UNESCO Urge China to Review Urban Development Plan of Lhasa
Calls for the Protection of All Traditional Buildings in the Tibetan Capital
[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2003/08/14; August 14, 2003.]
News Update Tibet Bureau, Geneva
Geneva, 14 August - A Committee monitoring the implementation of the UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage has urged the Chinese authorities to review its urban development plan for Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. The decision was taken during the 27th session of the UNESCO's world Heritage Committee held in Paris from 30 June to 5 July this year. According to that decision, the Committee made a series of recommendations to the Chinese authorities "to mitigate the negative impact on the World Heritage value of this property caused by development pressures" and called for a national policy to protect all remaining historic traditional buildings in Lhasa.
The full text of the Committee's decision on the Heritage Ensemble of the Potala Palace is produced in this update.
The latest UNESCO move comes after the Committee's decision adopted at its 26th session in Budapest in June 2002 where it appreciated the Chinese authorities for agreeing to receive a "reactive monitoring mission" to visit Lhasa "to examine the state of conservation of the property and to undertake consultations with the site management authorities." As a follow-up to the Budapest decision experts from UNESCO and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) conducted missions to Lhasa in October 2002 and April 2003 respectively.
ICOMOS (www.international.icomos.org) is recognised in the World Heritage Convention as one of the professional advisers to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The organisation's website says it has the responsibility for the evaluation of cultural properties to the World Heritage List and participates in the work of the reporting on the state of conservation and management of properties already inscribed on the List. This involves both systematic reporting, at the request of the World Heritage Committee and of the governments of countries that are States Parties to the Convention, and reactive reporting, where the cultural values for which properties are inscribed on the List are threatened by natural phenomena or human activities.
A month before the Budapest meeting, the Chinese authorities demolished historic Tibetan houses in Lhasa (www.savetibet.org/News) raising serious concerns about Beijing's commitment to fulfill its obligations to the UNESCO Convention.
At the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights this year, Mr. Miloon Khothari (India), the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing reported that following a large number of appeals received from civil society groups and individuals through urgent action campaigns, the Special Rapporteur wrote to the Government of China concerning the demolition of historic buildings and housing complexes in Lhasa, Tibet, and allegations of forced evictions of residents, mostly indigenous Tibetans. In October 2002, he received a reply from the Government of China that detailed government efforts to amend laws and set policies to renovate unsafe buildings while conserving their historical and cultural value. While appreciating the Government's construction reply, he notes the need to continue the dialogue on this case and to study the impact of planning legislation and policies on the realisation of the human right to adequate housing. This is particularly relevant in the context of the State obligations under ICESCR, which China ratified in 2002.
The World Heritage Committee meeting in Paris at UNESCO headquarters after examining the findings and recommendation of the two missions to Lhasa said: "Taking into consideration the on-going processes of change and urban development, it is recommended that a review of the urban development plan is undertaken to ensure integrated territorial urban conservation challenges of Lhasa. The current conservation plan of 1995-2015 should be made available to the public to increase their appreciation of the plan. A mechanism to periodically review the relevance of the conservation plan should be built in the planning process itself."
"We feel encouraged that the UNESCO-ICOMOS Mission were able to examine the ground situation in Lhasa. The recommendations of the latest decision on the World Heritage Site in Lhasa if implemented will help to preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Tibetan people," said Mr. Chhime R. Chhokyapa, Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama for UN Affairs in Europe.
In response to the demolitions that have taken place in Lhasa, the Committee called for a halt to demolitions, "particularly in the Shöl area. If in exceptional circumstances, demolition is necessary, any necessary replacement buildings should be in keeping with the historic character of the area. The State Party is requested to inform the World Heritage Committee of its policy on the conservation of the historic urban fabric of Lhasa."
The Chinese authorities were also asked to take appropriate action to follow up the findings and recommendations of the reactive monitoring missions in a concerted manner and to submit a progress report by 1 February 2004 "on the measures taken and long-term development strategy proposed for the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session in 2004."
The Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbu Lingka Palace were designated a World Heritage Site under the collective title, "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace". The three complexes in Lhasa were inscribed on the UNESCO Heritage List in 1994, 1998 and 2001 respectively.
On 20 December 1994, the Tibetan Government in Exile in a press statement said: "It will be historically incorrect if UNESCO were to inscribe the Potala Palace as a Chinese monumentŠ The Potala is a Tibetan cultural heritage, built and preserved by people of TibetŠ For the proper protection of the Palace, UNESCO needs to provide facilities for on the spot monitoring of activities concerned with its protection by international experts. It is imperative that the monitoring be undertaken with the involvement of Tibetan people taking into consideration Tibetan tradition."
------ UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION CONVENTION CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF THE WORLD CULTURAL AND NATURAL HERITAGE WORLD HERITAGE COMMITTEE Twenty-seventh session Paris, UNESCO Headquarters, Room XII 30 June-5 July 2003
Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (China) Documents: WHC-03/27.COMB and 7B.Corr
27 COM 7B.45 The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined the findings and recommendations of the UNESCO-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring missions which were undertaken to the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace in close consultation with the Chinese authorities in October 2002 and April 2003;
2. Expresses its appreciation to the Government of China for facilitating the UNESCO-ICOMOS missions;
3. Further encourages the Chinese authorities to develop an articulated strategic programme for the conservation and rehabilitation of the historic fabric of Old Lhasa based upon an analysis of the heritage values of the historic structures. This analysis should assist the authorities in ranking the buildings according to their importance. Therefore, the information should be made public. The Lhasa Municipality of the Tibetan Autonomous Region is therefore invited to provide information about all the conservation and renovation work in Lhasa to the World Heritage Committee;
4. Requests UNESCO and ICOMOS to assist the Chinese authorities in assessing and updating the comprehensive conservation plan to make the most appropriate use of the Shöl Area, which forms part of the administrative section of the Potala Palace so as to maintain the traditional urban tissue of the area while changing the use of the traditional buildings;
5. Underscores the importance of introducing better design that is compatible and harmonious, to the historic environment of the Lhasa City;
6. Encourages the State Party to elaborate design guidelines for the built heritage environment, including urban design elements, so as to increase the capacity of local urban planners, architects, and designers to follow World Heritage conservation guidelines;
7. Requests the State Party to continue making efforts to mitigate the negative impact on the World Heritage values of this property caused by development pressures, and in particular recommends the following to this end:
(a) Institutional requirements: The conservation challenges and potentials in Lhasa would benefit from a management and development agency to co-ordinate activities in Old Lhasa, which could be responsible for the management of Old Lhasa and the World Heritage properties. It is recommended that such an agency be established to raise and administer funds from national and international donors.
(b) Conservation, planning and urban development: Taking into consideration the on-going processes of change and urban development, it is recommended that a review of the urban development plan is undertaken to ensure integrated territorial urban conservation challenges of Lhasa. The current conservation plan of 1995-2015 should be made available to the public to increase their appreciation of the plan. A mechanism to periodically review the relevance of the conservation plan should be built in the planning process itself.
(c) Protection: In view of the rapid change in the character of Old Lhasa, all remaining historic traditional buildings in Lhasa should be protected at the level of the Autonomous Region or at the national level.
(d) Conservation and rehabilitation of historic traditional buildings: Demolition should be stopped, particularly in the Shöl area. If in exceptional circumstances, demolition is necessary, any necessary replacement buildings should be in keeping with the historic character of the area. The State Party is requested to inform the World Heritage Committee of its policy on the conservation of the historic urban fabric of Lhasa.
(e) Conservation awareness: It is recommended that the management authorities set up a programme to encourage community participation and increase awareness of heritage conservation needs amongst the local residents.
(f) Protective areas and buffer zones: It is recommended that the management authorities evaluate and redefine the current World Heritage protective boundaries and management guidelines pertaining to the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple (including the Barkor Historic Area) and Nobulingka, taking into consideration the heritage values of the surrounding landscape and environment.
(g) Tourism: In view of the potential in-come generation opportunities from the tourism industry for financing conservation work in Lhasa, the heritage management authorities are encouraged to develop training activities and provide guidance on sustainable tourism planning at the World Heritage properties in Lhasa.
(h) International outreach: An exchange programme between the World Heritage site managers in Lhasa and the managers of World Heritage properties in other countries is encouraged to develop on-property and international co-operation activities. The Chinese authorities may consider the organization of a study tour to successfully managed WH properties focusing on the selected issues identified above;
8. Expresses its readiness to consider an international assistance request to support national and local efforts to address the above recommendations;
9. Requests the State Party to take appropriate action to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the UNESCO-ICOMOS reactive monitoring missions in a concerted manner and to submit a progress report to the World Heritage by 1 February 2004, on the measures taken and long-term development strategy proposed for the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session in 2004.
Copyright 1998-2005, Tibet Environmental Watch (TEW)