1.         Maya Site of Copan (Honduras) (C 129bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (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/129/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1979-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 226,513
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/129/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2003: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission; 2005: ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) The foreseen construction of an airport in the vicinity of the World Heritage property, in a national protected area;

b) Deterioration of construction materials due to natural decay phenomena;

c) Risk of structural failure of archaeological complexes resulting from the excavated tunnels for archaeological purposes;

d) Deterioration derived from uncontrolled visitation and potential to exceed carrying capacity at specific time periods;

e) Legal issues concerning the ownership of the land in the property and its buffer zone and the delimitation of the property and its buffer zone

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/129/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

The state of conservation report of the Maya Site of Copan was received by the World Heritage Centre on 1 February 2011. Additional information was received on 24 February 2011, as requested by the World Heritage Centre on 3 February 2011 (letter WHC/74/217.1/NS/na/40).

a) Submission of further details on the implementation of the management plan

The report indicates that no further steps have been taken since the last state of conservation report. The State Party has previously submitted a management strategy which does not address conservation policies, disaster preparedness, involvement of the local communities and visitor management. However an official management plan has never been submitted.

It was reported that a Public Use Plan which has been pending since 2005 and financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IBD), is being commissioned to monitor the carrying capacity of the site; It was stated that this plan will be drafted between May and September 2011. No terms of reference for the plan have been submitted.

b) Implementation of the conservation interventions at the property

Conservation measures in the form of protective shelters have been implemented for three steles. As for the hieroglyphic stairway, interventions have continued for the last three years for surface stabilization and mortar repairs, as well as preventive measures and monitoring. The State Party indicates that the protective shelter that exists since 1987, a canvas tarpaulin, has been replaced several times and a larger one installed in April 2010. Based on the report done in 2007 by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), which was not submitted, it has now been approved to substitute this with a long term sustainable shelter which will be financed by the Santander Bank of Spain. No technical information on the proposed new alternative design has been submitted for review.

A conservation laboratory for sculptures is also scheduled to be opened in the Sculpture Museum by the end of 2011. This will also be funded by the Santander Bank of Spain. No technical details or maps for the location of the approved project were submitted.

c) Issues related to the tunnels

The State Party reports that conservation issues persist at the tunnels. Although there are regular inspections and no serious damage has been registered so far, there is still the need to create a comprehensive programme of preventive and corrective measures to improve their conservation. As part of the documents later received by the World Heritage Centre in February 2011, the State Party sent a report on the Consolidation and the Waterproofing of the Weak Areas of the Acropolis, which was prepared in response to the heavy rains of 2010. This report provides limited information on the implementation of the institution’s activities, timeframes and funding. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies wish to draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that for the past three years, this issue has been a point of focus. They consider that this report from the State Party may be an emergency measure rather than a suitable long-term conservation strategy.

d) Official submission of the boundaries of the World Heritage property and its potential buffer zone, in light of the requirements of the Retrospective Inventory

The report states that the World Heritage area comprises 3 different zones: zone 1 – the property, zone 2 – the El Bosque residential area and zone 3 – an adaptation area used for tourist facilities. Four maps were submitted with the report and will be considered under the item corresponding to minor boundary modifications.

The report states that some of the land in the buffer zone is under the control of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH) and that the long term goal is to purchase all the land in the buffer zone. Specific indications on when and how this goal will be achieved have not been provided.

e) Definitive decision on the location for the construction of the airport and related tourism management issues

The 2003 and 2005 joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring missions to the property made several objections to the construction of the airport at the Rio Amarillo site, and identified alternative locations. In 2006 the World Heritage Centre congratulated the State Party for the decision to halt the construction of the airport at the Rio Amarillo area. However in 2007, the State Party informed the Committee of plans to construct an alternate airport at the old air strip in the village of Concepción. The 2009 state of conservation report indicated that a final decision on the construction of an airport in La Concepción was still pending and that IHAH was reviewing the Environmental Impact Assessment to make an official statement. No further information was received on its decision. On 30 September 2010, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the Honduran Delegation indicating its concerns regarding the reconsideration of the construction of the airport at the Rio Amarillo site after reviewing information from the published press. The 2011 state of conservation report submitted by the State Party indicates that the Ministry of Tourism had cancelled the option of La Conception for financial reasons and that it is once again evaluating the Rio Amarillo option. It also reported that prior to making further decisions the IHAH will analyze by October 2011, an updated assessment of impact on cultural heritage and the Public Use Plan, which will include the potential impact of the airport, particularly as it relates to the visitor management programme.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that sufficient information has been provided to the World Heritage Committee over the past 5 years, and Decisions of the World Heritage Committee have indicated clearly that the construction of an airport atRio Amarillo, could have an adverse impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

f) Other conservation issues

Conservation measures foreseen by the IHAH include training in risk management in cooperation with the Fire Department of San Pedro Sula, the construction of a new roof over the visitors’ centre and of a small booth close to the Nuñez Chinchilla group for the exhibition of interpretive material. IHAH is monitoring land use at the buffer zone and is showing concern regarding the land use of the areas just outside the buffer zone, with possible threats being the likely construction of telecommunication antennas.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the state of conservation report received in February 2011 from the State Party is not exhaustive, and does not provide all the information requested by the World Heritage Commitee. Important information on the airport, tunnels, boundaries of the site and the ownership and regulations for the buffer zone are still missing. They note the insufficient information submitted for the management plan, particularly as it relates to conservation and practices; and that important projects, such as the construction of infrastructure for the conservation laboratory and the new design for the protective shelter for the hieroglyphic stairway, have been approved without being submitted, as required by Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, to the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies for consideration and review. 

They further note that the site of Rio Amarillo is still being considered for the construction of the airport. Previous Decisions of the World Heritage Committee have made it clear that an airport in this location could have an adverse impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.126

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.137, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Acknowledges the information provided by the State Party regarding the measures implemented to address the recommendations made by the World Heritage Committee, and urges it to submit an official management plan, including provisions for public use and risk management and to secure the necessary resources to ensure its full implementation;

4. Also urges the State Party to develop and implement a comprehensive conservation programme for the tunnels and to establish conservation guidelines for interventions at the property;

5. Reiterates its concern that the site of Rio Amarillo is being considered for the construction of the airfield, in spite of previous World Heritage Committee decisions, yet acknowledges that additional information has been gathered and new studies have been produced after the 2005 reactive monitoring mission conducted by ICOMOS, which requires further analysis;

6. Accepts the State Party's invitation for a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission in 2011 to assess the state of conservation of the property and particularly review all the information produced up to this date regarding the project of building an airfield in the site of Rio Amarillo, including environmental impact assessments, and a heritage impact assessment, in order to update the analysis for consideration and review by the World Heritage Committee;

7. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, the related technical information for the new protective shelter for the hieroglyphic stairway and for the conservation laboratory for sculptures, prior to approval and implementation;

8. Further urges the State Party to officially submit information on regulatory measures, land tenure, related cartography for the protection and management of the property and the buffer zone by 30 November 2011;

9. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property and on the progress made in the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 8B.59

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B.Add and WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Refers the examination of the proposed buffer zone for the Maya Site of Copan, Honduras, back to the State Party in order to allow it to:

a) Re-submit map No. 1 showing the nominated property and its immediate surroundings. This map should be either topographic or cadastral, presented at a scale which is appropriate to the size in hectares of the property, include title and legend in English and bear a labelled coordinate grid,

b) Re-submit map No. 3 showing the proposed buffer zone and the nominated area with the same standards as the ones required for map No. 1,

c) Provide justification for the extent of the buffer zone, its delineation and its exact area,

d) Provide information on regulatory measures for the protection and management of the property and its buffer zone.