In 1985, Petra was inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in recognition of its unique cultural and natural heritage, and in 1998 and 2000, Petra was placed on the World Monuments Fund’s Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. In 2007, Petra was designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Well before those dates the government, in response to the potential impact of growth in tourism and later the hike in visitation figures, invited international institutions, on four occasions, to prepare management plans for Petra.
Whereas these management plans have served as guiding documents for decision-makers in the planning and implementation process, only the US National Parks Service “Petra Archaeological Park Operating Plan” was endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) but none have been officially endorsed by the Prime Ministry nor systematically implemented.
- The US National Parks Service “Master Plan for the Protection & Use of the Petra National Park” (1968)
- The UNESCO “Petra National Park Management Plan” (1994)
- The US/ICOMOS “Management Analysis & Recommendations for the Petra World Heritage Site (1996)
- The US National Parks Service “Petra Archaeological Park Operating Plan” (2000)
1. The US National Parks Service (NPS) “Master Plan for the Protection & Use of the Petra National Park” in 1968
The National Park’s study maintains Petra’s historical ‘scene’ to be the primary resource, and the sustenance of the natural resources as vital in protecting this primary resource. The NPS team recommended the establishment of a National Park, an independent park division and zoning. The Park was established in 1993 by a Council of Ministers decision and the zoning of some of the areas surrounding the Park took place in 1996. Many with scenic value and of high impact on the site were left un-zoned.
The Plan also addressed other issues in the field of tourism development, archaeological protection and preservation, social issues and administrative issues. In the 1960’s the intention was to prepare the site for visitors and towards that end the Plan proposed projects ranging from roads, electricity, water, hotels, visitor centre parking lots, and vendor activities, to special uses. The majority of these projects were realised, and those that were not continue to pose nagging problems as in the case of vendor activities and special park uses.
The NPS Plan recommended the rehabilitation of the Nabataean hydraulic system in order to protect the antiquities, to guard against flash floods and to conserve water that is vital to the restoration of the biodiversity. Though the network was not rehabilitated to the extent recommended, measures were taken by PNT in a series of projects in the area of the Siq, the Siq al-Mudhlim and the Khazne, to protect visitors and monuments from the damaging impact of flashfloods.
The social dimension concerning the people inhabiting the Region is addressed by recommending that the Bdul tribe of Petra be relocated to a location outside the archaeological site in order to ‘preserve the resources of Petra from the destructive effects of human habitation.’ The Plan, however, stressed the necessity to precede any relocation by studying the socio-economic dimension and by providing the community with agricultural lands in order to maintain their livelihood. This recommendation was never implemented and the neglect of the Bdul tribe has had a negative effect on several parameters, social, economic, and in different other ways on the Petra Archaeological Park.
2. The UNESCO “Petra National Park Management Plan” in 1994
PNT was involved in developing, launching, and consequently following-up with the recommendations of the UNESCO Management Plan, which addressed much of the same issues as the 1968 NPS Plan. The Plan based its recommendations and proposals on the major issues threatening the integrity of the Park from a combination of cultural, socio-economic, and environmental factors and presented recommendations and proposals to remedy these threats. The proposals were comprehensive and covered zoning, archaeological conservation, conservation of biodiversity, Park infrastructure and personnel, tourism, physical planning, sustainable rural development, mitigation measures, training and communication, research and monitoring, and the implementation of the Management Plan.
The Plan stated that its implementation required government approval since it involves policy decisions. Although official government approval was not granted, the Plan has and continues to serve as a guiding document for all PNT projects and activities since then and a large number of the project proposals have been executed.
3. The US/ICOMOS “Management Analysis & Recommendations for the Petra World Heritage Site” in 1996
The Plan maintained that management values, in technical terms, are those that must be preserved in order to retain the essential character of the site and those, which should be closely monitored by site management. The management structures should grow from, and strengthen the qualities that make a cultural site valuable, in this case being the necessity to identify and recognise the reasons for setting Petra apart as a unique place. The recommendations it put forward were based on the maintenance of the values that ensure the retention of the essential character of the site.
The Management Analysis and Recommendations provided the basic framework for a management infrastructure in Petra. This included a statement of significance for Petra, management values, and management objectives. It also included a draft text for the authorisation of a Petra National Park.
4. The US National Parks Service “Operating Plan” in 2000
The Operating Plan differs from its predecessors in that it constituted a major step towards the establishment of comprehensive management policies, detailed operating procedures and standards, a training plan, and the recommended position of the Petra Archaeological Park (PAP) within the organisation of the MoTA.
At the time of the development of the plan very important prerequisites such as the financial and human resources, essential to making the Plan feasible were missing and it is clear that the practicability of the Plan depends on the government’s commitment to providing the necessary resources. Furthermore, the by-laws governing the Park were not endorsed. The direct effect of this delay was that the Park Director was not empowered to take decisions and remained in the position of receiving instructions from several government and parastatal departments whose interests often conflict with each other and those of the Park.
More recently, with the establishment of the PDTRA in 2009, the realization of the prerequisites as described in the USNPS Operating Plan was made possible.