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

Jordan
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Buildings and Development (lack of design and construction guidelines) Preservation of important vistas and sightlines of the property

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Buildings and Development: Lack of design and construction guidelines for the Churches to be constructed in the buffer zone
  • Management systems/ management plan: Lack of integration of the management procedures on maintenance, visitor management and disaster response in the management system
  • 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 2021
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 26 November 2020, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, an executive summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1446/documents/, and presents progress in a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions, as follows:

  • An Earthquake Response Preparation Plan has been developed and is appended to the State Party’s report;
  • Updated Procedures of the Design and Construction Guidelines for New Churches and Existing Churches to protect the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) have been submitted and include measures to address the height and scale of new buildings, and to protect vistas and sightlines. A schedule of existing and proposed churches has been provided;
  • All Christian denominations at the property buffer zone have formally committed to a range of provisions (a moratorium), including the Design and Construction Guidelines for New Churches and Existing Churches, the need to obtain all approvals for new buildings before commencing construction, preservation of the landscape, agreement on the main goal for new facilities, and adherence to the decisions of the Board of Trustees and the World Heritage Committee. The denominations with proposed churches reported to the World Heritage Committee in 2018 should modify their proposals to comply with the new guidelines;
  • The Master Plan for the buffer zone is not yet finalised and will be submitted to the World Heritage Committee when complete. As part of this process, protection of the landscape, natural vegetation and the setting have been considered, and additional land has been expropriated in and around the buffer zone for a natural reserve zone;
  • Information is provided regarding tree planting around proposed churches and their borders to help preserve the OUV;
  • The State Party reports that it is unable to protect the west bank of the Jordan River as it is outside of its jurisdiction. It continues to monitor and preserve the site and its surroundings and report about any activities. In 2016, the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that the management of the property had noted high electricity towers being planted just opposite the property, which are of concern;
  • Brief information is provided on the state of conservation of a range of attributes.

On 18 December 2020, the State Party submitted plans for two proposed churches - the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and the Saint Maroun Maronite Church - to the World Heritage Centre for review.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The submission of an Earthquake Response Preparation Plan is noted. While this generally appears to be adequate, its scope is not very clear. The title and action program refer to earthquakes but other parts of the plan refer to all disasters including floods and earthquakes. The action program contains timeframes for a number of training actions, although the State Party reports that several of these could not be undertaken as scheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the training programme would be resumed at an appropriate time.

No information is provided as to how this plan is integrated within the property’s Management Plan, as requested by the Committee.

The World Heritage Committee previously requested the State Party to revise the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for completed and new buildings in the buffer zone (Decision 43 COM 7B.46). The State Party has provided re-assurances about the protection of OUV through a range of measures such as the updated Procedures of the Design and Construction Guidelines for New Churches and Existing Churches to address both proposed and existing churches, where the latter are subject to alterations or extensions, and which were submitted for approval by the World Heritage Committee. The signed commitments from the Christian denominations at the property should ensure compliance with the guidelines, including regarding the construction of boundary walls. The guidelines appear satisfactory and their implementation and effectiveness should be monitored. The ICOMOS technical review (March 2021), however, expressed concern that the success of the guidelines might be compromised as they do not consistently offer measurable advice. It is also noted that no revised HIA has yet been provided.

The updated guidelines reduce the maximum building height from 35 to 20 metres. While this is a very substantial change, it would be helpful to understand the basis for this reduction (e.g. through a Visual Impact Assessment). The extent to which the tree plantings around the new churches will visually replicate the landscape values of the Jordan River landscape and hide the mass and height of the churches is not tested, and some visual analysis is called for. The question of cumulative impacts of the new church developments should also be a matter for HIA.

It is noted that the revision of the Master Plan for the buffer zone is still to be completed. The information provided regarding enhancement of protection for the property through expanding landscape protection within and beyond the buffer zone is also noted. However, the accompanying map suggests that areas previously designated for hotel/touristic activities, and the area of the new churches have been re-labelled ‘nature reserve’ with no indication of any proposed changed land uses in these areas. The assumption might be that new plantings around buildings will be sufficient to provide the ‘wilderness’ landscape aesthetic, but this has not been tested. The revision of the location of the proposed convention centre, raised by the Committee, has not been addressed. It is expected that these issues will be clarified in the buffer zone land use plan under preparation.

The comments of the State Party regarding the continuing need to ensure preservation of important vistas and sightlines related to the western banks of the Jordan River and its efforts to report on issues relating to protection of the OUV of the property are noted.

The report provides an overview of conservation and other works undertaken at the property, such as maintenance and cleaning of mosaic floors and other attributes, and consolidation of walls. These works appear satisfactory.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.128
Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) (Jordan) (C 1446)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 8B.10, 40 COM 8B.50, 41 COM 7B.79, 43 COM 7B.46 adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 41st (Krakow, 2017) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively;
  3. Commends the State Party on the development of the Earthquake Response Preparation Plan, updated design and construction guidelines for the buffer zone, signed formal commitments with the Christian denominations, and expanded landscape protection within and beyond the buffer zone;
  4. Requests the State Party to clarify the scope of the Earthquake Response Preparation Plan and whether it is intended to address all disasters such as floods as well, which may require additional measures, and advise as to how this plan is integrated within the property’s Management Plan;
  5. Also requests the State Party to submit the Master Plan for the whole buffer zone, addressing the issues noted in Decision 43 COM 7B.46, when completed, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and urges the State Party to consider undertaking a visual landscape analysis of the potential impacts on the Jordan River landscape area (the nature reserve) of various development options for the new churches to clarify the decisions on building height, mass and revegetation strategies;
  6. Further requests the State Party to submit the revised Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for completed and new buildings in the buffer zone in accordance with Decision 43 COM 7B.46, based on the adopted Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and considering the updated design and construction guidelines, the visual landscape analysis requested above, the reduction of the maximum building height limit, and the cumulative impacts of building development;
  7. Welcomes the State Party’s efforts to report on issues on the western bank of the Jordan River relating to protection of the OUV of the property, however, reiterates the need to ensure the preservation of important vistas and views by all concerned parties;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to update the Management Plan to reflect the adopted Statement of OUV, as well as other matters that have changed since the plan was developed, such as the Earthquake Response Preparation Plan;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 46th session.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.128

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 8B.10, 40 COM 8B.50, 41 COM 7B.79, 43 COM 7B.46 adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 41st (Krakow, 2017) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively;
  3. Commends the State Party on the development of the Earthquake Response Preparation Plan, updated design and construction guidelines for the buffer zone, signed formal commitments with the Christian denominations, and expanded landscape protection within and beyond the buffer zone;
  4. Requests the State Party to clarify the scope of the Earthquake Response Preparation Plan and whether it is intended to address all disasters such as floods as well, which may require additional measures, and advise as to how this plan is integrated within the property’s Management Plan;
  5. Also requests the State Party to submit the Master Plan for the whole buffer zone, addressing the issues noted in Decision 43 COM 7B.46, when completed, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and urges the State Party to consider undertaking a visual landscape analysis of the potential impacts on the Jordan River landscape area (the nature reserve) of various development options for the new churches to clarify the decisions on building height, mass and revegetation strategies;
  6. Further requests the State Party to submit the revised Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for completed and new buildings in the buffer zone in accordance with Decision 43 COM 7B.46, based on the adopted Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and considering the updated design and construction guidelines, the visual landscape analysis requested above, the reduction of the maximum building height limit, and the cumulative impacts of building development;
  7. Welcomes the State Party’s efforts to report on issues on the western bank of the Jordan River relating to protection of the OUV of the property, however, reiterates the need to ensure the preservation of important vistas and views by all concerned parties;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to update the Management Plan to reflect the adopted Statement of OUV, as well as other matters that have changed since the plan was developed, such as the Earthquake Response Preparation Plan;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 46th session in 2023.
Report year: 2021
Jordan
Date of Inscription: 2015
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2020) .pdf
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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