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Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela

Ethiopia
Factors affecting the property in 2009*
  • Earthquake
  • Housing
  • Legal framework
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Relative humidity
  • Water (rain/water table)
  • Other Threats:

    Geological and architectural characteristics of the churches.

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) No boundaries for the property nor for the buffer zone ;

b) Impact of the four recently constructed temporary shelters ;

c) Absence of a management plan for the property;

d) Insufficient urban and architectural regulations;

e) Urban development around the property;

f) Impact of rainwater and humidity ;

g) Impact of earthquakes ;

h) Geological and architectural characteristics of the churches.

UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2009

Total amount provided to the property: USD 800,000 for the « Conservation action plan for Lalibela » -Phase 1 and Phase 2 (Norwegian Funds-in-Trust).

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2009
Requests approved: 3 (from 1980-2000)
Total amount approved : 93,300 USD
Missions to the property until 2009**

2004, 2005 2008: World Heritage Centre follow-up missions; 2006,: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring missions; 2007, 2008: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission;

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

The Rock-Hewn churches at Lalibela have been subject to a contentious protection project involving construction of external shelters over the churches, which had the potential to further damage and disrupt the churches and their environment. The design of the shelters was substantially modified in accordance with recommendations made by the 2006 World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM. However the shelters remain problematic, particularly in relation to the impact on the landscape, the disposal of rainwater, and their effectiveness requires monitoring. Following completion of the project in February 2008, the State Party planned to carry out monthly monitoring missions and had requested the construction company to provide maintenance and dismantling plans for the shelters. The ultimate aim being removal of the shelters, their dismantling is pending the development of sustainable conservation and management solutions for protection that avoid external physical means,.

Other threats to the property include encroachment on the environment of the churches by new public and private construction, including housing associated with the traditional village adjacent to the property and tourism infrastructure, in the absence of planning controls to protect the integrity of the property.

The State Party was requested in Decision 32 COM 7B.47 to establish a management plan with the assistance of the World Heritage Centre integrating the Conservation action plan, the measures for sustainable development involving local populations and the touristic enhancement of the property, the regulatory provisions for the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone. The State Party was also requested to report on progress with construction and monitoring of the shelters and to provide maps clearly identifying the property and its buffer zone for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009. A request was also made to develop a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies.

No state of conservation report for 2009 has been provided by the State Party, nor was one provided in 2008.

The World Heritage Centre has implemented the first phase of the Lalibela Conservation action plan in cooperation with the Ethiopian Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) and the World Monuments Fund. The project included an architectural study of the property, analysis of the physical decay factors and in particular the structural problems, and a pilot study of the Gabriel Rufael church within the property; in addition, the World Heritage Centre conducted a training workshop in lime mortars techniques for local workers and contributed to building the management capacity of the local administration.

The World Heritage Centre and World Monuments Fund have also started the implementation of the Project’s phase 2 that foresees capacity building in site management, a pilot project and conservation works at the Gabriel Rufael Church, as well as on the job training for local workers and administrators. The amount provided by World Monuments Fund for the property totals US$ 400,000.

In March 2009, the World Heritage Centre conducted a mission to Lalibela to discuss with the World Bank the implementation of a large tourism development project. During the mission, the World Bank representative has agreed to follow the requirements of the World Heritage Convention in their project, and has invited the State Party to regularly inform and consult the World Heritage Centre during the Project implementation.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS remain concerned about the lack of defined boundaries and buffer zone for the property, the lack of planning controls to protect the property and its environment from adverse impacts of new housing and tourism development, the lack of an integrated conservation and management plan for the property, the lack of monitoring reports on the shelters and the lack of a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2009
33 COM 7B.43
Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela (Ethiopia) (C 18)

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2. Recalling Decisions 31 COM 7B.46 and 32 COM 7B.47, adopted at its 31st (Christchurch, 2007) and 32nd (Quebec City, 2008) sessions respectively;

3. Deeply regrets that the State party did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property that would have enabled to evaluate the progress in restoration works of churches, monitoring of shelters, identification of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone and provision of legal and regulatory; and the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;

4. Encourages the State Party to implement the Conservation action plan and to take all precautionary measures for the protection of the property throughout the World Bank tourism project studies and their sustainable implementation;

5. Reiterates its requests in relation to the conservation of the Aba Libanos church and, particularly the monitoring of its shelter which is on unstable ground, identification of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone and the provision of legal and regulatory protection for the property and its buffer zone;

6. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to establish a management plan for the property, integrating the Conservation action plan, the measures for sustainable development involving local populations and the touristic enhancement of the property;

7. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on the state of conservation of the property along with maps clearly identifying the boundary of the property and the buffer zone, and the construction and monitoring of the shelters, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.

Draft Decision: 33 COM 7B.43

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2. Recalling Decisions 31 COM 7B.46 and 32 COM 7B.47, adopted at its 31st (Christchurch, 2007) and 32nd (Quebec City, 2008) sessions respectively;

3. Deeply regrets that the State party did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property that would have enabled to evaluate the progress in restoration works of churches, monitoring of shelters, identification of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone and provision of legal and regulatory; and the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;

4. Encourages the State Party to implement the Conservation action plan and to take all precautionary measures for the protection of the property throughout the World Bank tourism project studies and implementation;

5. Reiterates its requests in relation to the conservation of the Aba Libanos church and, particularly the monitoring of its shelter which is on unstable ground, identification of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone and the provision of legal and regulatory protection for the property and its buffer zone;

6. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to establish a management plan for the property, integrating the Conservation action plan, the measures for sustainable development involving local populations and the touristic enhancement of the property;

7. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property along with maps clearly identifying the boundary of the property and the buffer zone, and the construction and monitoring of the shelters, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011. 

Report year: 2009
Ethiopia
Date of Inscription: 1978
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)
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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