1.         Byblos (Lebanon) (C 295)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1984

Criteria  (iii)(iv)(vi)

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/295/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 10,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/295/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001: Different missions for the evaluation of the state of conservation and project execution in Lebanon, including Byblos; November 2001: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; September 2006: UNESCO expert mission to Lebanon; February 2017: World Heritage Centre mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/295/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018

In August 2016, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to submit detailed and clear information regarding the different components of the ‘Diplomatic Club’ project, proposed to be undertaken adjacent to the southern part of the World Heritage property (note that no boundaries or buffer zone have been delineated for this property). The State Party indicated that this project consists of converting existing buildings into tourist and leisure structures and constructing in-ground swimming pools along with wooden cabanas, changing rooms and pergolas.

Given that the proposed Diplomatic Club project would be located on an archaeological site of potential major importance - the ancient port of Byblos - ICOMOS recommended that the State Party conduct evaluation studies and archaeological excavation works in order to confirm the presence of the archaeological remains of the ancient port and propose a technical solution to protect the archaeological area.

At the request of the State Party, the developers of the proposed Diplomatic Club project undertook the recommended archaeological excavations. These excavations confirmed the presence of archaeological remains of the ancient port, and of their degraded nature. The remains were duly documented. Reburial (backfilling) of the archaeological remains, allowing for the reversibility of the swimming pools, was proposed by the State Party and agreed to by ICOMOS, pending the receipt and approval of detailed design and specifications.    

In February 2017, a World Heritage Centre mission noted that the project had been started, and that new above-ground structures of reinforced concrete were visible from the property. The Centre asked the State Party to stop construction. Following further exchanges with the World Heritage Centre, the State Party gave assurances that no additional new structures would be built until ICOMOS had been given the opportunity to examine the information previously requested. Despite repeated requests to the State Party, however, no detailed designs have been received.

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

The lack of an adequate and timely submission of detailed and clear design documents and specifications regarding the Diplomatic Club project, despite several requests, represents a serious concern. It is therefore recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to submit detailed designs and specifications for this project, including the reburial (backfilling) of the archaeological remains to allow for the reversibility of the swimming pools, as soon as possible to the World Heritage Centre for evaluation by the Advisory Bodies.

In light of the construction work that is underway and the new above-ground concrete structures that have been observed, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the state of conservation of the property, to assess the Diplomatic Club project’s impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, to identify any modifications to this project that may be necessary to sustain the property’s OUV, authenticity and integrity, and to determine whether a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) is advisable. In the interim, it is recommended that construction work on this project be suspended and no additional structures be built.

It is further recommended that the Committee invite the State Party to inform it, through the World Heritage Centre, of any future plans for major restoration or new construction projects that may affect the OUV of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse.

Furthermore, as no boundaries or a buffer zone have been identified for the property,  it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party, working in close coordination with the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, to submit a boundary and buffer zone by means of a Minor Boundary Modification, in line with Paragraphs 107 and 164 and Annex 11 of the Operational Guidelines, for review by the Advisory Bodies.

Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.56

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Expresses concern that above-ground structures of reinforced concrete were built at the south of the property and that the State Party did not submit detailed information and design for the Diplomatic Club project, including the reburial (backfilling) of the archaeological remains to allow for the reversibility of the swimming pools;
  3. Urges the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, as soon as possible and in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, a detailed document on the actions already undertaken and planned related to this project, including the architectural design documents;
  4. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the state of conservation of the property, to assess the Diplomatic Club project’s potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, to identify any modifications to this project that may be necessary to sustain the property’s OUV, authenticity and integrity, and to determine whether a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) is advisable;
  5. Also requests the State Party to suspend construction work on this project and not build any additional structures until the above-mentioned actions have been completed;
  6. Further requests the State Party to work in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to elaborate and submit a Minor Boundary Modification, in line with Paragraphs 107 and 164 and Annex 11 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Requests furthermore 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.