1.         Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures (Uzbekistan) (C 603rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2001

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iv)

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/603/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1999-2018)
Total amount approved: USD 44,800
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/603/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 50,000 from the UNESCO/Spain Funds-in-Trust; 2016: USD 30,670 from the UNESCO/Netherlands Funds-in-Trust project for the Application of the UNESCO Recommendation on Historic Urban landscape (HUL, 2011) at the World Heritage properties of the Historic Centre of Bukhara and Samarkand

Previous monitoring missions

April 2005: UNESCO Tashkent Office/ICOMOS expert mission; March 2006: UNESCO Tashkent Office/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; October 2006: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; December 2007: Word Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; March 2009: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/603/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

The State Party, at a meeting with the World Heritage Centre in Paris, as well as with the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS High-Level mission to Uzbekistan (during the Reactive Monitoring mission to Shakhrisaybz, Uzbekistan, in January 2019), stated its intention to carry out several major projects in the city, a number of which were in the World Heritage property and buffer zone. The World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to submit full detailed plans and drawings for each of the projects along with Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA) following the ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties. Furthermore, in recent years, in particular since June 2018, the World Heritage Centre has received several third party information raising concerns about some development projects which take place in the vicinity and /or part of the property and their potential threats to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), particularly the massive destruction of the traditional houses to make way for private sector housing developments and some projects for the development of individual sections of Samarkand. In view of the situation, on 15 January 2019, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to submit a report on the state of conservation of the property. These conservation issues had previously been discussed with the State Party at a meeting in Paris, on 14 December 2018. They were discussed further during the 2019 High-Level mission.

On 18 March 2019, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/document and provides information relating to the following:

Within the property:

Within the Buffer Zones of the property:

Immediately outside the Buffer Zones:

The State Party also highlighted the continued need for capacity building to enhance national expertise in order to cope with the complex and multidisciplinary issues arising as part of the preservation and management of the historic centre of Samarkand. The 2019 High-Level mission to Shakhrisyabz, Uzbekistan, also conducted a training workshop in Samarkand.

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

The measures taken over the past two years to enhance legal, human and financial resources for the preservation and management of the property are to be welcomed, as are the start of an inventory for the city and the initiation of a process to develop a new Master Plan and update the existing Management Plan with supporting guidelines such as the ‘Detailed Planning’ and the ‘Development Control’ documents that could provide a much needed framework for the projects proposed.

The above-mentioned tools should be designed by adopting multidisciplinary and participatory approaches to meet the complex requirements of the management and preservation of a living city, following the HUL approach, taking into consideration the evolving needs of its inhabitants and the safeguarding of its heritage values.

In addition to the information provided by the State Party in its report, during the High-Level mission, the State Party indicated that two industrial sites had been cleared in the buffer zone to allow a Convention facility to be constructed on the site for the Shanghai Cooperation Summit, and made reference to the demolition of two other buildings within the property intended for new constructions. These sites were indicated on the map of Samarkand showing the new constructions, which was shared with the World Heritage Centre during the meeting with the State Party in December 2018. However, no details on the demolitions have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre so far, nor documentation of the structures demolished or of sites cleared, nor plans and drawings of the new constructions, nor the HIA for the numerous interventions completed, ongoing, or planned.

The number and variety of major construction projects ongoing and proposed in the city are significant, many moving with speed to meet the deadline of the 2022 event. The plan to construct a variety of infrastructures and tourism facilities are a source of concern, including those required to host the Shanghai Corporation Organization International Summit in 2022 (the locations of which are not yet identified), and the multi-functional project ‘Samarkand City Tourist Zone’, which involves the demolition and re-development of a number of areas within the property, its the buffer zones and beyond. 

It appears that the ‘Samarkand City Tourist Zone’ project is largely stimulated by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization International Summit, and the two together may have led to the development of the Master Plan. Therefore, despite the positive move to develop guidelines, a Master Plan, an updated Management Plan and other tools, there is nevertheless concern that, before these tools are completed, major projects will have been implemented and irreversible changes will have occurred within the property and buffer zone that could potentially have an adverse impact on the OUV of the property. Furthermore, the projects in some of these areas involve the re-location of communities on the basis that housing is sub-standard, but no precise details have been provided on the areas nor on social consequences. This fact possibly points out that the constant inspection or established control over housing construction and refurbishment has not been adequately carried out and that systematic processes need to be put in place.

Within the framework of the Master Plan, it is reported that a new draft Traffic Scheme is being developed, favouring new roads outside the historic centre and the further pedestrianization of the centre. This is to be welcomed, as it will replace the 2004 plan that led to a new road being driven through the historic centre and prevent the implementation of further new roads in the property envisaged in the 2004 plan.  

It should be noted with regret that, despite the Committee’s requests (Decision 39 COM 7B.73), due process has not been followed in notifying the Committee and the World Heritage Centre prior to any decision being made that would be difficult to reverse regarding a major restoration or new construction which may affect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in conformity with the Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

It is important to recall that the property needs multi-disciplinary planning tools that recognise the need to conserve the OUV, upon which development and tourism planning should be based including the well-being of the local communities, in line with the HUL approach.

As such, the speed and number of the projects proposed and ongoing, the pressure for completion by the deadline of the 2022 Summit, together with the absence of adequate guidelines, regulations, and tools, cumulatively pose a threat to the OUV of the property.

It is recommended that the State Party be requested to provide an in-depth study of the issues listed above as a matter of urgency, given the tight timescale before the Summit, and prior to issuing construction permits. Modifications may need to be considered for those contracts or permits that may be already in place. It is essential that full details of the technical documents and planning tools be thoroughly reviewed and mitigation measures considered for the projects that are ongoing or implemented.  The Master Plan needs to be approved before detailed plans are envisaged for specific areas.

It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission at the earliest opportunity, with a view to considering:

  1. The full scope of the development projects, both planned and underway, including hotel development and restoration projects and the ‘Samarkand City Tourist Zone’ project, and with a view to determining whether any threat to the property constitutes an ascertained or potential danger to its OUV and would warrant its potential inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines;
  2. Possible mitigation measures that may be necessary for projects that may have been already undertaken prior to their review by ICOMOS and the World Heritage Centre;
  3. Proposed guidelines and other tools and legal instruments for the new development, with a view to protecting the OUV of the property;
  4. The proposals for the development of the Master Plan and the updates to the management plan in following the HUL approach.

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.77

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.73, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Welcomes the measures taken over the past two years to enhance the legal framework for the protection of all World Heritage properties in Uzbekistan, the human and financial resources for the management of the property, the start of an inventory for the city of Samarkand, and the initiation of a process to develop a new Master Plan and update the Management Plan;
  4. Also welcomes the development of a new draft Traffic Scheme within the framework of the proposed Master Plan, which will focus on new roads outside the historic centre and encourage the further pedestrianization of the centre, and notes with satisfaction that it would replace the 2004 traffic plan, which led to a new road being approved to pass through the historic centre, and would prevent the implementation of further new roads in the property;
  5. Notes that the new Master Plan being developed by the City authorities, working with Tashkent Research and Design Institute for Urban Planning, other experts and local communities, is seen as a turning point for the city and recommends that the Master Plan and the Management Plan be integrated following the approach of the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL);
  6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, the infrastructure development and detailed project proposals related to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization International Summit in 2022 once completed, including the multi-functional project ‘Samarkand City Tourist Zone’;
  7. Requests the State Party to provide to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies at the earliest:
    1. Details of the proposed development projects mentioned in the state of conservation report or otherwise planned in the next three years, including their precise location, along with details concerning the multi-functional project ‘Samarkand City Tourist Zone’, any necessary Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) following ICOMOS Guidelines,
    2. Reports on the social and other measures taken relating to possible demolition of houses and residential areas,
    3. The Master Plan and updated Management Plan that are integrated following the HUL approach,
    4. Regulations and guidelines for the development, restoration, and adaptive reuse of the historic centre and its buffer zones,
    5. Request for minor boundary modification of the buffer zones, as suggested in the state of conservation report, to enhance the protection of the heritage values,
    6. Clarifications regarding the links between the Master Plan for the city and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation International Summit;
  8. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission at the earliest opportunity, with a view to considering:
    1. The full scope of the development projects, including hotel development, refurbishment projects and the ‘Samarkand City Tourist Zone’ project,
    2. Proposed guidelines and other tools and legal instruments for the new development, with a view to protect the OUV of the property,
    3. Proposals for the development of the Master Plan and the updates to the Management Plan in following the HUL approach;
  9. Requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to consider as a priority, the assessment of the designed proposals and HIAs that will be submitted, to allow the State Party to meet the deadlines for the International Summit they are hosting in 2022;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the progress in the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.