1.         Kathmandu Valley (Nepal) (C 121bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (iii)(iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2003-2007

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1979-2015)
Total amount approved: USD 417,619
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 10 million (1979-2001) from the International Safeguarding Campaign; USD 45,000 (2005) and USD 20,000 (2011) from Netherlands Funds-in-Trust. Several UNESCO extra-budgetary projects have been approved in late 2015 - early 2016 for the post-earthquake emergency safeguarding, conservation and rehabilitation process of the Kathmandu Valley

Previous monitoring missions

February 2003: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; April 2007: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; March 2011: UNESCO international expert advisory mission; November 2011: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; October-November 2015: joint World Heritage Centre /ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 1 February 2016, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/documents/. In October/November 2015, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property was undertaken, resulting in a detailed set of recommendations. The mission report is also available at the link above.

All seven monument zones (the three cities of Kathmandu (Hanuman Dhoka), Patan and Bhaktapur, and the religious ensembles of Swayambhu, Bauddhanath, Pashupati and Changu Narayan) have suffered greatly from the earthquakes of April-May 2015. The three urban zones have all been badly impacted. The Kathmandu Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square Monument Zone lost several large temples, but eleven major monuments have been protected from further damage. In the Patan Durbar Monument Zone, conservation works have included the protection and repair of the Krishna and Degutalezu Temples. The palaces at Patan and Bhaktapur suffered less extensive damage. The structure and layout of the urban precincts, including their durbar squares, remain intact. The stepped masonry bases of collapsed structures remain. Where structures have collapsed, many carved and ornamented elements have been salvaged for possible reinstatement.

Within the four religious monument zones, the principal temples and stupas generally remain standing. Changu Narayan and Swayambhu were affected by the collapse of smaller temples and surrounding structures. At Pashutpati, some outer temples were damaged. The top section of the Boudhanath stupa has been severely damaged. Many traditional houses and other vernacular buildings have also suffered damage and are now vulnerable. Despite the physical impacts, daily rituals and festivals have continued. Thus, the social and spiritual values associated with the monument zones have been maintained.

Many traditional houses and other vernacular buildings located within the property and in the buffer zone have suffered damage from the earthquakes and are highly vulnerable.

The State Party, through the Department of Archaeology, has been working on post-earthquake conservation, reconstruction and rehabilitation and has prepared post-earthquake conservation guidelines. In addition to the Emergency International Assistance (USD 74,940) granted from the World Heritage Fund, several UNESCO extra-budgetary projects have been approved and are currently being implemented for the post-earthquake emergency safeguarding, conservation and rehabilitation process of the Kathmandu Valley. An Earthquake Response Coordination Office has been established and the previously established Coordinative Working Committee has been focusing on earthquake-affected monuments. An emphasis has been placed on emergency protection as well as the salvaging, sorting, and storing of architectural elements.

The Student Ambassador Programme, which aims to disseminate knowledge of heritage within the community, has been interrupted, but an awareness program has been implemented for stakeholders within the protected Monument Zones of the property. A photographic exhibition showing positive and negative examples has been part of this process. Other initiatives include the preparation of guidelines for Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) and training on post-earthquake conservation, targeting a broad range of participants from skilled to less skilled craftspeople.

The World Heritage Centre has received information indicating that the Nepali authorities have launched public tenders for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of monuments within and in the vicinity of the property, which may have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage property. Clarifications were requested from the State Party on this matter on 31 March 2016. At the time of writing this report, no response had been received yet.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The efforts of the Department of Archaeology of Nepal to respond, with the support of UNESCO together with various donors and agencies, to the impacts of the April/May 2015 earthquakes as well as to work on the post-earthquake emergency safeguarding, conservation and rehabilitation process, are acknowledged.

The 2015 mission noted that the earthquakes had badly affected the attributes, authenticity, integrity and management of the property, placing its OUV at risk. However, despite extensive damage and collapse, with the exception of the large temple on the hill at Pashupati and some taller tiered temples, examples of most building types remain and all seven monument zones continue to provide a testament to the OUV of the property.

Earthquakes occur regularly (every 80-100 years) in the Kathmandu Valley. Over time, many damaged structures have been rebuilt following earthquakes, with damaged elements being augmented or replaced with new fabric. This practice of “cyclical renewal” has sustained the heritage of the property. A process of renewal could help restore some of the attributes affected by the earthquake, thereby reducing the impact on the OUV. What is needed, however, is a review/analysis of precisely what has been damaged and could be recovered, and of what has been lost and needs to be replaced by new structures. In order to undertake this review/analysis, the attributes of OUV need to be identified clearly for each of the monument zones on the basis of the Nomination dossier and the Statement of OUV.

Following the development of such an review/analysis, a carefully designed Recovery Master Plan (RMP) is needed in each monument zone to define what attributes of OUV can be recovered what needs to be replaced with new structures, how choices are justified, and how the work will be phased and undertaken. A carefully designed recovery scheme with elaborated guidelines could help restore the attributes affected by the earthquake, thereby reducing the impacts on integrity and authenticity. The recovery schemes would need to be developed in full engagement with local community groups, including traditional Guthis and other relevant groups to facilitate appropriate use, management and maintenance of the sites, in accordance with the OUV of the property and other local and national values.

As noted by the mission, the recovery process is an immense task likely to be subject to considerable pressure to rebuild within the monument and buffer zones. For the main monuments, it will be essential to ensure that there are adequately trained craftspeople to sustain the high levels of traditional crafts that are required to create and maintain the structures of the Kathmandu Valley, and a reliable and steady supply of adequate traditional materials. If the renewal processes are to follow traditional practices, the reconstruction process must be linked with capacity-building measures to enable the transmission and revival of traditional knowledge, which contributes to the OUV of the property, to future generations.

For the vernacular buildings, the process of reconstruction will likely be more complex, as it is anticipated that there will be substantial pressure from the owners, tenants and various authorities to rebuild using contemporary designs, technologies and materials that are considered more seismically resilient. Without adequate financial and technical support, it is possible that these vernacular buildings may not be rebuilt using traditional materials, technologies and crafts, resulting in a significant loss of character and authenticity for these settlements. The use of contractors who have inadequate experience and familiarity with traditional materials and processes could also form a threat.

It is essential that the recovery plan is integrated with an overall socio-economic revitalisation programme for urban communities, in order to encourage residents and local businesses to engage in the recovery process and to ensure that it delivers wide-ranging social and economic benefits.

The mission also noted that there is currently a lack of adequate response to the disaster recovery particularly with regard to political support and the allocation of resources. This has impacted on recovery coordination across the nation and has contributed to a delay in the functioning of the National Reconstruction Authority. The mission has proposed a wide range of recommendations relating to the need to strengthen management, effective coordination, planning, tourism activities, technical support and capacity building, as well in relation to emergency work, documentation and recovery plans and processes.

As the mission considered that the property had already become vulnerable as a result of the adverse impact of the 2015 earthquakes on the attributes of OUV, it is potentially facing serious deterioration of its architectural and town-planning coherence. This can also lead to the serious impacts on authenticity and integrity of the World Heritage site. Given that the scale and scope of the recovery process is not currently adequate to deal with these potential threats, it is recommended that, in accordance with Paragraphs 177 and 179 of the Operational Guidelines, the Committee consider inscribing the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in order to define and implement comprehensive mitigation/corrective measures, in collaboration with key national and international stakeholders, which appeared to hold the best prospect for addressing the current threats.  It is also recommended that the Committee request the State Party to work with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to develop a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) as soon as possible, as well as corrective measures and a timeframe for their implementation.

Finally, there is also some concern about the launching of public tenders for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of monuments within and in the vicinity of the property, before the finalization of the comprehensive documentation, of damage assessment, or of recovery plans and processes. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit detailed information to the World Heritage Centre about any foreseen major restoration, rehabilitation or reconstruction works, for review by the Advisory Bodies in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

Decision Adopted: 40 COM 7B.41

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.69, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Acknowledges the efforts of the Department of Archaeology, with the support of UNESCO and various donors and agencies, to respond to the effects of the April/May 2015 earthquakes;
  4. Notes that all seven monument zones have suffered extensive damage from the earthquakes of April-May 2015, which resulted in adverse impacts on attributes, authenticity, integrity and management of the property and put its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) at risk;
  5. Also notes that earthquakes are a regular feature of the Kathmandu Valley, and that the “cyclical renewal” carried out by craftspeople, using traditional processes and materials, has sustained the heritage values of the property over time;
  6. Considers that a renewal process could help restore some of the attributes affected by the earthquake, thereby reducing the impact on the OUV, but emphasizes that this work must be based on a review and analysis of precisely what has been damaged and could be recovered, of what has been lost and will need to be replaced by new structures, as well as on a clear understanding of the attributes of OUV for each monument zone and how each has been impacted;
  7. Urges the State Party to develop, in full engagement with local community groups, including traditional Guthis and others, a carefully-designed Recovery Master Plan (RMP) supported by guidelines to identify what attributes of OUV can be recovered, how choices are justified, and how the recovery work will be phased and undertaken. The RMP should facilitate the appropriate use, management and maintenance of the sites, in accordance with the OUV of the property and with other local and national values;
  8. Also urges the State Party to integrate the RMP within an overall socio-economic revitalisation programme for urban communities, to encourage residents and local businesses to engage in the recovery process and to ensure that it delivers wide-ranging social and economic benefits;
  9. Requests the State Party to review the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for the property, taking into consideration the damage caused by the earthquakes, its impact on the OUV of the property and the provisions of the RMP, and to prepare a plan of action to build capacity through coordination of local and international expertise, training programmes for both heritage principles and master crafts and a scheme to foster long-term sustainability through the provision of reasonable remuneration and long-term employment;
  10. Takes note of the report provided by the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission and also requests the State Party to implement all its detailed recommendations as appropriate;
  11. Notes with concern the need for a coherent, consistent and coordinated approach by national institutions for adequate response from the State Party in pursuing recovery and reconstruction of the heritage property;
  12. Further notes the dimensions of the recovery task and the potential for the property to be subject to considerable pressure to rebuild within the monument and buffer zones using new approaches and technologies, and to use contractors with inadequate experience and familiarity with traditional materials and local processes, all of which could have considerable adverse impacts on the OUV of the property;
  13. Taking into account all of the above-mentioned potential threats and the ascertained threats to the property’s OUV caused by the immediate impacts of the 2015 earthquakes, further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to further define corrective measures and to ascertain the progress accomplished by the State Party;
  14. Calls on the international community to continue providing support for both the short-term protection and emergency safeguarding measures and the long-term conservation of the property, which are both necessary to maintain the OUV of the Kathmandu Valley;
  15. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, before any irreversible decision is made, detailed information about any major restoration, rehabilitation or reconstruction works foreseen within and in the vicinity of the property, for review by the Advisory Bodies in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  16. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 41st session in 2017, with a view to considering, in the absence of significant progress, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.