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The Secretariat reported that the conservation and development plan of the Town of Luang Prabang developed under the Luang Prabang-Chinon Decentralized Cooperation Programme was presented to the National Interministerial Commission on Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage in January 2000 and was approved in principle. However the plan has not yet been officially adopted, hence does not have legal enforcement power. The Secretariat also recalled that despite the repeated requests by the Bureau and the Committee for revision and subsequent enactment by the National Assembly of Laos of the Decree on the Protection of National Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage (issued on 20 June 1997 as Presidential Decree), this was still pending. The Bureau was informed of the rapid growth and ill-planned tourism development in Luang Prabang and incidents of illegal construction, despite the strengthened capacity of the local authorities in the management of urban heritage. A particular concern was raised over the planned consolidation of the riverbank with concrete gabions and the widening of the quay under a project financed by the Asian Development Bank’s Secondary Cities Programme.  This project may undermine the view of the historic peninsula from the opposite embankment and permit increased vehicular traffic into the core historic centre. The Bureau was informed that the State Party and the Asian Development Bank have been requested to carry out a geological survey to determine the need for the use of concrete gabions. The Bureau was also informed of the exemplary urban infrastructural improvement projects undertaken by the French Agency for Development (AFD) under the first phase of a multi-year programme of urban conservation and development (US$ 1.8 million) and of the on-going negotiations for a second phase for an amount of US$ 3.5 million.

The Bureau noted with appreciation the mobilization by the World Heritage Centre and the City of Chinon of substantive international development co-operation for the protection and sustainable development of Luang Prabang, and expressed gratitude to the Government of France, the French Development Agency and the Asian Development Bank for supporting the safeguarding and development of this living historic town and that Luang Prabang was not intended to become a town museum.  While noting the progress made by the national and local authorities in strengthening the legal and management framework for urban heritage protection in Luang Prabang, the Bureau expressed concern over the rapid and ill-prepared growth of tourism, incidence of illegal construction and the planned widening of the roads and riverbank quay which risk the loss of the town’s authenticity and the World Heritage value of the site. The Bureau requested the State Party to approve the conservation and development plan of Luang Prabang as soon as possible to ensure adequate legal protection of the site and for the national tourism strategy to give greater importance to heritage protection concerns. The Bureau invited the State Party, in conformity with paragraph 56 of the Operational Guidelines, to inform the Committee through the UNESCO Secretariat, of all major infrastructural works at the planning stage.  The Bureau requested the Centre to write to the Asian Development Bank, inviting them to submit the technical plan of the riverbank consolidation and quay improvement project of Luang Prabang to the Committee prior to the finalization of the implementation agreement with the local authorities. As suggested by the Delegate of Hungary, the Bureau proposed that the advisory bodies study the technical plan and present their analysis of it to the Committee so that it can better treat this complex issue.  The absence of a co-ordinating committee meant, amongst others, that ICOMOS or other advisory bodies were not involved in the conservation and development of the site.

The Bureau then requested UNESCO to mobilize technical support, notably by involving ICOMOS, to assist the State Party in the selection of appropriate technical solutions in this regard.