06/24/2013, 00.00
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With its Yunnan's rice fields and Tianshan Mountains, China climbs UNESCO ranking

Two sites from mainland China are added to the list of World Heritage sites during the 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, placing the People's Republic just behind Italy. In this meeting, 31 sites are up for consideration, from deserts in Namibia and Mexico to volcanoes in Italy and Japan. For Tim Badman, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the new sites "are a celebration of the beauty of nature and our joint commitment to conserve it for generations to come".

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Yunnan's rice fields and the Tianshan mountain range are China's latest contribution to the world's heritage. The 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee currently underway in Cambodia (16-27 June) took the number of sites in China to 45, second only to Italy.

Huang Wei, vice-chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said that China was looking forward to strengthening co-operation with UNESCO and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to explore the potential for the site.

Xinjiang Tianshan was officially included in the World Heritage list on Friday.  It includes four components-Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbukuke and Bogda- that total more than 600,000 hectares in the Tianshan mountain system of Central Asia.

They were selected for their unique physical geographic features. Their snowy mountains glacier-capped peaks contrast with the vast adjacent desert landscapes.

The site's landforms and ecosystems have been preserved since the Pliocene and provide an important habitat for plants and animals, some rare and endangered, like the snow leopard.

On Saturday, the UN body also recognised the rice fields of Yunnan.

Carved out of the slopes of the Ailao Mountains down to the banks of the Hong River, the 16,000-hectare area was developed over the past 1,300 years by the sun-worshipping Hani people who built up and maintained a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces.

"From vast deserts in Namibia and Mexico to high mountain ranges in China and Tajikistan and a volcano in Italy, the new World Heritage Sites are a celebration of the beauty of nature and our joint commitment to conserve it for generations to come," said Tim Badman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The ten-day UNESCO meeting is considering 31 possible sites to be added to the 962-strong list.

Among the new sites, we find the volcanoes of Mount Etna and Mount Fuji as well as the Namib Sand Sea and Mexico's El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve.

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