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World Heritage Convention

Decision 18 BUR VI.B
Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)

The current state of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage site had been the cause of apprehension since 1992 and had already appeared on the agenda of a number of meetings of the Bureau and of the World Heritage Committee. The Bureau was informed of the conclusions of the joint UNESCO/ICOMOS Review Mission of 14-30 November 1993, which had recommended that the site be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger and returned to the World Heritage List within a period of one to three years, after sixteen specific matters of concern had been met. It was explained that the World Heritage site consists of seven distinct monument zones, three of them urban, centered round the palaces of the cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, and the remainder, two Buddhist and two Hindu shrines, which had formerly been in rural surroundings. The mission report had recommended the effective delisting of parts of the Kathmandu Darbar Square and Bauddhanath monument zones, following a general failure to control development, but an extension of the monument zones of Swayambunath, Patan and particularly Bhaktapur, which was now the only Newari city to retain its overall traditional character. It was pointed out that the Hindu shrine of Pashupati, although part of the World Heritage site, had never been afforded the protection of being gazetted as a protected' monument area in Nepalese law.

The mission report illustrated examples of demolition, encroachment, traffic pressure, the unsympathetic introduction of modern services and conservation practices which did not conform to accepted international standards. UNESCO had undertaken a number of initiatives, including plans for technical training and an advisory mission on amendments to the Nepalese Ancient Monuments Preservation Act. ICOMOS had plans for a professional seminar in October 1994.

The Representative of Thailand stated that it was important to judge the degree to which the site had deteriorated and whether it was now worthy of being included in the World Heritage List. The Nepalese State Party should be made aware of the Bureau's concerns and informed that, if the situation was not remedied, steps to delist the site would be initiated. He suggested that, rather than delisting part of the monument zones, that the State Party should be asked to redefine the areas which constitute the World Heritage site. The Representative of the United States concurred in these sentiments. The German Observer highlighted the importance of concentrating efforts on the core areas, where the best results could be achieved, rather than on peripheral areas which might still be part of the monument zones but in which traditional buildings had since been demolished and replaced with concrete-framed structures.

ICOMOS argued that the matter was an extremely delicate one, which could be approached from a number of standpoints. It would be possible to suggest that in the spirit of the World Heritage Convention, the site should be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, but Nepalese opposition to such a move might make it self-defeating. He emphasized that it was important to do what was best for the site, which should be in cooperation with the Nepalese authorities to try and resolve outstanding difficulties. The Representative of Senegal also proposed a new approach which would enable the Nepalese to be more protective towards the World Heritage Site and argued that the State Party should be made fully aware of the Bureau's concerns with regard to violations of the articles of the World Heritage Convention.

The Director of the Centre endorsed the idea of redefinition of the monument zones but proposed that, rather than the site being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, it would be more constructive if a package of assistance to the Nepalese could be developed which would enable them to act as more effective guardians of the World Heritage site in cooperation with UNESCO and other relevant agencies. He would be contacting his colleagues in the Division of Physical Heritage to develop more concrete proposals.

The Chairperson summarized the discussion, to the effect that a letter should be sent to the State Party expressing the Bureau's deep concern about the state of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage site. The Bureau recommends to the Committee to envisage partial delisting and redefinition of the part still intact and qualifying as World Heritage, which should be placed on the List of World in Danger to bring particular attention to the need to avoid further deterioration. At the same time, UNESCO is asked to work out an international assistance project.

Decision Code
States Parties 1
Properties 1
State of conservation reports
1994 Kathmandu Valley
Report of the Rapporteur
Context of Decision