1.         Town of Luang Prabang (Lao People's Democratic Republic) (C 479bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1995

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(v)

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/479/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1994-1998)
Total amount approved: USD 92,242
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/479/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 200,000 (France / UNESCO Cooperation Agreement)

Previous monitoring missions

15-22 February 2005: UNESCO mission; 26 September–7 October 2007: UNESCO / Region Centre / Ville de Chinon international co-operation project mission; 22-28 November, 2007: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.  

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Lack of enforcement of the Luang Prabang conservation plan (PSMV) and illegal constructions;

b) Public works (road upgrading and drainage) which may affect the World Heritage values.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/479/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

The State Party provided a report to the World Heritage Centre on 23 January 2008. Concerning the points raised by the World Heritage Committee, the State Party report notes the following:


a) That it would welcome a study to establish a buffer zone, to be led by a Lao-French expert team;

b) That on the basis of the support provided by UNESCO to carry out a feasibility study to establish a biosphere reserve in the Nam Khan river watershed, it was willing to assure sustainable development to enhance the balance between the property and its region;

c) Concerning the need to improve risk preparedness measures for natural heritage, the State Party report notes that according to legislation, any infrastructure development project (including those major projects such as the currently planned Nam Theun 2) must be preceded by a feasibility study and a socio-environmental impact analysis;

d) The State Party notes that it is reinforcing the administrative and legislative base of the PSMV to improve possibilities for its rigorous application. To this end, the State Party notes a heritage law promulgated in 2005, and now being disseminated and applied at the national scale, PSMV awareness campaigns at national and local level, and significant successes in controlling building demolition, construction and restoration through co-operation among various local and national agencies. The report also admits that in certain instances, the regulations of the PSMV have not been observed;

e) Concerning the World Heritage Committee’s request for a coordination meeting of the funding agencies to coordinate the projects envisaged in the property and its periphery, to be held before the end of 2007, the State Party notes that it is amenable to the holding of such a meeting at a mutually agreeable time. The State Party also notes its satisfaction with the international co-operation agreement with the Government of France and in particular the Region Centre and the Ville de Chinon and its readiness to renew this 10 year old agreement.


The State Party report does not respond to a number of the requests of the World Heritage Committee, including the need for better definition of the mandate of the Maison du Patrimoine, the need for strengthening of local capacities and involvement, and the need for an evaluation of the quality of the development projects carried out since inscription, (especially in terms of densification and use of built fabric).

It is worth noting that while the State Party report comments on the French and Thai-built dam Nam Theun 2, planned for operation in late 2009, it does not mention plans for the foreseen Mekong mainstream dam at Luang Prabang, to be developed by the Petro Vietnam Power Corporation for opening in 2014.

By letter received by the World Heritage Centre on 28 March 2008, moreover, the State Party provided information on its decision to launch a revision of the urban plan of the district of Luang Prabang, to strengthen the Maison du patrimoine by recruiting some senior staff, and to reinforce the institutional coordination for safeguarding the property by appointing a ‘Special Adviser’ to the Vice-Prime Minister in charge of Luang Prabang.

The joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) was undertaken from 22 to 28 November, 2007. The mission considered that the Town of Luang Prabang was at “a crucial stage in its development and that decision taken now will determine the safeguarding of the Town’s outstanding universal value or its progressive loss.” The report acknowledged that although much had been accomplished in the 12 years since inscription, at present, “unprecedented pressure from development is posing new strains on the site which the existing conservation system appears unable to counter effectively.” The report noted further that if “the Lao traditional heritage continues its steady decline, the Town of Luang Prabang would be heading toward a situation that would justify World Heritage in Danger Listing”.


The principal recommendations of the mission provide time bound targets for response and implementation by the State Party:

a) the need for a new Statement of outstanding universal value,

b) the establishment of a buffer zone (for which specific orientations were provided),

c) a moratorium on all major projects having an impact on the property’s outstanding universal value (including the new town in the Chompeth Valley, the airport extension and realignment, the conversion of the primary school and Fine Arts College for tourism, and the pedestrian / motorcycle bridge across the Nam Khan),

d) the revision of the Urban Plan (which should commence as a matter of urgency, be based on a new inventory and survey of changes that have occurred in the inscribed area since the establishment of the PSMV, and including a strategy for remediation of negative changes),

e) the strict enforcement of the PSMV with a fully developed annual reporting function for the benefit of the World Heritage Committee.


The report also includes a number of specific recommendations concerning improvement of the MDP’s mandate; the strengthening of local capacities and involvement of the community, control of illegal building activities; responses to particular development pressures, addressing the poor state of repair of religious structures on the right bank of the Mekong River, and finally giving consideration to the maintenance of the living heritage.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, while welcoming the steps taken by the State Party, consider that the mission report demonstrates the urgency of the situation, and the need for a well focused set of high priority actions to be undertaken by the State Party. In particular, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS note that, in spite of the commitment of many devoted professionals and the Maison du Patrimoine, development within the property is not sufficiently under control, as shown by a number of projects in place which, if implemented, would seriously affect the outstanding universal value of the Town of Luang Prabang. 

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


Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.74

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B,

2. Recalling its Decision 31 COM 7B.73, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3. Reiterating its concern that the level of co-ordination and the priority given to protection of the property's Outstanding Universal Value has been insufficient to halt the progressive loss of its fabric and traditions in the face of development pressures,

4. Recognizing the commitment of the State Party to improve the state of conservation of the property, including through recent measures to launch the revision of the Urban Plan, reinforce the Maison du Patrimoine and strengthen coordination with local stakeholders at the site,

5. Urges the State Party to implement all the recommendations made by the November 2007 mission and especially:

a) to revise the Urban Plan for the province of Luang Prabang and define, in this context, a buffer zone for the property;

b) to impose a moratorium, pending the approval of the revised Urban Plan, on major development projects such as the proposed new town in the Chompeth Valley, the airport extension and realignment, the conversion of the primary school and Fine Arts College for tourism, and the pedestrian / motorcycle bridge across the Nam Khan;

c) to ensure the strict application of the Luang Prabang conservation plan (PSMV) and prepare an updated inventory and maps of the property, indicating the changes as regards listed buildings, existing and new constructions, wetlands, etc.;

6. 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, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

7. Invites the State Party to provide information on press reports of an alleged planned Mekong mainstream dam at Luang Prabang, to be developed for opening in 2014, and its potential impact on the property;

8. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the steps taken to implement the above recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009, with a view to considering, in the absence of substantial progress, the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.