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Historic Town of Zabid

Yemen
Factors affecting the property in 2009*
  • Deliberate destruction of heritage
  • Housing
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Serious degradation of the city’s heritage (many houses and the ancient souq are in an alarming deterioration state)

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Serious degradation of the city’s heritage (many houses and the ancient souq are in an alarming deterioration state);

b) Large percentage of the city's houses replaced by inappropriate concrete buildings;

c) Large sections of the city’s open spaces have been privatized, either illegally or informally and more than 30% of these built-up;

d) Lack of conservation measures and supportive developments.

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • Serious deterioration of the built-up heritage (a high percentage of the residential houses being replaced by compact cement and multi-storey buildings);
  • The remains of the houses in the city are rapidly deteriorating, due to the prevailing low income of the inhabitants;
  • Since the souq activities have been transferred outside the city, the ancient souq is almost empty and free from any type of activity and the shops are falling apart;
  • The traditional economic role of the city has vanished;
  • The city in general, is lacking any conservation and rehabilitation strategies.
Corrective Measures for the property

In its Decision 31 COM 7A.19 (Christchurch, 2007), the World Heritage Committee defined the measures to be taken urgently to reverse the downward decline :

a) Adequate legal and institutional framework to be set up in one year:

(i) Re-issuance of Cabinet Decree No.425 - 2006;

(ii) Government provision to General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY) in Sana'a and Zabid of adequate budget to stabilize the degradation of the World Heritage property;

(iii) Completion of heritage protection laws;

(iv) Completion of the draft conservation plan, with translation into Arabic. Provision of short version for wide dissemination;

b) Physical degradation to be stopped immediately and reversed within two years:

(i) Stopping of poor new construction and further degradation of protected heritage assets;

(ii) Approval of contractors and individual specialists for carrying out emergency conservation works,

(iii) Appropriate house improvement design - bathrooms and kitchens, infrastructure and air conditioning;

(iv) Good designs for new houses within Zabid;

(v) Starting demolition of the concrete walls on the streets and other public spaces and replacing with brick walls;

(vi) Planned, costed and programmed schedule of medium and long-term actions;

(vii) Prescription rules and regulations to be followed by inhabitants and owners;

(viii) Adoption of Zabid Urban Development Plan.

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures
As set out in Decision 31 COM 7A.19: “adequate legal and institutional framework set up in one year (2008); the physical degradation stopped immediately and reversed within two years (2009)
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2009

Total amount provided to the property: USD 10,000 from the Italian Funds-in-Trust; USD 4,000 from the France-UNESCO Co-operation Agreement.

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2009
Requests approved: 8 (from 1994-2004)
Total amount approved : 159,167 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

At its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), the World Heritage Committee agreed to defer consideration of delisting the property form the World Heritage list if specific and agreed measures were taken to reverse the severe decline in the conservation and economy of the city through a legal and institutional framework being set up in one year (2008) and the physical degradation stopped immediately and reversed within two years (2009)”. The World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) agreed to allow the State Party more time to demonstrate progress in the light of joint German Technical Assistance (GTZ), Yemeni Government and Social Fund for Development (SFD)rehabilitation project, whose first phase is due for completion in 2010, but reiterated the need for a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value to be developed as a basis for progress and adequate monitoring to demonstrate the reversal of decline.

On 1 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. A World Heritage Centre mission visited the property in January 2009, at the request of the State Party, to be shown the progress that has been made. The State Party report provides an overview of measures taken in response to the World Heritage Committee’s requests over the past two years and the detailed recommendations of the ICOMOS mission in 2007 about the corrective measures.

A summary is given below. Overall the report stresses that improvements are now visible and the situation is changing: the city seems to be now on the track to reverse the trend of deterioration and to improve in the future. But there is still a long way to go before this is achieved and national and international support needs to continue. In conclusion the State Party requests that the World Heritage Committee allow more time and specifically that the property is kept on the List of World Heritage in Danger for an additional period of three years before an assessment of progress is made.

a) Adequate legal and institutional framework set up by in one year by 2008

The Cabinet decree, issued in November 2007, created a Higher Ministerial Coordination Committee for Zabid (HMCCZ). This Committee now meets regularly and the role of the various governmental stakeholders, such as Ministries of Culture, Tourism, Public Works and Awqaf, the Planning Authority are now clearly defined and budgets allocated to each of them.

The Minister of Culture is providing additional annual allocations from the Fund for Cultural Development, to the local office of GOPHCY while SFD/GTZ is for the duration of their project, supporting 6 architects and other experts, together with the provision of capacity building support. Today, GOPHCY office hosts 28 staff members and is said to be in a position for the first time to fulfil its obligations towards safeguarding the city.

The enactment of the heritage protection law is still awaited.

b) Completion of the draft conservation plan

An architectural survey carried out in 2008 by master-degree students from a French University and co-financed by GTZ and the World Heritage Fund, now offers a classification of plots according to their heritage. A GIS system is being prepared that will allow the production of thematic maps and help with the finalisation of the conservation plan. The survey has shown that more than 70% of the original heritage of the city is still there even though in a bad state of conservation and that the previous estimates of 50% remaining were inaccurate. The survey also suggested an approach to conservation and the aim and suggested contents of a conservation plan.

c) Physical degradation stopped immediately and reversed within two years: Stopping poor new construction and further degradation of protected heritage assets

In September 2008, a Presidential letter was sent to the Governor of Hodeida, instructing him to take all the required actions in order to stop violations, ban new constructions and monitor the progress of the ongoing safeguarding measures.

The absence of clear rules and regulations defining what is permitted and what constitutes a violation has been, until now, at the very core of the challenges facing the conservation of the towns’ buildings. The SFD/GTZ project, is working with GOPHCY to revise and renew the regulations, In order to better deal with violations, a number of positive steps have been achieved:

- making the stopping of new violations a highest priority;

- preparing an inventory of violations,

- demolition of illegal constructions;

- strengthening a rapid response to violations;

- developing and beginning to enforce appropriate regulations that permit construction;

- opening new areas for construction outside the city (new development zone to the north-east of Zabid).

In the meanwhile, illegal interventions have only partially been stopped. The procedure for the demolition of four illegal buildings has been launched by the Director of GOPHCY-Zabid. The need for strong support from the authorities, in particular from the police, is absolutely essential for its success.

d) Measures to improve material, methods and capacity building

GTZ, GOPHCY and SFD are now implementing an incentive-based rehabilitation program (up to 40% of the rehabilitation costs are funded by the project), that aims to rehabilitate some 200 houses during the first three years of the Project. Fifty have already been implemented and there are now more than 400 applications to join the programme.

During the first year, traditional builders were surveyed and a profile of their skills established. A number of specialists restorers have been trained and are now working in the field. A wood conservation laboratory has been set up to restore the old wooden elements of the city. A team of eight women from Zabid has been trained and has been carrying out wood restoration for more than six months. The production of bricks has improved due to a new scheme guaranteeing that all bricks produced would be purchased by the SFD/GTZ project, if not sold to local consumers.

The souq rehabilitation subsidy scheme has recently been started.

The mission noted that the pilot phase for a Storm Water Drainage and Street Paving Project had been completed. While the project is noteworthy and necessary, the members of the mission (both World Heritage Centre and GTZ) remained unconvinced of the implementation of the pilot segment which appears to not correspond to the original study and design proposed, nor its materials and techniques. In particular cement appears to have been used for pointing and render.

e) Adoption of Zabid Urban Development Plan

f) Statement of Outstanding Universal Value

g) Statement of the Desired state of conservation for the property based on its Outstanding Universal Value

Those issues have not been addressed in the report.

 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that progress has been made in gaining political will and commitment to the conservation of Zabid and that a much more positive approach appears to have been generated through the SFD/GTZ project. The mandate of this project is to improve social capacity and economic development for poverty alleviation, and conservation of cultural heritage is supported if it becomes a basis for development and economic gain for the local population. Nevertheless difficult challenges remain in terms of defining parameters for what constitutes violation and providing the necessary rules and regulations within the framework of a conservation plan to allow GOPHCY staff to have a clear mandate and to allow other departments to support their actions.

 

Overall the Danger listing appears to have been beneficial in galvanising support for conservation of buildings and promoting economic regeneration. However the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the timescale for addressing the two main issues set by the World Heritage Committee must remain tight in order to demonstrate that the serious decline has been reversed.

 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2009
33 COM 7A.19
Historic Town of Zabid (Yemen) (C 611)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decisions 31 COM 7A.19 and 32 COM 7A.19, adopted respectively at its 31st (Christchurch, 2007) and 32nd (Quebec City, 2008) sessions;

3. Takes notes of the progress that has been made in generating political support and commitment to the conservation of Zabid and the increase in resources for the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY), supplemented by the socio-economic development project of the German Technical Assistance (GTZ), the Yemeni Government and the Social Fund for Development (SFD);

4. Notes however that many difficult challenges remain in terms of defining violations and putting in place an adequate legal framework, developing a conservation plan, allowing GOPHCY staff to have a clear mandate to deal with violations and construction permits and supporting their implementation work;

5. Also notes that notwithstanding capacity building in construction skills, further support and training is still needed in traditional materials and techniques;

6. Urges the State Party to continue to give the optimum support to the regeneration and conservation of Zabid;

7. Reiterates its request to the State Party to continue its efforts towards the implementation of the corrective measures adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007);

8 Requests that priority is given to developing the conservation plan in line with the aims outlined as part of the architectural survey;

9 Also reiterates its request to the State Party to develop, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, and a proposal for the desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;

10 Also requeststhe State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to assess progress on the 2007 action plan for the implementation of the corrective measures;

11 Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2010 a progress report on the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;

12 Decides to retain the Historic Town of Zabid (Yemen) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

33 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Following the examination of the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-09/33.COM/7A, WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Add and WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Corr),

2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:

  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 33 COM 7A.20)
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley, (Decision 33 COM 7A.21)
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.1)
  • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 33 COM 7A.28)
  • Côte d'Ivoire, Comoé National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.2)
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 33 COM 7A.3)
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.4)
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.5)
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.6)
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Salonga National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.7)
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 33 COM 7A.8)
  • Ecuador, Galápagos Islands (Decision 33 COM 7A.13)
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 33 COM 7A.15)
  • Ethiopia, Simien National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.9)
  • India, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (Decision 33 COM 7A.12)
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 33 COM 7A.16)
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 33 COM 7A.17)
  • Islamic Republic of Iran, Bam and its Cultural Landscape (Decision 33 COM 7A.22)
  • Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (Decision 33 COM 7A.18)
  • Niger, Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 33 COM 7A.10)
  • Pakistan, Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore (Decision 33 COM 7A.23)
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 33 COM 7A.29)
  • Philippines, Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Decision 33 COM 7A.24)
  • Senegal, Niokolo Koba National Park (Decision 33 COM 7A.11)
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 33 COM 7A.27)
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara (Decision 33 COM 7A.14)
  • Venezuela, Coro and its Port (Decision 33 COM 7A.30)
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 33 COM 7A.19 )
Draft Decision: 33 COM 7A.19

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7A.19, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Notes the progress that has been made in generating political support and commitment to the conservation of Zabid and the increase in resources for General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY) and supplemented by the German Technical Assistance (GTZ), Yemeni Government and Social Fund for Development (SFD) socio-economic development project;

4. Notes however that many difficult challenges remain in terms of defining violations and putting in place an adequate legal framework, developing a conservation plan and to allow GOPHCY staff to have a clear mandate to deal with violations and construction permits and to support their implementation work;

5. Also notes that notwithstanding capacity building in building skills, further support and training is still needed in traditional materials and techniques;

6. Urges the State Party to continue to give the optimum support to the regeneration and conservation of Zabid;

7. Requests that priority is given to developing the conservation plan in line with the aims outlined as part of the architectural survey;

8. Reiterates its requests to the State Party to develop, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity and authenticity, and a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;

9. Also requests that the State Party invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to assess progress on the 2007 action plan for the implementation of the corrective measures, to review the draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity and authenticity, and develop a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger and revise the timeframe;

10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2010 a progress report on the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;

11. Decides to retain the Historic Town of Zabid (Yemen) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Report year: 2009
Yemen
Date of Inscription: 1993
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Danger List (dates): 2000-present
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 33COM (2009)
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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