Management Planning

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Development of Integrated Site Management

Site management provides the over-arching context in which all aspects of the project will take place. The way forward at Merv is for the continued development of holistic site management. This necessarily involves compromises, but the work is stimulating and situated in an ethically more acceptable framework of interactions and outcomes. Real team working is not easy to achieve - it is not just a paper-based exercise - but we feel that it is the only sustainable way forward for international collaboration. Since the start of the Ancient Merv Project, there has been a real sense of common goals and shared vision developed with the Ministry of Culture, The Ancient Merv Archaeological Park, and the international team. Shared knowledge, including developing common terminologies, has greatly improved the exchange of information and ideas.

The conditions of Merv are changing from a physical, social, and administrative point of view. Although the principal aim of a management plan at an archaeological site is to ensure the long-term conservation of the place and its values, the plan must be a tool for managing change. Causes and effects of decay are at the origin of radical changes in the aspect of the site; the arrival of more tourists will possibly modify the economic and social structure of the local community and have an impact on the site; the evolution of settlement and social attitudes towards the site will change its character and context, and the intervention of the archaeologists will modify its historic and scientific significance.

The development of a management plan at Merv is considered important, not only for its final product (“the plan”), but also, and perhaps mainly, for the process that are leading to its formulation. This process is an opportunity to gain insights into the importance of the site for the local, national, and international communities, to understand the site through the values assigned to it, and for its physical characteristics, and as an opportunity for training local experts and managers in a process that can be repeated at various scales.

Basically, the plan is following a three-stepped approach: the first step is the formulation of the principal aims of the plan (completed) and the recognition of the interest groups (completed). The second level was an assessment of the place and investigates the values, administrative context, and physical conditions of the site (completed). This phase of documentation of the resource leads to the compilation of a statement of significance which will guide the activities of the third phase: the establishment of policies, strategies, and goals which will find place in the formulation, implementation, and monitoring of the plan. This stage has partially been implemented already, given the importance of developing action-plans in a real-world situation – the Park needed to see action, not just debate.

Areas of analysis and intervention
Having presented in short the methodology of the planning process, it is essential to at least predict some of the areas of concern of the plan (see also the capacity building projects and the specific conservation actions taking place as part of that process).

1. Stakeholders: Consultation and workshops with local experts and stakeholders took place during the 2001-2004 field campaigns: the opinions and positions of all the relevant stakeholders were discussed.

2. Administrative context: this has been extensively researched during the 2001-04 stage of the project. Formulation of the plan will suggest a management structure and specific duties for staff, in order to make the application of the plan feasible.

3. Physical assessments: the standing buildings, excavated sites and buried resources have been extensively documented during the first stage of the project. Experimentation and monitoring have identified decay rates and conservation needs: monitoring will continue. Aerial and satellite imagery analysis, supported by fieldwork, has identified land use change and landscape evolution. A Park GIS has been established. Field documentation has developed a database of monument condition.

4. Values assessment: consultations conducted in the first 2 years of the project, involving the local team and CraTerre-EAG, resulted in the compilation of the statement of significance for all the standing structures and excavations.

5. Socio-economic analysis: part of the assessment is to understand the current problems of the area and investigate possibilities for development based on the integration of a protected archaeological site in the socio-economic context of the local community. A process of recognition and awareness would ensure the “ownership” of the site by the local community and by consequence reduce looting and vandalism. Studies of tourism, local community attitudes, and the local administration are underway (since 2003).

6. Tourism analysis: observation of tourist behaviour has been analysed (2003) and proposals are being developed on ways to manage access and circulation, and to improve the visitors’ experience, but also the site revenues and the benefits for the local community.

7. Conservation: following the physical assessment, structural and site conservation has been prioritised using an “at risk” methodology. The vulnerability approach is also being used to predict and prevent damage, thus changing the perspective from conservation based on reaction to one based on prevention. Urgent repairs are being conducted according to best practice approaches. Experiments are taking place into approaches and methodologies, and common standards are being established amongst the partners.

8. Infrastructure: A small visitor centre at the site has been developed (2003-04). Plans are underway to develop an extensive visitor, education, storage and Park office facility at the site.

9. Training: Conducting the planning process with the local team has been an opportunity for training in management planning approaches, preventive conservation, maintenance, and monitoring techniques. Formal training has taken place for specific and long-term tasks, such as the consolidation and repair of mudbrick and fired brick structures. A major programme of capacity building is now underway.

10. Plan compilation: the original management plan, drafted as part of the World Heritage Site application in 1999, needs to be updated and substantially revised. A programme for drafting a new management plan has been agreed between the Park, CraTerre-EAG, the project team and UNESCO. The UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the World Monuments Fund provided financial assistance to produce this plan. A draft plan is underway and will be available here soon for consultation. Six objectives for the management plan have been unanimously agreed upon. These are to:

• Conserve the archaeological & standing buildings
• Protect the site
• Document and promote the site
• Research
• Improve interpretation and education
• Develop site facilities