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Waldschlösschen Bridge

Author Solivagant
#1 | Posted: 16 Mar 2009 13:01 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Does any Forum reader from Germany (or elsewhere) know what, if anything, has happened about the Waldschlösschen Bridge at Dresden since the UNESCO "ultimatum" last July?

We had discussions here in advance of the Quebec WHC concerning whether we thought Dresden should be delisted and also whether we thought the WHC would do so. My view is that, bridge or no bridge, Dresden is too important and justifiable a site to be delisted. Also that the bridge is not the end of the world and that UNESCO should not adopt a "no development" approach to inscribed sites - especially in "living cities" which would not have become what they are today without each era adding its own developments - if UNESCO had been around in 1889 there presumably wouldn't have been an Eiffel Tower (I can just hear that the "Champs de Mars view is far too important") - yet it is now inscribed as World Heritage!!.

I personally feel that UNESCO spends too much time flexing its political muscles and allowing itself to become the cats paw of environmentalists - democratic countries like Germany (or at least as "democratic" as most are in this world"!) should be allowed to make their own decisions!

However I had expected a delisting last year with Berlin Housing Estates being inscribed as consolation prize to show that UNESCO wasn't anti German!! However once delisting is done all leverage on the matter is removed so Dresden/Germany was given one "last chance" - will it really be so or will there be a "last last chance"?

I have Googled for more information. As I understand it building of the Bridge was well underway last July? I have read that the discovery of some rare Bats might have led to a change of policy (!!) but I guess that depends on whether the Saxon government is looking for a way out.

This year's WHC approaches (only just over 3 months now) so another crunch moment approaches! Has anything changed in Dresden??

Author Khuft
#2 | Posted: 16 Mar 2009 17:07 
I've checked on some German websites. It seems like the construction is progressing; the foundations on the two sides of the Elbe are almost finished.

There was this issue with the bats, and some associations went to court because of them, however they lost. There won't be any other referendum either (e.g. on possibly building a tunnel).

So it looks like Germany is heading into another confrontation with UNESCO...

I fully agree that UNESCO is beeing unduly harsh in this case - but maybe it has found out that it is easier to bully democratic countries instead of actually trying to save WHS which are on the verge of destruction (I read somewhere that e.g. in Zabid, Yemen, many of the old houses of the historic center had been destroyed and replaced by modern ones since inscription - however I don't see UNESCO starting a big fight with Yemen...).

Deleting Dresden and the Elbe valley will in my opinion not really help UNESCO: developped countries will be wary of inscribing big cities and may start reducing their contributions to UNESCO; the USA will continue to refrain from nominating any sites that may include private property; dictatorial states will continue not to care - on the contrary, Oman may in future claim that the deletion of the Oryx sanctuary was not so bad after all since big, developed, democratic Germany suffered a similar fate...

Anyway, the next fights seem to be scheduled already: bridges in Bordeaux and the Upper Rhine Valley, skyscrapers in Saint Petersbourg, and of course good old Cologne...

Author Solivagant
#3 | Posted: 17 Mar 2009 05:45 | Edited by: Solivagant 
And UK of course received 3 "visits" from the UNESCO "police" last year - for Edinburgh, Bath and Tower of London.
This is a game of "political poker" because UNESCO knows that if it actually fires its final shot (delisting) it has in fact lost that particular game - but (to mix metaphors!) this is a 5 set match at least - so it tries to play things "long" and not make really clear what the result of the visits has been - the technique seems to be
a. to allow the possiblity of delisting to be talked up as much as possible before hand (but not by UNESCO of course!!) -hopefully giving extra leverage to the anti development campaigners
b. UNESCO then makes some gnomic statement which "gives hope" but doesn't give the whole picture ("The report will be published next year ....") thus maintaining the pressure

The UK government of course is also "playing a game" with its "consultation exercise" about whether or not to go for any more inscriptions. But, if it doesn't go for any more, will it be becuase it is fed up with the cost and UNESCO interference or because UNESCO has indicated that UK already has more than its fair share of sites? Well, certainly UNESCO has indicated a certain inbalance in the list as between European countries and those of other continents, but UK is hardly the "worst offender" in this matter!

Meanwhile, as Khuft indicates, far more important preservation matters seem to be passing UNESCO by since they lack the leverage on totalitarian or incompetent governments. I can fully see that UNESCO faces a problem with these countries - It wants to improve their preservation/conservation practices so does it "hang on in" ignoring infractions and hoping to at least make some impact or does it give up and walk away via a delisting? It is the same dilemma faced by aid agencies in countries like Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Oman was a good "sacrifical lamb" - there was no great downside in delisting the Oryx sanctuary but significant potential impact both on a range of other Middle Eastern countries (Bahrain, wanting to build its nascent tourist industry on its Heritage credentials, surely can't but have taken note!) and on western countries too. But how strong is UNESCO's poker hand? Is inscription worth as much as UNESCO thinks it is? The UK consultancy report which suggested it wasn't worth that much and that going for other listings such as the European Heritage could be just as "good" has recently been gainsaid by a report stating that the Dorset and Devon Coastline has benefitted considerably from its inscription - the exact oposite of what the government report said about the same site! gion/
Now which consultants do you believe - Price Waterhouse working for the UK government or "Regeneration experts Era Ltd" working for ...?? (It hasn't been made clear who initiated their report!).
It will be VERY interesting to see what UNESCO/WHC does do this summer re Dresden - dropping the "bomb" of a Western country delisting would have uncertain effects. Yet UNESCO doesn't seem to have left itself much room for manoevre on this matter - is there some "face saving" formula which can allow the bridge to be built, Dresden to stay inscribed and UNESCO/WHC not to be shown up as a paper tiger? We shall see.

Author Khuft
#4 | Posted: 17 Mar 2009 19:19 
The Oman case was so outrageous that UNESCO had no other choice.
Still, currently UNESCO gives the impression of bullying big developed countries (into what? giving more money to UNESCO?) while apparently not really caring about what poorer ones do.

Author Solivagant
#5 | Posted: 27 Jul 2009 04:55 | Edited by: Solivagant 
A few more "titbits" about the events in Seville surrounding the delisting of Dresden have appeared on the Web.
a. The Mayor(ess) of Dresden was given "1 minute" (!!!) to make a statement to the Committee! Here is her "pitch" – nothing new there then! (There were some ribald blog comments about what she was doing for the rest of the 3 days she spent there!) lma-Orosz.htm
b. It appears that there was an initial vote on whether the decision should be postponed until such time as an assessment on the REAL impact on OUV could be made with the bridge in place. This was rejected by 13-8. But that does mean that there were 8 State Parties prepared at least to avoid an immediate de-listing. A later similar 13-8 vote in favour of immediate delisting would NOT of course have met the requirement that 2/3rds of voting states would have to be in favour if it were to be passed – so at least 2 of those 8 had to be persuaded to change direction and go along with UNESCO/ICOMOS and vote for delisting and/or abstain in order to reduce the number required for a 2/3rd majority
c. From this Dresden report, the debate appears to have been quite lengthy with various attempts by some of the WHC members to find a compromise and avoid illogicality - but it could of course be said that "they would say that wouldn't they" uer-welterbewuerdig.htm
d. No indication has emerged that I can discover of how countries voted and which ones "changed their minds" – other than that Kenya was speaking in favour of delisting. However, as we know, 1 of the original 8 previously voting in favour of postponement must have voted for delisting whilst 2 decided to abstain. It would particularly be interesting to know to what extent the 7 African countries voted "en bloc" and which were the 5 countries which stood out against UNESCO. Does anyone know what chances there are of this ever emerging? The whole issue of a "secret vote" on such matters seems highly suspicious (We don't have UN or Security Council votes taken on such a basis!) – does anyone know whether such a procedure is normal for all WHC votes or whether it can be decided by the WHC or the Chair that certain votes will be taken in this way? We did for instance find out what the voting was in the case of the Oryx Sanctuary – but was this from "insider" or "public" information?
e. The "wait and see what it actually looks like" approach would seem to have been reasonable given the debate about what the impact of the bridge would really have on the OUV but, having massed its troops via the letter sent to all WHC members (and by whatever other "incentives" might have been offered?), UNESCO obviously couldn't risk losing the momentum. The issue wasn't really any more about "Dresden" but about UNESCO credibility and upcoming issues. There are at least 4 current "causes celebres" about developments within European WHS – Middle Rhine, Seville, St Petersburg and Bordeaux which seem likely to run and run in the coming year(s)!). It will be interesting to see whether UNESCO's pressing of the "nuclear button" on Dresden will have the effect of cowing the other sites or whether it will cause UNESCO to take a less dogmatic stance about development. Seville has been told to stop building the Pelli Tower - but the foundations are being built as it speaks!
f. Given what was in effect a "back me or sack me" approach from UNESCO it was perhaps hardly surprising that 3 of the State Parties eventually cracked (but only 1 to actually change sides completely as 2 moved to abstention. Hardly a "ringing endorsement" of UNESCO's approach!) – if only to enable the meeting to progress with other matters!! But it also appears that they forced out the somewhat amazing compromise (presumably in order to obtain the necessary 2/3rds majority) that, despite everything, Dresden per se might indeed STILL possess OUV and could reapply later (Even though back in 1989 the whole issue of Dresden's reconstruction was regarded as preventing the city itself and alone being regarded as having OUV)!! The Dresden mayor is indeed still talking of doing so though surely it won't happen. As she says "A new application is only acceptable if supported by the vast majority of citizens"
g. I wasn't previously aware of the Dresden argument that UNESCO/ICOMOS was perfectly well aware when it inscribed Dresden that the bridge was planned and that this was mentioned in the nomination papers. At this point, in the blogs I have seen, the argument gets very muddied with accusations of incompetence on the part of UNESCO/ICOMOS and/or the German Government and of "mistranslations" of relevant papers. Also, people discussing the matter, seem unable to disassociate their views about the merits of the "bridge" from the merits of continued inscription so anyone against the bridge is also against continued inscription and vice versa which makes rational discussion about the history of the affair, the meaning of "OUV", the power politics of UNESCO etc somewhat difficult! Does anyone know any more about this? We already know that the whole issue of whether only a tunnel would do or whether a different (better??) bridge would have sufficed is not clear and that Bandarin has apparently said different things on this matter even quite recently. Can anyone get the "nomination file" to download? Dresden is still on the UNESCO Web site, albeit identified with the "Mark of Cain"! I can get the AB review to download but NOT the original 24.6 mB nomination file in order to check what was actually said ( y=nominations ) – but perhaps I am just over-suspicious!

Author Khuft
#6 | Posted: 28 Jul 2009 18:47 | Edited by: Khuft 
What I find quite amazing is the "delisting, but allowing Dresden to reapply later" bit.

Does this mean the parts of Dresden Elbe Valley outside Dresden, which are presumably the least affected by the Waldschlösschen Bridge, have no OUV anymore, but Dresden, where the bridge is situated, still may have? This sounds plain silly...

Why wasn't the boundary & the criteria of inscription simply changed to reflect the new situation then? (E.g. If I remember correctly, Pirin National Park just changed its boundary when they decided to build a ski track inside the park, right?)

Here's the 4 criteria it was inscribed under:
Criterion (ii): The Dresden Elbe Valley has been the crossroads in Europe, in culture, science and technology. Its art collections, architecture, gardens, and landscape features have been an important reference for Central European developments in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Criterion (iii): The Dresden Elbe Valley contains exceptional testimonies of court architecture and festivities, as well as renowned examples of middle-class architecture and industrial heritage representing European urban development into the modern industrial era.
Criterion (iv): The Dresden Elbe Valley is an outstanding cultural landscape, an ensemble that integrates the celebrated baroque setting and suburban garden city into an artistic whole within the river valley.
Criterion (v): The Dresden Elbe Valley is an outstanding example of land use, representing an exceptional development of a major Central-European city. The value of this cultural landscape has long been recognized, but it is now under new pressures for change.

As a punishment, Criteria (iv) and (v) could have been removed, but in terms of Criteria (ii) or (iii), I don't see how the Bridge has impacted the site. Have e.g. the art collections been destroyed? Not really. Did the valley lose the exceptional testimonies of court architecture? I don't think so...

Author Solivagant
#7 | Posted: 30 Jul 2009 05:40 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Regarding Khuft's point about altering the boundaries and criteria at the WHC as a "solution". The Operational Guidelines (OG) only allow for alteration of these if the request is submitted by the State Party as per a new nomination (paras 164/5). We can't know if Dresden ever considered that as a tactic.

Nevertheless it is well worth unpacking the exact words used in the Dresden decision and noting what they do and do not say about what Dresden had "done wrong" and to what extent the criteria had been violated etc since the media reports tend to skate over such detail! See these 5 sections (all "emphases" are mine)
"Recalling ............. (WHC) concern that the construction project of the Waldschlösschen Bridge would irreversibly damage the OUV and integrity of the property in accordance with Paragraph 179 (b) of the OG
"Notes with deep regret that the State Party was unable to fulfil its obligations defined in the Convention, in particular the obligation to protect and conserve the Outstanding Universal Value, as inscribed,"
"Also regrets the fact that the authorities have not halted the project, detrimental to the outstanding Universal Value of the property"
"Notes however the commitment of the State Party to fully explore and exhaust all options towards preserving the Outstanding Universal Value inherent in elements of the Dresden Elbe Valley"
"Considers that a new nomination for the heritage of Dresden which justifies Outstanding Universal Value could be envisaged "

Note that it doesn't claim that Dresden no longer has OUV or even that some or all of the original criteria are no longer valid – just that
a. The OUV has been "irreversibly damaged"
b. Germany didn't meet its obligation "to protect and conserve" the OUV
c. The project was "detrimental" to the OUV.
NB Also that the WHC is still interested in activities aimed at "preserving" OUV ("preserving" not "restoring") - and OUV can only be "preserved" if it is still present and not "destroyed!!

The quoted paragraph 179b of OG used to justify delisting refers specifically to the inscription of sites on the list of "Sites in Danger" and the OG do NOT identify or allow for its use as a justification for removal of a site from the list. There are 2 different circumstances identified where a site can be added to the list in danger and the one used (Para 179b) by the WHC is as follows
"POTENTIAL DANGER - The property is faced with threats which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics. Such threats are, for example:
i) modification of juridical status of the property diminishing the degree of its protection;
ii) lack of conservation policy;
iii) threatening effects of regional planning projects;
iv) threatening effects of town planning;
v) outbreak or threat of armed conflict;
vi) gradual changes due to geological, climatic or other environmental factors."

It is perhaps also interesting this paragraph was used rather than 179a which states
"ASCERTAINED DANGER - The property is faced with specific and proven imminent danger, such as:
i) serious deterioration of materials;
ii) serious deterioration of structure and/or ornamental features;
iii) serious deterioration of architectural or town planning coherence;
iv) serious deterioration of urban or rural space, or the natural environment;
v) significant loss of historical authenticity;
vi) important loss of cultural significance."

Why use para 179b rather than 179a? Surely, when it comes to delisting, an "ASCERTAINED" danger would be far more valid as a reason than a "POTENTIAL" danger? But, in any case, para 179 is supposed to relate solely to the decision to add a site to the danger list - not delisting. The OG for deleting a site from the list are rather different! : See para 192
"a) where the property has deteriorated to the extent that it has lost those characteristics which determined its inclusion in the World Heritage List; and (ed Nb point b only applies if point a also applies)
b) where the intrinsic qualities of a World Heritage site were already threatened at the time of its nomination by action of man and where the necessary corrective measures as outlined by the State Party at the time, have not been taken within the time proposed (see paragraph 116)"

This is a very strong test since the "characteristics which determined its inclusion on the list" must be "LOST" not merely "irreversibly damaged"!!! OUV is not a binary characteristic which is either possessed or "not possessed" but a continuum. At some point along the "Value Continuum" "value" becomes "universal" and then "outstanding universal". At this point a "bar" operates above which inscription is possible but (some) sites could/will continue to have even greater OUV than that necessary just to get inscribed!! So it is perfectly conceivable that a site might lose some of its "extra" OUV but still be above the barrier. Only when the OUV has been reduced "below the barrier" at which the epithet "outstanding" applies could it be said to have been "lost". Use of the words by the WHC like "damaged", "detrimental to" and "preserving" rather than "lost" OUV implies that the site has not dropped below the barrier but still possesses enough of the "characteristics which determined its inscription" to stay on the list. And the later suggestions of resubmission reinforce this interpretation as well.

It is noticeable that a very different wording was used in the case of the delisting of the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in 2007. The minuted decision there states that the WHC
"Regrets that the State Party has proceeded to significantly reduce the size of the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, in violation of Paragraph 165 of the OG, thus destroying the property's OUV and integrity;
11. Further regrets that the State Party is seeking to pursue hydrocarbon exploration activities within the original boundaries of the property, as recognized by this Committee, thus contributing to the loss of OUV
12. Concludes with regret that ... the property has deteriorated to the extent that it has lost its OUV and integrity"

The words used here are in line with Para 192 of the OG for removal of a site from the list viz "Destroyed OUV" and "Lost OUV" whereas those for Dresden do not!!

So it does appear that the WHC has not followed its own OG in the justification for delisting of Dresden by not getting the members to agree with the proposition that the site had "lost the characteristics which led to its inclusion". It has also cited as justification a paragraph in its OG which is irrelevant to the delisting decision. Perhaps this was the only way it could get a "decision" – and there are many members of the current WHC whose own countries aren't exactly well known for their adherence to constitutional niceties!!

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