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Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple

Sri Lanka
Factors affecting the property in 2018*
  • Changes in traditional ways of life and knowledge system
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Pests
  • Ritual / spiritual / religious and associative uses
  • Water (rain/water table)
  • Other Threats:

    Continued deterioration of the paintings

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Changes in traditional ways of life and knowledge system
  • Impacts of tourism / visitors / recreation
  • Ritual / spiritual / religious and associative uses
  • Continued deterioration of the paintings
  • Impact of water ingress, insect activity and other natural forces
  • Management systems / management plan
  • Newly (in 1999) constructed temple, alien to the World Heritage complex  (issue resolved)
  • General deterioration of the Golden Temple
  • Lack of tourism strategy and interpretation
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2018
Requests approved: 1 (from 1997-1997)
Total amount approved : 3,333 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018

On 20 December 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/561/documents, and notes progress with responses to Decision 40 COM 7B.46 and on the implementation of the recommendations of the March 2015 mission, as follows:

  • The relationship between the Temple Authorities (who own the property) and State Party agencies - Department of Archaeology (DoA) and Central Cultural Fund (CCF) - has improved significantly since 2016, and there is now effective collaboration. A new ‘Site Management Committee’ will be established and the Management Plan will be revised. The need for a new Tourism Management Strategy is recognized by all parties. DoA and CCF are in the process of evaluating the condition of the property using previous records. There is a commitment to collaborate with local universities to achieve ‘best-practice’ outcomes, as well as the will to implement inclusive approach and with clearer lines of responsibility in terms of governance by associating various stakeholders ;
  • A Conservation Strategy for wall paintings conservation was prepared with an international expert familiar with the property who undertook site inspections in October 2016 and April 2017. The advice received has been incorporated into a ‘Statement of Conservation Strategy’, which will form part of a revised Management Plan for the property. This Statement mentions, inter alia, two important projects for the documentation, the 3-D laser scanning mapping project to be implemented in 2018 and the manual graphic documentation project foreseen from 2018 to 2020. A 10 to 12-year programme of research into original painting materials and techniques has been instigated, remedial treatment for paintings and polychrome structures has been proposed, and the State Party hopes to collaborate with an international conservation organization;
  • Various research projects have been undertaken on the conservation issues, notably a study by the Isotope Hydrology Section of the Atomic Energy Authority revealed the sources of water seeping into the cave shrines and the comprehensive measures to be taken to address the issue will be integrated into the revised Management Plan. A research laboratory is expected to be set and running within 2018;
  • The State Party also reports on intentions to support re-vitalization of traditional materials and practices in wall painting, to seek international assistance in the development of a pilgrim/visitor management strategy, to re-design the internal lighting strategy, and to replace current terracotta floor tiles. Other proposed conservation initiatives include analysis of hydro-geological issues and water percolation, an experimental ‘automated environmental monitoring system’ (to measure visitor-induced environmental change), and research studies of wall structures and micro-organic and insect impacts (especially potter wasps);
  • It is not intended to ban interior flash photography, as requested by the Committee, owing to absence of compelling scientific evidence; nonetheless, a survey will be undertaken to assess the potential impact of flash photography on visitors.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2018

The improved relationship between the State Party agencies and the Temple Authorities, as well as a more structured management mechanism represent a positive shift in the management arrangements for the property. The proposed site management committee responds to the Committee’s previous priority request. It is now urgent that this committee become operational and prove itself efficient so that it may contribute to the much-needed improvement in site management, by meeting on a regular basis to determine matters related to the conservation and management of the property.

The Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property remains threatened by natural forces including water ingress, insect activity and decay, as well as the impact of very substantial visitation by pilgrims and tourists. While progress with strategic planning for wall painting conservation and the involvement of an international expert is welcome, as are programs for research and analysis of the causes and responses to physical threats, the 2010 Management Plan remains to be updated and nor fully implemented, despite the findings of the 2015 mission and previous Committee decisions. It has now become even more critical that the Management Plan be revised, based on the newly-proposed management arrangements and technical findings, the clear definition of the interface between the State and Temple authorities, and the setting of short-, mid- and long-term strategies for both conservation and pilgrim/visitor management, as well as budget planning (as requested by Decision 40 COM 7B.46). The draft of this revised Management Plan, including the recently-prepared ‘Conservation Strategy Statement’ should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies.

The continuing absence of a tourism management strategy means that mechanisms are not yet in place to manage one of the major threats to the OUV of the property, and the lack of control over the number of pilgrims/visitors entering the caves, or other regulatory measures, continues to adversely affect both the condition of the caves and wall paintings and the quality of the visitors’ experience.

All of these matters have been raised over several years with the State Party through previous Committee Decisions and through the findings and recommendations of the 2015 mission. However, in view of the changes that have occurred in the personnel and approach of the Temple Authorities and the intentions expressed by the State Party, it would be appropriate to allow a further opportunity for critical matters to be addressed before the Committee considers whether the threats to the integrity and authenticity of the property amount to ascertained or potential danger to its OUV.

The State Party and its agencies are proposing numerous research and investigation studies, as well as remedial works to the caves and wall paintings, and initiatives to address water ingress, insect damage and decay. In view of the potential effects of the works on the attributes of the property that contribute to its OUV, it would be appropriate for comprehensive information to be provided to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2018
42 COM 7B.16
Golden temple of Dambulla (Sri Lanka) (C 561)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.46, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s advice regarding the improved arrangements for the conservation and management of the property between the Temple Authorities, the Department of Archaeology and the Central Cultural Fund, as well as the preparation of a ‘Statement of Conservation Strategy’ and other initiatives that have been instigated or are planned in order to conserve wall paintings, sculptures and other significant attributes of the property;
  4. Encourages the State Party to implement the proposed Site Management Committee and related management structures, with clear lines of responsibilities, as a matter of urgency;
  5. Requests the State Party to implement fully the recommendations of the March 2015 ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, as appropriate;
  6. Reiterates its previous request to the State Party to revise and update the Management Plan for the property, based on clearly-defined governance and communication structures, while incorporating traditional management systems, and defining the interface between the State and Temple authorities, the setting of short-, mid- and long-term strategies for both conservation and pilgrim/visitor management, and budget planning, as well as incorporating the recently-prepared ‘Statement of Conservation Strategy’, and to provide the draft to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Also requests the State Party to facilitate the preparation of a comprehensive Tourism Management Strategy, which has strong regard to a balanced approach considering the role of the property as a pilgrim site, the vital needs for the conservation of Outstanding Universal Value and the needs of visitors, and submit the draft to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Reminds the State Party of its obligation to submit details of proposed works to the property which may affect its Outstanding Universal Value, including projects for wall painting and sculpture remedial treatment and laser cleaning, floor tile replacement, and hydro-geological projects, to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, in line with the requirements of Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before any irreversible decisions or physical interventions occur;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2019, 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 43rd session in 2019, with a view to considering, if adequate progress in the implementation of the above recommendations has not been made, and in case of the confirmation of the ascertained or potential danger to Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of the World Heritage in Danger.
42 COM 8E
Adoption of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/18/42.COM/8E and WHC/18/42.COM/8E.Add,
  2. Commends the States Parties for the work accomplished in the elaboration of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties located within their territories;
  3. Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annexes of Documents WHC/18/42.COM/8E and WHC/18/42.COM/8E.Add, for the following World Heritage properties:

    ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

    • Sri Lanka, Golden Temple of Dambulla

    EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA

    • Canada, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
    • Canada, Nahanni National Park
    • France, Abbey Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe
    • France, Amiens Cathedral
    • France, Le Havre, the City Rebuilt by Auguste Perret
    • France, Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay
    • France, Palace and Park of Versailles
    • France, Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley
    • France, The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes
    • Italy, Piazza del Duomo, Pisa
    • Italy, Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
    • Italy, Villa Adriana (Tivoli)
    • Italy, Villa d’Este, Tivoli
    • Portugal, Alto Douro Wine Region
    • United States of America, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    • United States of America, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    • United States of America, Mammoth Cave National Park
    • United States of America, Olympic National Park
    • United States of America, Yellowstone National Park
    • United States of America, Yosemite National Park;
  4. Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger will be reviewed in priority by the Advisory Bodies;
  5. Requests the States Parties to provide support to the World Heritage Centre for translation of the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value into English or French respectively, and further requests the World Heritage Centre to upload the two language versions on its website.
Draft Decision: 42 COM 7B.16

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.46, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s advice regarding the improved arrangements for the conservation and management of the property between the Temple Authorities, the Department of Archaeology and the Central Cultural Fund, as well as the preparation of a ‘Statement of Conservation Strategy’ and other initiatives that have been instigated or are planned in order to conserve wall paintings, sculptures and other significant attributes of the property;
  4. Encourages the State Party to implement the proposed Site Management Committee and related management structures, with clear lines of responsibilities, as a matter of urgency;
  5. Requests the State Party to implement fully the recommendations of the March 2015 ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, as appropriate;
  6. Reiterates its previous request to the State Party to revise and update the Management Plan for the property, based on clearly-defined governance and communication structures, while incorporating traditional management systems, and defining the interface between the State and Temple authorities, the setting of short-, mid- and long-term strategies for both conservation and pilgrim/visitor management, and budget planning, as well as incorporating the recently-prepared ‘Statement of Conservation Strategy’, and to provide the draft to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Also requests the State Party to facilitate the preparation of a comprehensive Tourism Management Strategy, which has strong regard to a balanced approach considering the role of the property as a pilgrim site, the vital needs for the conservation of Outstanding Universal Value and the needs of visitors, and submit the draft to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Reminds the State Party of its obligation to submit details of proposed works to the property which may affect its Outstanding Universal Value, including projects for wall painting and sculpture remedial treatment and laser cleaning, floor tile replacement, and hydro-geological projects, to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, in line with the requirements of Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before any irreversible decisions or physical interventions occur;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2019, 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 43rd session in 2019, with a view to considering, if adequate progress in the implementation of the above recommendations has not been made, and in case of the confirmation of the ascertained or potential danger to Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of the World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2018
Sri Lanka
Date of Inscription: 1991
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2017) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 42COM (2018)
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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