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Town of Luang Prabang

Lao People's Democratic Republic
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Air transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Lack of enforcement of the Luang Prabang Conservation Plan (PSMV) and illegal constructions
  • Public works (proposed new town, airport extension, pedestrian bridge) which may affect the Outstanding Universal Value
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2021

Total amount provided to the property: USD 200,000 (France / UNESCO Cooperation Agreement).

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 7 (from 1994-2021)
Total amount approved : 154,442 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

In 2014, the Committee observed that its main concerns were being addressed and encouraged the State Party to apply the Luang Prabang Conservation Plan (PSMV) in controlling the development pressure in the property and the buffer zone to prevent any threats to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). The operationalization of the Heritage Fund was expected to sustain the conservation efforts. Since then, the state of conservation of the property has remained subject to technical assessments and monitoring, notably through a bilateral cooperation mechanism with France. Technical missions and third parties raised issues relating to the Heritage Fund, the disappearance of traditional buildings, new constructions within the property, its buffer zones and wider setting and the protection of the banks of Nam Khan River.

In response to a request from the World Heritage Centre, the State Party provided a state of conservation report on 13 March 2020, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/479/documents and indicates the following:

  • The PSMV has been upgraded into the World Heritage Preservation Programme and integrated in the Provincial Strategic Plan, aiming at preserving built and environmental values;
  • The Luang Prabang World Heritage Office (LPWHO) has been implementing the PSMV and regulations in the buffer zones, notably for the restoration, extension and construction of buildings;
  • A Heritage Fund was established in 2009 to collect resources from tourist sites and entrepreneurs and operated during two consecutive years. In 2014, a Prime Minister’s Decree instituted a ‘National Heritage Funds’, which has some overlap with the previously established Funds. Both need to be revised. The State Party intends to apply an ad hoc measure for the Town of Luang Prabang to ensure the availability of the necessary resources;
  • The LPWHO has taken the initiative to expand the Provincial Strategic Plan by creating an Infrastructure Development Plan and suggests 32 detailed plans;
  • On 11 March 2020, the World Heritage Centre requested clarifications concerning the reported Luang Prabang hydropower project (LPHPP), situated 25 km upstream from the property. On 30 April 2020, the State Party provided information on the context of the intervention for the protection of the riverbank, which is supported by the World Bank and the ASEAN’s ‘Smart City’ project. It also mentioned the hydropower project, which was submitted to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) for consultation with the States Parties of Thailand, Viet Nam and Cambodia, and is coordinated at the level of the central government. The MRC issued two technical evaluations in December 2019 and June 2020, indicating that the LPHPP is classified as an Extreme Risk Dam according to the Lao Electric Power Technical Standards (LEPTS) of 2018 and must meet stringent flood safety standards. The exchange of information is ongoing at the time of preparation of this working document;
  • In conformity with Article 6 of the Convention, a consultation meeting was held on 16 September 2020 between the Director of the World Heritage Centre and the States Parties of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, with the participation of ICOMOS experts; .   
  • In March and April 2021, the State Party submitted technical documents to the World Heritage Centre, including a design brief, to show that this is a run-of-the- river dam, and to demonstrate the high technical standards that are to be applied to the construction, and indicating their will to work in close consultation with UNESCO and the Advisory Bodies. The Lao International Cooperation Unit also conducted an online meeting to discuss progress on the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) and risk assessment in relation to the World Heritage property. The meeting was attended by representatives of the State Party and its LPHPP developers, the World Heritage Centre, the UNESCO Office in Bangkok and ICOMOS;
  • Meanwhile, the State Party submitted a request for the International Assistance under the World Heritage Fund for the project to “Support for Heritage Impact Assessment to protect World Heritage in Lao PDR”. In March 2021, the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee approved an amount of USD  30,000 under the Conservation & Management category to enable the State Party to conduct a specific Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) with rigorous risk analysis and the impact on the OUV of Luang Prabang. The project is being implemented collaboratively by the national authorities, World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Office in Bangkok.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The property is a well-known tourism destination in South-East Asia and has attracted increasing visitation. In its report, the State Party reaffirms its commitment to implementing the PSMV and integrating it into the provincial policy, applying its regulations to any modification of the townscape through restoration or development. However, the State Party’s report does not demonstrate concrete, implemented policies or modalities to ensure the safeguarding of traditional town fabrics, including traditional houses and other features. There is no detail about the World Heritage Preservation programme and infrastructure development plan, its purpose, rationale, scale or scope.

Importantly, there is no indication concerning the planning of tourism control, although this issue has been a long-lasting concern for the safeguarding of the property. The PSMV should be updated with a solid Tourism Management Plan, based on a carrying capacity study and necessary prospects assessment, which need to feed the decision-making process in terms of the number of tourism facilities, the conservation of the townscape and other values. A coherent and sustained mechanism of financial allocations is vital to ensure not only the functioning of LPWHO, but also the researching, planning and implementation of the policies for heritage preservation and tourism management in a balanced way.

The reported construction of the LPHPP has been through a process of consultation via the MRC, for which the State Party has implemented several studies but no specific assessment of the risks or impacts that such a project could represent for the attributes of OUV of the property. The MRC’s technical reviews of the project, carried out in December 2019 and June 2020, clearly highlight concerns about its possible impacts in terms of heritage preservation, environment, and socioeconomic contexts, including seismic risks and damage by flood in case of a dam break. The LPHPP Feasibility Study (Volume 4), published in May 2019, contains an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) that covers management issues such as the resettlement of affected villagers and ethnic minority development planning. The documents submitted in March and April 2021, finalised by the project developers and approved by the Lao authorities, argue that because this is a run-of-the-river hydropower facility, there is no direct threat to the World Heritage property and its buffer zone.

Considering that Decision 40 COM 7urges States Parties to ensure that the impacts from dams that could affect properties located upstream or downstream within the same river basin are rigorously assessed in order to avoid impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)”, and bearing in mind the provisions of Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines concerning the needs for HIA to be carried out as a pre-requisite for development projects and other activities that are planned within or around a World Heritage property, it is noted that the submitted technical studies and analysis did not contain specific analysis of expected changes in cultural and natural environment, nor a specific section focusing on the potential impacts of the project on the OUV of the property, nor any mitigation measures against potential impacts. The State Party, using the support of the International Assistance project from the World Heritage Fund, has committed to undertaking a full HIA of the potential impacts of the project on the property and its OUV, and to identify whether mitigation measures might be warranted, and if so, how they would be implemented. The HIA should also identify and mitigate potential negative impacts, including those of natural flooding of the Mekong, and should take into account the findings of the ESIA undertaken for the State Party in 2019. This HIA should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, and its conclusions should guide the planning and implementation of the project, as appropriate. An Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP), also recommended by the MRC, should also be prepared and include reinforced measures to prevent any major threats to the property.

It is also recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its overall state of conservation and the implementation of heritage preservation policies and related regulations, to undertake an assessment of all the proposed projects and to make recommendations on how development projects could support the OUV of the property.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 13
International Assistance

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/13,
  2. Decides not to approve the International Assistance request from Madagascar entitled “Support for the removal of the Atsinanana Rainforests property from the List of World Heritage in Danger as decided by the World Heritage Committee”;
  3. Encourages the State Party of Madagascar to evaluate the outcomes of the implementation of the previous International Assistance request approved in 2010 for the Rainforests of the Atsinanana, and to submit a new International Assistance request focused on the fight against illegal logging and trade of rosewood which are the main reasons for retaining the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  4. Decides to approve the following International Assistance requests:
    1. “Support for Heritage Impact Assessment to protect World Heritage in Lao PDR” (Lao PDR) for an amount of US$ 44,500 under the Conservation & Management-Culture budget. Flexibility is granted within the budget lines dedicated to travel and meetings, in order to accommodate possible adjustments in the implementation of the activities made necessary by the sanitary context related to the Covid-19 pandemic ;
    2. “Reparation and strengthening of the staircases to the frescos, the visitor platform, the wind-corridor metal bridge and the fragmented rock slabs of the lion staircase of the Sigiriya rock of the Sigiriya Ancient City” (Sri Lanka) for an amount of US$ 91,212 under the Conservation & Management-Culture budget;
    3. “Strengthening the Capacities to Manage the Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region: GIS Database Development Training for the Institute and Museum-Ohrid” (North Macedonia) for an amount of US$ 55,000 under the Conservation & Management-Nature budget, as authorized by paragraph 240 of the Operational Guidelines. Flexibility is granted within the budget lines dedicated to travel and meetings, in order to accommodate possible adjustments in the implementation of the activities made necessary by the sanitary context related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The profile of the national experts to be involved in the project will be be further clarified in a dialogue between World Heritage Centre and State Party at the time of implementation, as well as the work of the international experts, which could be distributed throughout the project;
  5. Decides that the Emergency Assistance budget for 2020-2021 can be increased by a maximum amount of US$ 124,000 from the operating reserve in order to reach a maximum of US$ 524,000, if the initial budget of US$ 400,000 is not sufficient;
  6. Recalling Decision 43 COM 13, paragraph 4, strongly appeals to all States Parties to make voluntary contributions for International Assistance by choosing among the options described in Resolution 19 GA 8;
  7. Encourages States Parties considering preparation of International Assistance requests to contact the World Heritage Centre for advice either on the topic and/or on the technicalities of their International Assistance requests well ahead the annual deadline of 31 October.
44 COM 7B.32
Town of Luang Prabang (Lao People's Democratic Republic) (C 479bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.98, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014)
  3. Notes that the Luang Prabang Conservation Plan (PSMV) is implemented, upgraded into the World Heritage Preservation Programme and integrated into the Provincial Strategic Plan, also notes that regulations are in place for the expansion and restoration of existing buildings and new construction and that an Infrastructure Development Plan is being developed within the framework of the Provincial Strategic Plan, and urges the State Party to submit the World Heritage Preservation Programme and the Infrastructure Development Plan to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to their final approval and implementation;
  4. Notes with concern that the number of traditional houses and structures within the property is decreasing, and also urges the State Party to adopt and implement, as part of the PSMV, a policy to preserve, maintain and document these constitutive elements of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  5. Also notes with concern that there is no indication of an integrated Tourism Management Plan, and requests the State Party to urgently develop such a plan, which should be integrated into the World Heritage Preservation Programme;
  6. Expresses its concern regarding the Nam Khan Riverbank project, both due to its potential visual impact on the landscape and the arising security and safety risks, and also requests the State Party to ensure that the project does not have any negative impact on the property’s OUV;
  7. Further notes that the design of the Luang Prabang Hydropower Project (LPHPP) has been completed by the project developers and approved by the relevant Lao authorities and, also recalling Decision 40 COM 7 and the provisions of Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines, recommends that the State Party halt construction activities until the State Party has undertaken the following and submitted them to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies:
    1. Carry out a full Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidelines on Heritage Impact Assessments for World Heritage Cultural Properties, including the potential impact of the LPHPP project on the property and its OUV, with a risk analysis of the potential impacts, including those of natural flooding of the Mekong river, taking into consideration the findings of the 2019 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, and identifying whether and how mitigation measures are required and how they might be implemented, with support from the International Assistance project approved under the World Heritage Fund,
    2. Integrate appropriate measures both into the property’s planning and management and hydropower planning processes and prepare an Emergency Preparedness Plan in order to prevent, to the greatest extent possible, any damage to the property,
    3. Submit these documents to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the overall state of conservation of the property, the implementation of heritage preservation policies and related regulations, the operationalisation of the Heritage Fund, to undertake an assessment of all the proposed projects, and to make recommendations on how development projects could support the OUV of the property;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.32

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.98, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Notes that the Luang Prabang Conservation Plan (PSMV) is implemented, upgraded into the World Heritage Preservation Programme and integrated into the Provincial Strategic Plan, also notes that regulations are in place for the expansion and restoration of existing buildings and new construction and that an Infrastructure Development Plan is being developed within the framework of the Provincial Strategic Plan, and urges the State Party to submit the World Heritage Preservation Programme and the Infrastructure Development Plan to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to their final approval and implementation;
  4. Notes with concern that the number of traditional houses and structures within the property is decreasing, and also urges the State Party to adopt and implement, as part of the PSMV, a policy to preserve, maintain and document these constitutive elements of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  5. Also notes with concern that there is no indication of an integrated Tourism Management Plan, and requests the State Party to urgently develop such a plan, which should be integrated into the World Heritage Preservation Programme;
  6. Expresses its concern regarding the Nam Khan Riverbank project, both due to its potential visual impact on the landscape and the arising security and safety risks, and also requests the State Party to ensure that the project does not have any negative impact on the property’s OUV;
  7. Further notes that the design of the Luang Prabang Hydropower Project (LPHPP) has been completed by the project developers and approved by the relevant Lao authorities and, also recalling Decision 40 COM 7 and the provisions of Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines, recommends that the State Party halt construction activities until the State Party has undertaken the following and submitted them to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies:
    1. Carry out a full Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidelines on Heritage Impact Assessments for World Heritage Cultural Properties, including the potential impact of the LPHPP project on the property and its OUV, with a risk analysis of the potential impacts, including those of natural flooding of the Mekong river, taking into consideration the findings of the 2019 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, and identifying whether and how mitigation measures are required and how they might be implemented, with support from the International Assistance project approved under the World Heritage Fund,
    2. Integrate appropriate measures both into the property’s planning and management and hydropower planning processes and prepare an Emergency Preparedness Plan in order to prevent, to the greatest extent possible, any damage to the property,
    3. Submit these documents to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the overall state of conservation of the property, the implementation of heritage preservation policies and related regulations, the operationalisation of the Heritage Fund, to undertake an assessment of all the proposed projects, and to make recommendations on how development projects could support the OUV of the property;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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 2022.
Report year: 2021
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Date of Inscription: 1995
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(v)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2020) .pdf
Initialy proposed for examination in 2020
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
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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