1.         Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple (Sri Lanka) (C 561)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1991

Criteria  (i)(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/561/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1997-1997)
Total amount approved: USD 3,333
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/561/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

November-December 1994: ICOMOS mission to Sri Lanka; March 2015: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/561/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 31 January 2019, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/561/documents/ and notably provides information on the activities outlined below.

Significant conservation issues of the property relate to the mural paintings and the sculptures located inside the caves, which arise from water percolation and high levels of humidity. The effects of alteration and decay include detachment and delamination of plaster or paint layers, presence of whitish deposit on surfaces, cracking of paint layer, and flaking of surfaces. There are also problems with the presence of mud-nests built by wasps.

The Department of Archaeology, together with the Central Cultural Fund and in close collaboration with the Temple Authorities, has commenced remedial treatment of murals with a team of experienced conservators. However, there is an ongoing need to ensure that traditional knowledge and skills related to the wall paintings and sculptures is passed on. To address these issues, several projects concerning the restoration and documentation of mural paintings have been launched.

Regarding the management of the property, its conservation and presentation, the State Party proposes:

The State Party has also submitted a revised Management Plan, which sets out the following main issues and remedial actions:

Finally, the State Party has indicated its wish to amend the name of the property to “Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple”.

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

The efforts deployed by the State Party to establish the Site Management Committee and make it operational are appreciated, along with the revision of the Management Plan.

The State Party has responded positively to the Committee’s previous decisions and addressed both physical conservation issues and site management, including visitor management and the role of the property as a site of pilgrimage. The revised Management Plan for the property clearly identifies issues within the property and proposes guidelines and action plans to address them. The establishment of the Management Committee, with clear roles and responsibilities, is welcome. The proposed plan for the documentation and monitoring of the property responds to the need for baseline information. The report also considered several conservation methods relating to technical projects that could have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), as requested by the Committee in Decision 42 COM 7B.16.

It is noted that the series of stakeholder meetings, organized to discuss management issues and actions, apparently helped progress towards resolving issues related to the conservation and use of the property. The strategies that have been proposed, once implemented, should support an integrated approach that takes into consideration the conservation of the property and its use, both by local communities and by external visitors. It is important to maintain and transmit the traditional knowledge associated with the painting and sculpture techniques while this is still possible, especially since few traditional masters are still present to share their knowledge and experience.

Notwithstanding the progress that has been made in a number of areas, the property remains in a perilous state and significant efforts are still required to achieve sustainable conservation of murals and sculptures, transmission of traditional knowledge and skills, and an appropriate balance between the needs and interests of religious communities, pilgrims and tourists. In this regard, on-site advice and guidance on the early stages of implementation of the new management regime, conservation programmes and visitor management would benefit the property, its managers and the management committee. Therefore, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to review its state of conservation and provide guidance on the new management framework.

The Visitor Management Strategy, which was previously requested by the Committee as a Tourism Management Strategy (Decision 42 COM 7B.16), is yet to be established. While the revised Management Plan included general statements identifying issues related to tourism management, a more detailed plan still needs to be elaborated, thereby allowing the site management authority to reflect further on how to find a balance between preservation, sustainable tourism and maintaining the property’s ties with the local community.

Finally, the proposed minor boundary modification to expand the buffer zone should contribute to the legal protection of the property. The proposed change to the name of the property reflects the outcomes of a local consultative process and is consistent with the property’s OUV; it is therefore recommended that the State Party submit this name change in accordance with Paragraph 167 of the Operational Guidelines.

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.75

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.16, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Commends the State Party for the completion of the revised Management Plan for the property and the constitution of a Management Committee, including members from both the temple authorities and government officials;
  4. Notes the request to change the name of the property be ‘Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple’, which is in line with the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and welcomes the progress made with monitoring, research and documentation of the property, along with the ongoing development of responses to physical conservation concerns, and requests the State Party to continue exploring suitable solutions for the property’s various conservation issues and to submit documentation on proposed conservation works to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies before any decision is made that would be difficult to reverse;
  5. Urges the State Party to finalize the comprehensive Visitor Management Strategy, adopting a balanced approach to the property’s OUV, its role as a pilgrimage site, its conservation requirements and the needs of visitors, and to submit the draft strategy to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Also requests the State Party to explore actively means to ensure the transmission of traditional knowledge and skills for wall painting and sculpting;
  7. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to assess the state of conservation of the property, and in particular the implementation of the revised Management Plan, the ongoing work to document and conserve the property, progress with the Visitor Management Strategy and the proposed minor boundary modification to expand the property’s buffer zone;
  8. 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.

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 8B.1

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/8B,
  2. Approves the name change to the Golden Temple of Dambulla as proposed by the Sri Lankan authorities. The name of the property becomes Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple in English and Temple troglodyte de Rangiri Dambulla in French.