1.         Bagan (Myanmar) (C 1588)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2019

Criteria  (iii)(iv)(vi)

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/1588/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1588/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Factors identified at the time of inscription of the property:

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1588/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 24 November 2021, a report on the state of conservation was submitted, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1588/documents/ and provides updates on a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at the time of the inscription of the property (Baku, 2019), as follows:

In January 2021, information was provided about road construction and tree planting within the property, in response to a request from the World Heritage Centre in October 2020. This information included an HIA and was the subject of an ICOMOS Technical Review in November 2021, which identified a range of concerns.

In May 2023, media reported that the property has been affected by tropical cyclone Mocha, which formed over the southern Bay of Bengal and notably hit Myanmar. At the time of writing this report, UNESCO is determining whether the cyclone or any follow-up actions may have caused potential negative impacts on the property and its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), notably through the UNESCO Office in Bangkok and its antenna in Myanmar,

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

Progress is to be commended in implementing many of the Committee’s recommendations made at the time of inscription in 2019. It is acknowledged that the conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic have been a significant factor, creating new challenges as well as slowing progress, particularly in relation to tourism management.

It is suggested that the Committee welcome the revisions to the Cultural Heritage Regions Law (2019) and the Building By-Law (2020), the formal establishment of BAGANCOM and other key coordinating entities in the management system, and the completion of the formal revisions to the boundaries and buffer zone that were recommended when the property was inscribed. However, the Advisory Bodies and World Heritage Centre consider that the key coordinating mechanisms are not yet fully operating as intended. BAGANCOM and other committees have been established but have not met regularly, and the Bagan ICC has been affected by the non-engagement of a number of cooperating countries. The Bagan ICC expert site visits have not been able to function as effectively as intended. The Integrated Management Framework (IMF) is due for review in 2024, providing an opportunity to evaluate its effectiveness and strengthen its operations.

Planning for sustainable post-COVID-19 tourism management is critically important and should proceed now that the formal structures of governance are established. The Committee’s recommendations concerning a Hotels Strategy, carrying capacity evaluation, Sustainable Tourism Strategy and liaison with tourism industry representatives should be given renewed priority.

The ongoing efforts regarding research, consolidation of data collection, professional development and site monitoring are noted, and continued work is encouraged. The timetable for completion of the Archaeological Risk Management Plan is also noted, although the rationale for the intention to excavate 140 newly identified mounds should be subject to the research strategies outlined in the IMF.

Noting that collaboration with universities and foundations in Myanmar and other countries has been effective in furthering important initiatives, the importance of agreements that ensure alignment with the IMF and encourage continued work to formalise the involvement of international collaborators and partners should be emphasised. Professional development for cultural heritage management should be further implemented, and efforts to inform and enhance awareness of cultural heritage management by working with religious bodies and the youth be commended.

The regular use of HIA is also commendable, although the November 2021 ICOMOS Technical Review identified some significant methodological shortcomings that should be urgently addressed, including the need to allow for sufficient time in advance of the commencement of works for the HIA to be conducted, while the options of taking mitigating actions or cancelling the works are still entirely feasible.

For the road project, the HIA was submitted following the completion of the project and the Technical Review identified concerns about damage to a heritage building and potential impacts on archaeological materials. The tree planting project was approximately half-completed before being halted upon receipt of the World Heritage Centre’s correspondence. The Technical Review identified issues with the proximity of some plantings to heritage structures, the impacts on archaeological deposits, and the selection of non-native plant types, in clear contradiction to the Management Plan. ICOMOS also noted that the HIA had identified a range of impacts on the OUV of the property, but that the project was allowed to proceed without the required modifications or reconsideration.

Both projects indicate an apparent incompatibility with the policies outlined in the Management Plan, and thus raise questions regarding the effectiveness of the property’s management system. It is suggested that additional capacity-building activities should be organised to deepen awareness of the provisions of the Management Plan among decision makers and ensure their appropriate implementation.

The Technical Review further identified concerns about the interpretation of ‘reversibility’ in relation to impacts on archaeological resources and advised that greater attention should be paid to potential impacts on the visual setting. These examples reinforce the importance of completing the Archaeological Risk mapping.

In relation to changes to the Bagan-Nyaung Oo Airport, the findings are considered inconclusive, particularly in relation to the construction and operation phases, suggesting the need for further HIA studies. Further development of HIA capacity is required so that the full range of impacts on the attributes of the property are considered, including, but not limited to, the impacts on archaeological resources, the condition of heritage structures and the visual setting.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.44

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add.3,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 8B.20 adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Commends the significant efforts that have been made towards implementing the recommendations it made at the time of the property’s inscription on the World Heritage List;
  4. Expresses its sympathy to the people of Myanmar, who have been affected by a tropical cyclone in May 2023, notes with concern that the cyclone may have affected the property and its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and emphasizes that a number of emergency assistance mechanisms are available under the Convention to assist, if needed;
  5. Welcomes the completion of the revisions to the boundaries of components 6 and 7 and to the buffer zone of component 4, the installation of boundary markers for the property components and buffer zone, and the completion of the registration and grading of all monuments located in the property and its buffer zone;
  6. Welcomes the adoption of the Cultural Heritage Regions Law (2019), the Building By-Law (2020), and the formal establishment of the Bagan National Coordinating Committee (BAGANCOM) and other coordinating mechanisms for the management system, and encourages a review of the effectiveness and operations of the governance structures and the operation of the Integrated Management Framework as part of the planned 5-year review in 2024;
  7. Acknowledges that progress in relation to some of the Committee’s recommendations has been affected by recent and current conditions, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and that this has had a major impact on the operation of the governance arrangements, research planning and tourism;
  8. Encourages the continuation of further progress with all actions identified at the time of inscription, and especially with:
    1. Regular meetings of the Bagan International Coordinating Committee (BICC) and the development of formal agreements with all international missions working at Bagan,
    2. The Bagan Sustainable Tourism Strategy, including post-COVID-19 considerations,
    3. Develop the Bagan Hotel Strategy in consultation with ICOMOS and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and based on the Bagan Hotel Strategy Scoping Study (2020), identifying zones within which hotels can be located and ensuring that Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA) are undertaken before any new hotel development or expansion is undertaken,
    4. The Bagan Disaster Risk Management Strategy, ensuring that it is associated with the monitoring system and responsive to damages arising from identified pressures, such as weather events,
    5. The Archaeological Risk Management Strategy for the property, buffer zone and wider setting,
    6. Capacity-building and framework development for Impact Assessments, in conformity with the new Guidance for Impact Assessment in a World Heritage context, and conducting further HIA studies for the Bagan-Nyaung Oo Airport project once the planning stage is further advanced;
  9. Notes the ongoing efforts regarding research, consolidation of data collection, professional development and site monitoring, and also encourages continued progress with the ‘One Map’ initiative, archaeological research and data collection, the development of a monitoring system based on inventories of the tangible and intangible attributes of Bagan, and the implementation of the Bagan Agriculture Sector Strategy;
  10. Notes the conclusions and concerns identified in ICOMOS Technical Review of the road construction and tree planting program within the boundaries of the World Heritage property, and requests:
    1. an archaeological report on the ground disturbance caused by the recent road works and tree planting, in accordance with the ICOMOS Technical Review, including an analysis of taphonomy, soil profiles and any artefacts exposed by the works,
    2. a landscape study that characterizes the landscape during key historical phases to assist with the identification of appropriate tree species for future greening programmes;
  11. Reminds the need to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for evaluation by the Advisory Bodies, detailed information on any ongoing and future works, including any restoration works for damage occurring within the property or its buffer zone that may affect the OUV of the property, along with any associated Impact Assessments, in accordance with Paragraphs 118bis and 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  12. Finally requests the submission to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, of 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 47th session.