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Project Overview

In 2001, the Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape was inscribed in the World Heritage List, under Criterion iii, iv and vi. Under Criterion iii, the Temple Complex of Vat Phou bears exceptional testimony to the cultures of Southeast Asia, and in particular to the Khmer Empire which dominated the region in the 10th–14th centuries. Under Criterion iv, the Vat Phou complex is an outstanding example of the integration of symbolic landscape of great spiritual significance to its natural surroundings. Under Criterion vi, contrived to express the Hindu version of the relationship between nature and humanity, Vat Phou exhibits a remarkable complex of monuments and other structures over an extensive area between river and mountain, some of outstanding architecture, many containing great works of art, and all expressing intense religious conviction and commitment.


In spite of its outstanding cultural, historical, and environmental values, the Vat Phou site has suffered from serious deterioration due to flood, weathering and other natural causes, vandalism, lack of sufficient staff and in particular, lack of systematic management.


It has therefore been a goal of the Laotian Government to identify, delineate and protect the sensitive archaeological areas by making a Zoning and Environmental Management Plan for the preservation of Vat Phou and associated archaeological sites within the framework for sustainable development of the communities and population of Champasak District.


To meet this need, the UNESCO-Laotian International Project (hereinafter referred to as "the Project") for the safeguarding of Vat Phou was launched in 1996. The Project focused on training to strengthen the capacity of those national, provincial and district authorities responsible for the maintenance and management of Vat Phou, the Champasak Heritage and Cultural Landscape Protection Zone, and of the archaeological heritage of Lao PDR in general.


To this end, UNESCO worked with the Laotian Ministry of Information and Culture and Laotian counterparts and trainees provided by the Ministry to develop and put into practice a "Zoning and Environmental Management Plan for the Preservation of Vat Phou and Associated Archaeological Sites (ZEMP)" within the framework of a regional economic and social development plan. The Vat Phou ZEMP comprises the following three major components;


I.   Scientific technical information pertaining to the restoration of the principal monuments of the Vat Phou archaeological sites.


II.  Management, maintenance and safeguarding action plan for the Vat Phou and associated archaeological sites in Champasak District.


III. Sustainable socio-economic and tourism development plan for Champasak within the framework of protecting the monuments, archaeological remains and natural environment in the district.