Stabilization works on Salsal Buddha (Western Big Buddha) © Mathias Effler | UNESCO

Safeguarding of the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of Bamiyan Valley 

While the first four phases of the project, started in 2002, aimed at the rehabilitation of the World Heritage site of Bamiyan, the following V phases focused on long-term measures to ensure the conservation of the site. Apart from the physical interventions required to expedite the properties removal from the List in Danger, Phase V also focused on additional institutional and community capacity building, especially to ensure suitable site security and management, and enable sustainable development processes to unfold in the coming years.

Whilst Phases I – IV projects were emergency stages aimed at rehabilitation of endangered the value of the World Heritage site of Bamiyan, the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session held in 2007 in New Zealand, defined the benchmarks to achieve a “Desired State of Conservation” enabling the removal of the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger, These benchmarks were defined as:

  • Acceptable levels of site security
  • Addressing issues concerning the structural stability of the two standing Giant Buddha niches
  • Achieving an adequate state of conservation of both the archaeological remains and surviving mural paintings
  • The finishing and implementation of an effective and workable Management and Cultural Master Plan

Hence, Phase IV project was set to meet the requirement of the above benchmarks and the World Heritage Committee decisions from 2007 to 2014 within the framework of the UNESCO’s Mid-term Strategy, with the following primary objectives:

  • To achieve the Desired State of Conservation as defined by the World Heritage Committee for the removal of the property from the list of World Heritage in Danger;
  • To undertake a preliminary conservation programme within the west Buddha niche, primarily focusing on the rear wall (whilst attempting to finalize the consolidation of the rear side of the west Buddha niche within four years – to be finalized at next Phase VI project in 2017-2019), and to address any outstanding issues relating to ‘supporting columns’ in the east niche;
  • To positively address both technical and conservation ethical issues concerning the potential rehabilitation of part of the former Buddha statues;
  • To revisit and address the issues of conservation needs for both the archaeological remains within the World Heritage Property (at multiple elements) and specifically the surviving mural paintings;
  • To continue finalizing a mechanism for the effective security of the World Heritage Property as a whole and the elements within it, specifically the Buddha cliff area;
  • To assist the authorities in attempting to finalize a Management Plan which included site surveillance plans in order to fight against illicit excavations; and,
  • To promote institutional and community capacity building in conservation, monitoring, planning, management and raising awareness for a cultural heritage based sustainable development program;

At the World Heritage Site of Bamiyan, in total five phases of the project financed by the Japanese Government, have been successfully implemented so far to have below outcomes:

- Imminent collapse of the Bamiyan niches prevented, most fragile parts              stabilized;

- Fragments of the statue of the Buddha adequately stored and protected, their      conservation substantially progressed;

- 3-dimensional model of the cliffs and niches produced, indispensable to      develop long-term consolidation concepts;

- Mural paintings conserved;

- Bamiyan Master Plan developed and adopted by the Afghan authorities;

- Draft Management Plan initiated in close cooperation with the local authorities;   and

- Capacity building measures for conservation and archaeology initiated and           implemented.

The Phase V Project has the following main components. Provisional details of implementing agencies or project partners are included, but these may be subject to change.

Activity 1. Preparations for the consolidation of the Western Buddha Niche

Designing of the scaffolding structure for the stabilization and restoration of the rear wall. This action needs to be based on preliminary condition assessments of the current status of the scaffolding structure. To undertake the main programme of stabilization works at the western niche over the 2015-2017 period, a technically suitable and secure scaffolding structure is required prior to the commencement of any works. Currently a partially erected structure is in place, but this will need to be supplemented by additional elements.

Whilst preliminary condition assessments and overviews of the condition of the western niche have been made, a further phase of precise condition assessment will be required in the early stages of Phase V. On the basis of the results from these up to date surveys and existing data, appropriate interventions can be discussed and then implemented.

Activity 2. A Scientific Symposium on the issues associated with the potential rehabilitation/reconstruction of the Buddha statues and two time Bamiyan Working Group meetings

There is a further desire amongst all the stakeholders, notably the Afghan government, to discuss the future treatment of the Buddha statues. Held in Tokyo in September 2017, the technical meeting drew on technical and expert knowledge from around the world to enable this discussion to move forward, with conclusions.

Activity 3. Conservation for both the archaeological remains mural paintings within the World Heritage Property (at multiple elements) and archaeological survey

Condition assessments, urgent stabilization and conservation works of sites in the Valleys of Kakrak and Foladi and at Qala Kafir, west of Shahr-e Zuhak are required, along with detailed documentation. Further protective and conservation measures are also required at a number of the mural painting sites in the Foladi valleys in Bamiyan with priority given to caves and/or areas deemed most at risk. Particular attention will be paid to assessing the current condition of the paintings and proactive intervention where required. Attention will also be given to issues concerning both access to and protection of the relevant sites.

Activity 4. Effective security of the World Heritage Property as whole and the elements within it, specifically the Buddha cliff area

An ongoing issue at the World Heritage Property (all the elements), is that of site security and effective visitor management, particularly with increasing number of national and international visitors to Bamiyan, and the wish of the government and UNESCO to increase levels of cultural tourism to Bamiyan in the future.

Activity 5. Assistance to the Afghan authorities in attempting to finalize the draft Management Plan into a workable document that can be effectively and realistically implemented. The current document does not adequately detail how the elements within the overall property will be effectively managed in the mid and long term.

Removal of the property of from the Danger List also relies on the finalization/implementation of the Culture Master Plan that currently exists, into a workable document that can be effectively and realistically implemented. Effective long term management will also require inter-ministerial engagement (between both local and central government), enabling specific issues such as how future development in the valley may effect OUV can be appropriately addressed.

Activity 6. Promoting institutional and community capacity building in conservation, monitoring, planning, management and community awareness for a cultural heritage based sustainable development program.

The following themes have been specifically identified for in-situ local training and capacity building:

· Archaeological research and stone, plaster and paint conservation

· Architectural conservation

· Site planning, damage assessment and monitoring

· Site management and adaptive management process

· Geographic Information Systems training

· Basic topographic and building survey (manual and electronic)


Bamiyan Working Group

In order to ensure efficient implementation of this multi-disciplinary project and to carry out UNESCO’s coordination role, UNESCO has been organizing annual Expert Working Groups on the Preservation of the Bamiyan Site since 2002.


SDC Project for Bamiyan (2011 - 2013)

The project objectives are not only to document and undertake stabilisation work on a selection of monuments in the central and western areas of the province of Bamiyan, but also to raise public awareness throughout Afghanistan of the value of its cultural heritage and the responsibilities of its protection and preservation for future generations.

The conservation and restoration of two shrines in the Foladi Valley began in the spring of 2012 and was completed in June 2012. Three shrines were restored and one shrine was stabilized and conserved in its present state. Afghan workers were employed from the local community under the supervision of a German conservation expert hired under the project.

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