master Plan,
    6. Explore alternative locations for the telegraph tower that currently impacts the visual qualities and predominance of the Potala Palace in the landscape;
  7. Requests the State Party to provide, following the procedure for boundary clarifications outlined in the Operational Guidelines, scaled maps of the buffer zones for the three component parts of the property, in line with the boundaries approved at the time of inscription, along with details of height restrictions within the buffer zones, as requested by Decision 33 COM 8B.47;
  8. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, 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 42nd session in 2018.
Report year: 2016
China
Date of Inscription: 1994
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 40COM (2016)
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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