1.         Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications (Sri Lanka) (C 451)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1988

Criteria  (iv)

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/451/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1997-1997)
Total amount approved: USD 3,334
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

2002: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; November 2007: UNESCO expert Advisory mission; April/May 2008: UNESCO New Delhi Office Advisory mission; February 2010: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; July 2016: ICOMOS Advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018

On 18 December 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/451/documents, which provides information on the state of the implementation of the previous decisions of the Committee, including the proposed port project and the integrated management system.

With regard to the proposed port, the State Party reports that, while detailed plans have been prepared and the loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) confirmed for the project, it has nevertheless been temporarily deferred by the Sri Lankan Ports authority due to other major port projects being developed in Colombo and Hambantota. For this reason, and as there was only a conditional clearance of UNESCO given in 2016, considering the recommendations of July 2016 ICOMOS Advisory mission, a “fresh set of updated plans will be required at the time of commencement” along with large-scale plans and high resolution, photo montages of the project, as previously requested by the Committee.

Major legislative changes are also reportedly being carried out with regard to the Antiquities Ordinance and the Gall Heritage Foundation Act, and a timetable has been developed and submitted for the implementation of the management plan. Funding for the protection of the property is being obtained through government institutions and others, such as the Central Cultural Fund, the Urban Development Authority, and the Southern Development Authority. The appointment of a marine archaeologist remains to be confirmed.

A Sustainable Tourism Management Plan (MP) is also under preparation, and a draft has been developed in collaboration with stakeholders, with the aim of spreading tourism activities around the area so as to limit the impact of too many tourists at the fort at any one time. 

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

In regard to the proposed port project, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the implementation of the scaled-back project has been delayed due to the ongoing work at other port development projects in Sri Lanka. The State Party acknowledges the need for considerably updating the plans before the actual commencement, given that no thorough clearance had been provided by the Committee. This is welcome news, as it will provide additional time to ensure that the project does not have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies emphasize the need to follow the recommendations of the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) and the ICOMOS Advisory mission of July 2016, and that the State Party should submit the requested detailed documents, large-scale plans, and high-resolution photo montages before any work commences for this project. The newly-deferred timeline for the project will allow the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to provide advice on the new plans, and the World Heritage Committee will be able make a final decision on the appropriateness of the port project.

It is further noted that steps have been taken to engage a marine archaeologist for the project before the start of the implementation, to ensure that any impacts of the project can be mitigated. The State Party does not intend to extend the buffer zone to include maritime archaeological remains, which are protected under the legal provision of the Antiquities ordinance. 

With regard to the timeframe for the implementation of the Integrated Management Plan (IMP), it is noted that many activities were scheduled to be completed in 2017 and most others in 2018. It would therefore be useful to have a detailed report on the implementation of these activities in the State Party’s next state of conservation report. It is further noted that the Sustainable Tourism MP has been submitted and recently reviewed by ICOMOS. It provides sensible provisions and a series of priority actions address most of the issues. However, it makes a significant number of recommendations that require further action and uncertainty remains with regard to their actual implementation, responsibilities, funding and a timetable.  While detailed recommendations with regard to improvement of the Tourism MP will be shared with the State Party, more information should be provided on its current status. The financial position of the Galle Heritage Foundation should be made clear, including how it is funded and whether this funding will be increased to help achieve progress with the recommendations of the Tourism MP.  The Galle Heritage Foundation should consider forming a business plan in order to anticipate the number of staff needed to carry out the requirements of the IMP and the Tourism MP.  Adequate financial resources should be made available, allowing the employment of suitably qualified and talented people to implement the requirements of the IMP and the Tourism MP. Finally, the commitment of the State Party to strengthen its legal and administrative frameworks for the protection of the property is welcomed.  

Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.17

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.47, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Welcomes the news that the implementation of the scaled-back port project has been deferred due to other port projects being implemented first, and that the need for considerably updated plans is clearly recognized, taking into account the recommendations of the July 2016 ICOMOS Advisory mission;
  4. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, large-scale plans, detailed plans, and high-resolution photo montages of the proposed port development before any work commences at the property, so that the Committee can review the port project and determine its appropriateness;
  5. Also welcomes the commitment of the State Party to strengthen the legislative and financial frameworks for the management of the property, and to engage a marine archaeologist before the commencement of the implementation of the proposed port project to prevent any impacts of the project on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and initiate mitigation measures, if necessary;
  6. Further requests the State Party to provide information on the implementation status of the Sustainable Tourism Management Plan and to clarify the financial standing of the Galle Heritage Foundation, including information on the financial resources available to implement the recommendations of the Tourism Management Plan;
  7. Requests furthermore that the State Party provide information on the measures taken to ensure the appropriate quality and number of staff necessary to implement the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) and the Sustainable Tourism Management Plan;
  8. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, including a detailed report be submitted on the implementation of the IMP, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.