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Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove

Nigeria
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
  • Fire (widlfires)
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Surface water pollution
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Urban development close to the property
  • Road construction around the property
  • Pollution of the Osun River
  • Bush fires within the property
  • Adverse impact of the commercialisation of the annual festival
  • Fragility of spiritual, symbolic and ritual qualities of the Grove in the face of a growth in visitor numbers and the lack of a tourism management plan
  • Road through property not re-aligned
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 1 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved : 10,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2019**

October 2015: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 14 August 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, a supplement to which, relating only to the annual festival, was received on 15 January 2019. The report is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/documents/ and sets out progress in addressing issues previously highlighted by the Committee, as follows:

  • Regarding the conservation methodology for sculptures, work is being undertaken using traditional craftspeople who were involved in the original construction under the supervision of the elderly masters. The work follows the original patterns;
  • Tests undertaken have revealed no significant pollution of water but warned against drinking it. There is a need for campaigns against disposal of waste in or around the river course;
  • Regarding the over-commercialisation of the annual festival, the report notes that the Festival Committee depends on funding from individuals and corporate organizations. It has been agreed that sponsors will be requested to regulate their advertisements. The Festival Committee has reinvested funds in the property through the establishment of an Artists’ village in the grove;
  • Community engagement is ongoing;
  • Although there is scarcity of resources, staff training is on-going, but this is taking place “on the job”, using existing resources;
  • Critical areas in the buffer zone are fenced and the work is ongoing for other areas;
  • As the proposed new road and bridge project is capital intensive, it is in the long-term plan of the state government. Meanwhile, the existing road that intersects the property is regulated for the use of specified vehicles of communities living around the grove.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2019

Although some progress has been made, given the scale and complexity of the property, the extreme fragility of its sculptures, and the need to respect and sustain the sanctity of the Osun sacred grove, the work appears to be inadequate.

The Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property relates to the way the Osun River, flowing through the forest, is revered as the spiritual abode of the river goddess Osun, and to the sanctity of the landscape as reinforced by some forty shrines and sculptures erected in honour of Osun and other Yoruba deities, all actively used by devotees. Since the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, the importance of improving the purity of the sacred river, whose waters are drunk during the annual festival, of sustaining the natural forest, and of maintaining the integrity and authenticity of the intricate mud and cement sculptures, has been highlighted. Even though a series of Management Plans have been produced, the latest being for 2015-19, these have not been fully implemented as a result of lack of resources.

Many sculptures are in a state of disrepair, some have collapsed. A group of six Alajere sculptures has been rebuilt, as have 300 metres of decorative wall. The methodology provided does not propose an adequate conservation approach. It states that destroyed sculptures should be replaced by replicas created based on photographs; fallen off pieces are to be replaced and emerged cracks be filled, with all work being carried out with cement and red pigment. Advice on materials has been taken from a large construction company rather than conservators, against the recommendations of the 2015 mission to research appropriate materials for shelter coats of the mud sculptures as an alternative to cement. The current processes are of considerable concern in relation to the authenticity of the property.

Although it is stated that the river has no significant pollution, the analysis undertaken concluded that the water supported aquatic biodiversity but was unfit for drinking as a result of effluent from upstream. Consequently, people must be warned not to drink the water of the sacred river or undertake oblations during the festival until appropriate measures have been taken.

The very successful and well-supported annual festival should be the opportunity to harness support for the conservation of the property. While reinvestment of funds in the property by the Festival Committee is to be welcomed, their use for the creation of an artists’ village causes concern. Indeed, this village of some 70 artists who appear to provide work for sale to tourists has been constructed within the property, without any formal documentation being submitted for approval, and against the recommendation of the 2015 mission that it should be built outside the property.

It is also regrettable that no action has yet been taken for the closure of the main road through the property, foreseen in the Management Plan at the time of inscription and for which the Committee had requested information to be submitted as soon as possible.

Over the 14 years since inscription, the property has not received the resources and support needed to strengthen its assets, whether natural, cultural or associative. The abovementioned vulnerabilities, already identified at the time of inscription, are now developing into threats to the sacred landscape of forest, river and shrines and its associated communities, calling for urgent action given the scale of the conservation problems and the urban development upstream. If not addressed in the near future, the impacts could become irreversible and impact highly adversely on authenticity and integrity. It is of considerable concern that the main recommendations of the 2015 mission and of the Committee at its two previous Decisions raising these issues, have not been adequately addressed. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICCROM/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to address these conservation issues, in order to assess whether the threats facing the property would, in conformity with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines, represent or not a case for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and also to consider how the overall management of the property can be put on more inclusive and sustainable footing.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
43 COM 7B.109
Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove (Nigeria) (C 1118)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.70, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Reiterates its concern that the main recommendations of the 2015 mission relating to vulnerabilities recognized by the Committee still remain unaddressed;
  4. Expresses its great concern that inadequate progress has been made on conservation, management and protection since inscription on the World Heritage List, with the result that what were only vulnerabilities are now turning into threats:
    1. Many sculptures are now in state of disrepair, some have collapsed and some have been reconstructed,
    2. There are no recurring funds for conservation,
    3. No progress has been made with detailed digital documentation,
    4. The river water is too polluted for any use as a result of effluent pollution from upstream,
    5. An artists’ village has been constructed within the property without notification being provided and against the advice of the 2015 mission,
    6. No progress has been made on realigning the road,
    7. No progress has been made with updating the now outdated Management Plan, as recommended by the 2015 mission to make the management more inclusive and to put the property onto a more sustainable basis;
  5. Takes note that a brief Conservation Methodology has been provided, but considers that it is not a satisfactory basis for conservation, as it has not been underpinned by any research into appropriate materials for the mud sculpture as an alternative to cement, as recommended by the 2015 mission, and it also approves the complete or partial reconstruction of sculptures;
  6. Expresses its concern that, while a sampling exercise of the river water has been undertaken, the water is not regularly sampled and that the negative outcomes have not been translated into any action to try and improve water quality, and urges the State Party to ensure warnings are provided to prevent people from any use of river water;
  7. Welcomes the fact that the Festival Committee has reinvested some profits in the property, but also expresses great concern that these funds have been used to create an artists’ village within the property against the recommendations of the 2015 mission and without any details being submitted for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and requests the State Party to explore the possibility that the artists’ village be moved outside the property;
  8. Also considers that the lack of real progress over many years is leading to potential threats to the key attributes of Outstanding Universal Value, and also urges the State Party to approve the necessary resources to allow the management team and the relevant local authorities to begin to address the many recommendations that have been made;
  9. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICCROM/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to address the abovementioned conservation issues in order to assess whether the threats facing the property would, in conformity with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines, represent or not a case for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and also to consider how the overall management of the property can be put on more inclusive and sustainable footing;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on steps taken to implement the recommendations abovementioned and those of the Reactive Monitoring mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.
Draft Decision: 43 COM 7B.109

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.70, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Reiterates its concern that the main recommendations of the 2015 mission relating to vulnerabilities recognized by the Committee still remain unaddressed;
  4. Expresses its great concern that inadequate progress has been made on conservation, management and protection since inscription on the World Heritage List, with the result that what were only vulnerabilities are now turning into threats:
    1. Many sculptures are now in state of disrepair, some have collapsed and some have been reconstructed,
    2. There are no recurring funds for conservation,
    3. No progress has been made with detailed digital documentation,
    4. The river water is too polluted for any use as a result of effluent pollution from upstream,
    5. An artists’ village has been constructed within the property without notification being provided and against the advice of the 2015 mission,
    6. No progress has been made on realigning the road,
    7. No progress has been made with updating the now outdated Management Plan, as recommended by the 2015 mission to make the management more inclusive and to put the property onto a more sustainable basis;
  5. Takes note that a brief Conservation Methodology has been provided, but considers that it is not a satisfactory basis for conservation, as it has not been underpinned by any research into appropriate materials for the mud sculpture as an alternative to cement, as recommended by the 2015 mission, and it also approves the complete or partial reconstruction of sculptures;
  6. Expresses its concern that, while a sampling exercise of the river water has been undertaken, the water is not regularly sampled and that the negative outcomes have not been translated into any action to try and improve water quality, and urges the State Party to ensure warnings are provided to prevent people from any use of river water;
  7. Welcomes the fact that the Festival Committee has reinvested some profits in the property, but also expresses great concern that these funds have been used to create an artists’ village within the property against the recommendations of the 2015 mission and without any details being submitted for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and requests the State Party to explore the possibility that the artists’ village be moved outside the property;
  8. Also considers that the lack of real progress over many years is leading to potential threats to the key attributes of Outstanding Universal Value, and also urges the State Party to approve the necessary resources to allow the management team and the relevant local authorities to begin to address the many recommendations that have been made;
  9. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICCROM/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to address the abovementioned conservation issues in order to assess whether the threats facing the property would, in conformity with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines, represent or not a case for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and also to consider how the overall management of the property can be put on more inclusive and sustainable footing;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on steps taken to implement the recommendations abovementioned and those of the Reactive Monitoring mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.
Report year: 2019
Nigeria
Date of Inscription: 2005
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(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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