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Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas)

Jordan
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Lack of integration of the management procedures on maintenance, visitor management and disaster response in the management system
  • Lack of design and construction guidelines for the Churches to be constructed in the buffer zone
  • Need to ensure the protection of the western banks of the Jordan River to preserve important vistas and sightlines of the property
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2019**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 18 November 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1446/documents/, and provides information on the following:

  • Draft disaster response guidance for earthquakes that was prepared, comprising measures to reduce risks and improve earthquake resistance of structures, and monitoring. A comprehensive earthquake-response plan is being prepared by the Baptism Site Commission (BSC);
  • Design and construction guidelines for churches to be constructed in the buffer zone, including considerations for the setting, landscape, accessibility, safety, and environmental control;
  • A Master Plan for the buffer zone and surroundings comprising seven planning zones has been prepared. This Plan is meant to manage development in the wider setting of the property in the long term;
  • Information on seven planned new churches were provided, supplementing a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) submitted by the State Party to the World Heritage Centre on 16 May 2018;
  • Information on action undertaken regarding protection of the western banks of the Jordan River to preserve important vistas and sightlines of the property were provided in the report, essentially in relation to a letter sent to the World Heritage Centre on 21 August 2016, noting the erection of tall electricity towers across from the property;

A report about conservation works at the two major archaeological areas: Tell Al-Kharrar (Elijah’s hill) – Rhotorios Monastery and the Church of “St. John the Baptist” Complex (churches built in memory of the baptism of Jesus) were also provided with the report in addition to information on other site protection and visitor related measures.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2019

The State Party is preparing a comprehensive earthquake-response plan, the draft of which appears satisfactory at this stage. However, it is not clear whether this will be integrated with the Management Plan for the property. It is recommended that the Committee request that the earthquake-response plan be integrated within the Management Plan and be submitted for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies.

The development of design and construction guidelines for churches in the buffer zone is a welcome step. However, it is noted that the guidelines permit structures up to 35 metres in height, and a limit on the maximum mass of new structures is not mentioned. The possible impact of such structures is not clear, in particular on the wilderness landscape and on the vistas and sightlines.

While the scope of the guidelines relates to new churches, a question arises as to whether they should also apply to existing churches, with reference to any alteration or extension.

The State Party provided details of a number of proposed churches. However, it is noted that the design of some churches does not fully agree with the proposed design and construction guidelines (for example, regarding boundary walls). It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to consider the application of the guidelines to existing churches in case of alteration and extension, while ensuring compliance of the currently proposed churches.

The preparation of a Master Plan for the buffer zone and surroundings is also welcome. However, not all of the land within the buffer zone is addressed, with some land having no master planning designation. In addition, it is not clear to what extent the Master Plan would contribute to protecting the landscape. In addition, a convention centre is indicated on the Plan that does not appear to agree with the Master Plan designation for Zone 3, which is for agricultural activities. The Master Plan would be improved by including the buffer zone within it.

It is also noted that the property boundary shown on the Master Plan does not appear to fully coincide with the formal boundaries as provided by the State Party in 2015. The Master Plan should accurately reflect the property boundary. It is recommended that the Committee request a revision of the Master Plan to ensure landscape protection, with an accurate indication of the formal boundaries of the property and its buffer zone.

The HIA provided to the World Heritage Centre in May 2018 does not allow to draw adequately sound conclusions about impacts. It is not based on the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value and does not consider the impact of completed new buildings located within the property. As a result of such constructions, it appears that the Zor vegetation (the green wilderness along the river) has changed the river landscape, while other issues might also arise in relation to them. While the HIA considers the archaeological remains, pilgrim visitation and the isolated impact of the four churches that are not yet built, it does not consider the overall impact of new buildings on the landscape. A request for a revision of the HIA is therefore recommended.

The efforts of the State Party to address the protection of the western bank of the Jordan River are noted.

The report provides an overview of conservation and other works undertaken at the property, which appear satisfactory.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
43 COM 7B.46
Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) (Jordan) (C 1446)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 8B.10, 40 COM 8B.50 and 41 COM 7B.79, adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 41st (Krakow, 2017) sessions respectively,
  3. Commends the State Party on the development of a draft comprehensive earthquake-response plan, design and construction guidelines for the buffer zone, and a Master Plan for the buffer zone and surroundings;
  4. Requests the State Party to advise the timeframe for completion of the earthquake-response plan, to ensure it is integrated within the property’s Management Plan, and to submit it, when completed, for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, and recommends that this plan provide a timeframe for ongoing training;
  5. Also requests the State Party to consider whether the design and construction guidelines should also apply to existing churches, with reference to any potential alteration or extension projects, and to ensure that currently proposed churches comply with the guidelines, including in the case of boundary walls;
  6. Further requests the State Party to revise the Master Plan for the buffer zone to address all land within the buffer zone, to include the buffer zone boundary and an accurate property boundary consistent with the map submitted by the State Party in 2015, to ensure protection of the landscape, and, that the State Party review the location for the convention centre;
  7. Requests moreover the State Party to revise the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) to:
    1. Base it on the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, and include careful consideration of the Jordan River landscape and the natural vegetation perceived as wilderness, as well as vistas and sightlines,
    2. Consider the overall impact of completed and new buildings, including the 35-metre height limit and large masses permitted in the design and construction guidelines;
  8. Reiterates the need to ensure the protection of the western banks of the Jordan River to preserve important vistas and sightlines of the property;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, 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 45th session in 2021.
Draft Decision: 43 COM 7B.46

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 8B.10, 40 COM 8B.50 and 41 COM 7B.79, adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 41st (Krakow, 2017) sessions respectively,
  3. Commends the State Party on the development of a draft comprehensive earthquake-response plan, design and construction guidelines for the buffer zone, and a Master Plan for the buffer zone and surroundings;
  4. Requests the State Party to advise the timeframe for completion of the earthquake-response plan, to ensure it is integrated within the property’s Management Plan, and to submit it, when completed, for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, and recommends that this plan provide a timeframe for ongoing training;
  5. Also requests the State Party to consider whether the design and construction guidelines should also apply to existing churches, with reference to any potential alteration or extension projects, and to ensure that currently proposed churches comply with the guidelines, including in the case of boundary walls;
  6. Further requests the State Party to revise the Master Plan for the buffer zone to address all land within the buffer zone, to include the buffer zone boundary and an accurate property boundary consistent with the map submitted by the State Party in 2015, to ensure protection of the landscape, and, that the State Party review the location for the convention centre;
  7. Requests moreover the State Party to revise the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) to:
    1. Base it on the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, and include careful consideration of the Jordan River landscape and the natural vegetation perceived as wilderness, as well as vistas and sightlines,
    2. Consider the overall impact of completed and new buildings, including the 35-metre height limit and large masses permitted in the design and construction guidelines;
  8. Reiterates the need to ensure the protection of the western banks of the Jordan River to preserve important vistas and sightlines of the property;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, 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 45th session in 2021.
Report year: 2019
Jordan
Date of Inscription: 2015
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2018) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 43COM (2019)
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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