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Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape

Lao People's Democratic Republic
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Human resources
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water infrastructure
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Ground transport infrastructure (New infrastructure construction, including new proposed roads)
  • Housing (New constructions contributing to the haphazard densification of the main monumental complex)
  • Management systems/Management Plan (Lack of a coordinated management mechanism)
  • Impacts of tourism/visitors/recreation
  • Interpretative and Visitation facilities (Parking lot and visitor centre)
  • Human resources (Lack of sufficient professional staff)
  • Water infrastructure related to water supply
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2021

Total amount provided to the property: UNESCO Japanese Funds-In-Trust project: USD 379,040 (1996-1997); Italy-funded projects through Lerici Foundation: USD 482,194 (1996-2004; 3 project phases):
Phase I (1996-1997) = USD 161,124; Phase II (1998-1999) = USD 164,000; Phase III (2003-2005) = USD 157,070; UNESCO/France Cooperation Agreement: 20,000 EUR (2020-2021) jointly for Vat Phou and the Plain of Jars

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 1 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved : 13,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

January/February 2011: UNESCO Mission; November 2011: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission; February 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2013: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission, March 2014: France-UNESCO Convention Programme mission; February 2015: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 18 March 2021, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481/documents and provides information on the implementation of Committee’s previous decision as follows:

  • The provincial Building Codes for the Land Use Plan of the Vat Phou Champassak, adopted in 2016, are enforcing effectively the Monument Zoning Plan (MZP) in the Zones 3 and 4. In Zone 4 (Monument Management Zone), new buildings are not allowed, and the new tourism facilities and conservation laboratory have been cancelled. Access to the temple complex is only allowed through electric buggy service;
  • While the traffic management scheme is ready to be issued to restrict traffic along Route 14A to light vehicles, funds are still lacking to proceed with the required upgrade to the bypass Route 14B and the completion/repairs of Route 14A. Work on Route 14A, located in the middle of the property, is reported to be suspended, with two bridges decaying; USD 25 million are required to upgrade the bypass Route 14B (55 km), in line with the World Heritage Committee’s decision. As mthe poor conditions of the current transport would impact investment in the zone, the State Party considers the completion of the roads as a regional priority and seeks to fulfil this objective;
  • With the support of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and funding from the French Ministry of Culture through UNESCO, the State Party is commissioning a special expert team to elaborate and update the Management Plan. The team will be led by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MICT) and will involve academics and practitioners in the fields of heritage and tourism development. The revised Management Plan will be submitted to UNESCO by the end of 2021;
  • More time, funds and technical support are needed to create more detailed topographic maps of the property, as part of the Vat Phou Champasak Landscape Master Plan project;
  • The extension project of the water pipeline by Champasak Water Supply State Enterprise was undertaken and completed in 2019 without a Heritage Impact Assessment, but close monitoring was conducted during the operation by the authorities of Vat Phou.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The Committee may wish to note that the updating of the Management Plan has been progressing with the support of the AFD and funding from the French Ministry of Culture via UNESCO, with a view to integrating existing management tools into a comprehensive and adapted framework. However, concrete elements, such as the descriptions of the contents and materials to ensure a more mission/challenge-oriented approach to inform all activities concerning the property, have not been submitted. The Committee may also wish to acknowledge the enforcement of the control measures in Zones 3 and 4, notably ensured by prohibiting new buildings and using electronic vehicles to move within the archaeological zone. Funds have not been secured for repairs to Route 14A and the upgrading of Route 14B, which would ensure decent transport conditions for inhabitants and influence possible investment opportunities. The Committee may further encourage the State Party to pursue its efforts in approaching international and multilateral stakeholders to mobilise the necessary funds.

The updated topographic map of the property as inscribed in 2001 remains to be completed and submitted in due course for its subsequent examination by the Committee.

It is noted that the Champasak Water Supply State Enterprise implemented and completed the extension of the existing water supply into Champasak town from the southern perimeter of the property at Dontalat in 2019 without carrying out the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) requested by the Committee. While recognizing the legitimate need to supply clean, disinfected and safe water to the 14 villages in the area and over 10,000 people in Champasak town, the Committee may regret that the project was already at an advanced stage of completion when it adopted its previous Decision and was subsequently completed without either a thorough investigation of its potential risks prior to implementation or any consideration for possible mitigation measures, both of which would have been addressed through the HIA. In the follow-up report of this project, dated June 2019, it is shown that the Vat Phou Heritage Authority intervened to monitor the operation, especially regarding the design, the alignment and depth of the pipelines, and by urging the operators to pay attention to the size of water conducts and the methods and depth of the digging works. While acknowledging these efforts, and considering the other issues with development in or around World Heritage properties in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, notably near Luang Prabang, the Committee may wish to encourage the State Party to consider establishing a legal framework requiring appropriate Impact Assessments to be carried out proactively for all development planning that may have potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties in the Lao PDR, depending on the specific contexts.

Finally, it remains unclear whether the mitigation measures suggested by the ‘Critical Review of a Water Supply Project (WSP) Implemented in the World Heritage Complex of Vat Phou Champasak’, submitted in 2018, have been executed, as requested by the Committee, and the Committee may request the State Party to provide this information.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.146
Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape (Lao People's Democratic Republic) (C 481)
Decision: 44 COM 7B.146

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.68 adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Notes that the updating of the Management Plan has been progressing and requests the State Party to provide by 1 February 2022 a final draft to the World Heritage Centre, with a more mission/challenge-oriented approach, to inform all activities concerning the property and for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  4. Notes with concern the reported lack of funds for the implementation of the road network, including Roads 14A and 14B, and encourages the State Party to keep exploring options to mobilise the necessary resources and complete the pending work;
  5. Reiterates its requests that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Centre an updated topographic map of the property as inscribed in 2001, for its subsequent examination by the Committee, by 1 February 2022;
  6. Notes with regret that the water supply extension project undertaken by Champasak Water Supply State Enterprise was not halted, but instead completed in 2019 without the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) requested in its previous decision; also notes that there has been no report on the full application of the mitigation measures suggested in the HIA for the Champasak Water Supply project (WSP) submitted in 2018; and therefore requests the State Party to: 
    1. Provide the report on the state of implementation of the mitigation measures suggested in the HIA on the WSP,
    2. Consider the formal establishment of a legal framework requiring that appropriate Impact Assessments be carried out proactively for all development projects that could have potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties in the Lao PDR;
  7. Further requests 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.146

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.68 adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Notes that the updating of the Management Plan has been progressing and requests the State Party to provide by 1 February 2022 a final draft to the World Heritage Centre, with a more mission/challenge-oriented approach, to inform all activities concerning the property and for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  4. Notes with concern the reported lack of funds for the implementation of the road network, including Roads 14A and 14B, and encourages the State Party to keep exploring options to mobilise the necessary resources and complete the pending work;
  5. Reiterates its requests that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Centre an updated topographic map of the property as inscribed in 2001, for its subsequent examination by the Committee, by 1 February 2022;
  6. Notes with regret that the water supply extension project undertaken by Champasak Water Supply State Enterprise was not halted, but instead completed in 2019 without the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) requested in its previous decision; also notes that there has been no report on the full application of the mitigation measures suggested in the HIA for the Champasak Water Supply project (WSP) submitted in 2018; and therefore requests the State Party to: 
    1. Provide the report on the state of implementation of the mitigation measures suggested in the HIA on the WSP,
    2. Consider the formal establishment of a legal framework requiring that appropriate Impact Assessments be carried out proactively for all development projects that could have potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties in the Lao PDR;
  7. Further requests 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
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Date of Inscription: 2001
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2021) .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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