Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor (China,Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan) (C 1442)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2014
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/1442/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: UNESCO/Japan FiT project “Support for documentation standards and procedures of the Silk Roads World Heritage Serial and Transnational Nomination in Central Asia” (Phase I, USD 985,073 from 2011 to 2015); UNESCO/Japan FiT project “Support for Silk Roads World Heritage Sites in Central Asia” (Phase II, USD 697,796 from 2015 to 2018)
Previous monitoring missions
March 2016: ICOMOS Advisory mission to the Talgar component site in Kazakhstan
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
Threats identified at the time of inscription of the property:
- Need to implement the timetables for developing detailed management plans
- Need for strategies for conservation of component sites
- Need for visitor management strategies, including interpretation
- Comparative fragility of many sites
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016
On 27 November 2015, the State Party of China submitted a state of conservation report, an executive summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/documents. On 15 and 29 January 2016 respectively, the States Parties of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan submitted their state of conservation reports, which are also available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/documents.
An ICOMOS Advisory mission visited the component site of Talgar, Kazakhstan, from 21 to 23 March 2016. The mission report is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/documents.
The three State Party reports have addressed the requests of the Committee at the time of inscription as follows:
- Management Plans: At the time of inscription, management plans were in place for all 22 component sites in China and these are now being implemented. In Kazakhstan, a timetable for developing detailed management plans for all eight sites had been approved for implementation between 2014 and 2016. The State Party’s report has not addressed whether or not this project has been implemented, but states that official managers from each province will be appointed to take responsibility for the implementation of the management plans. In Kyrgyzstan, all three component sites had management plans for 2011-2015. No information has been provided as to whether these have been updated;
- Visitor Management and interpretation: In order to improve the interpretation of each component site and to better reflect their relationship with the overall corridor and the wider Silk Roads network, the following measures have been reported: In China, professional organizations were commissioned to design guidance on presentation and interpretation systems and all sites now have plans and some sites have improved their interpretation. The plans are incorporated into regional cultural tourism resource plans and multi-dimensional publicity platforms to enhance outreach efforts around the heritage site and encourage local communities to participate in site management and conservation work. In Kazakhstan, projects to install information boards in all sites and develop booklets for tourist routes will be undertaken between 2016 and 2017. In Kyrgyzstan, projects to improve interpretation will be taken forward and completed in 2016 at all three sites; leaflets, guidebooks and guides will be provided for the tourist routes;
- Studies of way stations and watch towers: For China, information was provided on a wide range of completed and ongoing studies and research projects undertaken on the thousands of beacon towers and other administrative stations that exist within the corridor, many of which are related to the role of the central dynasty in setting up a military-political organizational system after the opening up of Silk Roads. Once more, work has been undertaken and provided that a clearer understanding emerges of the quantity and significance of these structures, the State Party may consider adding several beacon towers as a minor boundary modification. For Kyrgyzstan, the State Party is proposing, as a minor extension, the inclusion of a large, 30-room caravanserai at Tash-Rabat, which was built in the XIth century and has links to Chuy valley cities. Two more caravanserais are being studied at Manakeldi and Koshoi-Korgon;
- Evidence for water management arrangements: The report from China presents a detailed analysis of the water management systems for the 22 component sites and concludes that where there are artificial water management systems, these are included in the boundaries of the component sites. The only exception is the site of Qocho City, where the remains of the irrigation system that is mapped in the Tang dynasty documents could still be discovered. In Kazakhstan, the only component site with ancient irrigation systems is the site at Karamergen. The State Party of Kazakhstan plans to undertake an archaeological study of the irrigation systems in the vicinity of the site in 2016 and, following its conclusion, propose an minor expansion of the boundaries to include relevant areas;
- Technical monitoring of remote sites: The State Party of China reported that new technologies have been used for daily monitoring work in the 22 component sites in China, in order to collect data. The ICOMOS International Conservation Centre in Xian (IICC-Xi’an) has an ongoing programme to explore new methods. The State Parties of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan both propose to involve the International Centre of Space Technology of Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST), under the aegis of UNESCO, with the aim of creating a database of remote sensing images and the means of using these at a local level;
- Proposed road across the Talgar component site: The ICOMOS Advisory mission to Talgar, Kazakhstan, considered that the proposed construction of a four-lane Birlik-Almalyk-Kazstroy-Ryskulov-Ak-Bulak road directly across the centre of the Talgar component site would have a highly negative and irreversible impact on the component site and on the overall Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the serial property. This project would be located in the immediate vicinity of the walls of the Talgar Citadel and would involve a concrete retaining wall (7 m high and 45 m long) and a bridge across the river (which has already been partly constructed), and concluded that the proposed road also contravenes the current national protection in place for the site and its buffer zone. Furthermore, no archaeological investigation was carried out before the land was allocated and the project was not approved by the Ministry of Culture and Sports. This project was not presented to the intergovernmental Coordination Committee for the Silk Roads serial transnational nomination, nor was it submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by ICOMOS. The mission recommended that a moratorium should immediately be put in place for the road project while alternative routes that avoid both the component site and its buffer zone are being explored, and that the bridge should be dismantled. Reconstruction of the archaeological site, without adequate evidence and residential construction in the buffer zone, were also observed by the mission, and these profoundly altered the setting of the Citadel. A series of measures to strengthen the management and protection of the property and raise awareness of World Heritage in general and the contribution of the Kazakhstan components to the serial property in particular are set out in detail in the mission report.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
Well-detailed reports have been provided by all three States Parties. The information they include has gone much beyond what was requested by the Committee and contains useful and positive updates on conservation, management and general monitoring activities. As the reports relate to a single serial property, it would have been preferable if this information had been collated and sent as one report.
Considerable progress has been made with the planning and the implementation of interpretation for the component sites in China, in order to strengthen the understanding of their relationship to the overall Changa’an-Tianshan Corridor and to the wider Silk Roads network. Of particular interest is the project in China, which aims to incorporate interpretative material into regional cultural tourism resource plans and educational programmes to enhance heritage outreach and encourage local communities to participate in site management and conservation.
The majority of the component sites now have management plans, but these still need to be completed for the eight component sites in Kazakhstan and updated for the three component sites in Kyrgyzstan.
Research is ongoing on the important smaller sites along the route that contribute so much to its use by travellers and reflect its sophisticated infrastructure. It is noted that minor boundary modifications might be brought forward by Kyrgyzstan for one or more caravanserais and from China for selected beacon watch towers.
Likewise, research has continued on the relationship between settlements and their environment with regard to the remains of elaborate water management systems. It is noted that a minor boundary modification might be brought forward by Kazakhstan for the irrigation system that supported Karamergen, and in time more evidence might emerge concerning the irrigation system at Qocho City, China.
The challenge of using technology to help monitor related sites has been addressed in China and is being proposed in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, in collaboration with the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST, China).
For the proposed road across the Talgar component site in Kazakhstan, it is recommended that the Committee express its concern that this major project progressed so far without any consultation with the Silk Roads Coordinating Committee or with the World Heritage Centre, and that it was planned directly cross the archaeological site without any archaeological investigations or Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA) being undertaken. If construction work had continued, it would have had an irreversible impact on the integrity and authenticity of the site and on the overall OUV of the serial property. It is also recommended that the Committee request the State Party of Kazakhstan to immediately put in place a moratorium on the road construction while options are being considered for alternative routes outside the boundaries of the component site and its buffer zone. Any such alternative would need to be presented with an HIA for evaluation before any formal commitments are made and/or any construction work undertaken. Furthermore, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party of Kazakhstan to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the Talgar component site and other sites of the serial property in Kazakhstan to consider the implementation of the recommendations of the ICOMOS Advisory mission and the progress accomplished with the development of management plans for all components sites in Kazakhstan.
Finally, information on the reconstruction projects in Talgar and for residential development in the buffer zone also needs to be presented to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. In the meantime, it is recommended that the Committee suggest that no further work be carried out in either of these areas.
Decision Adopted: 40 COM 7B.34
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decision 38 COM 8B.24, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
- Welcomes the detailed reports submitted by the three State Parties of China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan addressing the requests made by the Committee at the time of inscription of the property;
- Notes the on-going and essential work on interpretation to allow a better understanding of how the 22 component sites in China relate to the overall Changa’an-Tianshan corridor and to the wider Silk roads network, and urges the relevant States Parties to complete their ongoing interpretation projects;
- Commends the initiative of the State Party of China to use interpretive material to enhance heritage outreach efforts and encourage local communities to participate in site management and conservation work, and suggests that ways should be found to promote this work in other components of the property;
- Also notes that research on important smaller sites in Kyrgyzstan along the corridor is ongoing, and that minor boundary modifications might be brought forward, in due course, by the State Party of Kyrgyzstan for one or more caravanserais and from the State Party of China for selected beacon watch towers;
- Further notes the detailed work undertaken on the remains of elaborate water management systems, and that a minor boundary modification might be brought forward by the State Party of Kazakhstan for the irrigation system that supported Karamergen;
- Also commends the initiative of the State Party of China to explore new technologies for daily monitoring work in 22 component sites in China to improve data collection, as well as its collaboration with the ICOMOS International Conservation Centre in Xian (IICC-Xi’an) on an ongoing programme to explore new methods;
- Supports the proposed collaboration between the States Parties of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST, China) in relation to monitoring of remote sites;
- Regrets that no substantial progress has been made yet to create management plans for the eight component sites in Kazakhstan, and also urges the State Party to make progress with this work and submit the completed plans to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies by 1 December 2017, and requests the State Party of Kyrgyzstan to update its management plans and confirm that this has been achieved, by 1 December 2017;
- Expresses its extreme concern that proposals for a major road directly across the Talgar component site in Kazakhstan were planned and started being implemented without any details being provided either to the Silk Roads Coordinating Committee or to the World Heritage Centre, and in contravention with the national legislation;
- Taking into account a moratorium imposed by the State Party of Kazakhstan on the road and bridge construction, further urges the State Party of Kazakhstan to explore other routes outside the boundaries of the Talgar site and its buffer zone, and to dismantle the parts of the bridge that have already been constructed;
- Also expresses its concern that reconstruction work is ongoing at the Talgar site without any details having been submitted for review and seemingly without adequate evidence to justify the work, and that residential development has been built in the buffer zone, which has a highly adverse impact on the setting of the Talgar Citadel;
- Urges furthermore the State Party of Kazakhstan to halt the residential development in the buffer zone and to provide full details of the project to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Recommends the State Party of Kazakhstan to address the governance issue at the local level in order to ensure adequate planning, efficient management and decision-making;
- Urges moreover the State Party of Kazakhstan to address the recommendations of the ICOMOS Advisory mission, initiated by the State Party and carried out in March 2016, with regard to protection, management and awareness-raising and to take all necessary actions to ensure the safeguarding of the authenticity and integrity of the Talgar component site of the serial property;
- Also requests the State Party of Kazakhstan to invite, as soon as possible, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the Talgar component site and other sites of the serial property in Kazakhstan, to consider the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory mission and the progress accomplished with the development of management plans for all components sites in Kazakhstan;
- Further requests the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, a joint 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.