07/10/2004, 00.00
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Wonders of nature and Asian art are now World Heritage sites

by Monica Romano

Some sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and China in danger. Cambodia and Oman no longer on "blacklist".

Roma (AsiaNews) – UNESCO's World Heritage list has added the names of 48 new sites, many of them in Asia. So decided the 28th Session of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which is holding its annual meeting in the Chinese city of Suzhou (eastern province of Jiangsu). Various natural and archaeological wonders threatened by actions of nature or deeds of man were inscribed on the list of 'World Heritage in Danger', whilst others were removed for they were no longer in danger. Being on the list commits governments to protecting the properties officially nominated by UNESCO as World Heritage.

UNESCO'S World Heritage List now includes three ancient capitals and a complex of 70 tombs belonging to the Ancient Korean Kingdom of Koguryo (277 B.C.E.-668 C.E.), a transboundary property located in north-eastern China and in Democratic People's Republic of Korea North Korea. This is North Korea's first site inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Among the other sites in Asia selected by UNESCO there are:

­        in India, the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park and the Victorian Gothic Revival Chhatrapati Shivaji Station (formerly known as the Victoria Terminus);

­        in Iran, the Ancient Persian Capital of Pasargadae with the Mausoleum of Cyrus the Great and the fortress-city of Bam;

­        in Japan, the sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range;

­        in Jordan, the archaeological site of Um er-Rasas in Giordania;

­        in Kazakhstan, petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly;

­        Mongolia: Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape;

­        Indonesia: Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on the island of Sumatra.

 Next year, at its 29th Session, the World Heritage Committee is expected to add to the list 12 historic buildings in Macau (China) including the 'Sao Paulo Church', the 'Fortaleza do Monte', the 'Guia" Hill Fort, the 'A Ma' temple and the 'Leal Senato', which now serves as City Hall.

 In addition to the new names, the Committee announced that some sites hitherto at risk were sufficiently protected that they could be removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger. They are:


­       Cambodia's Ancient Capital at Angkor, seat of the Ancient Khmer Kingdom between the 9th and 15th centuries, included in the list in 1992 because of illicit excavations, pillaging and the presence of landmines;

­        Oman's Bahla Fort included in the List in 1988 because of development plans that endangered the integrity of the site.

 The Committee included others natural or man-made wonders in the "blacklist":


­     in Iran, the fortress in Bam;

­        in Afghanistan, the minaret and the Archaeological Remains in Jam;

­        in China, the Classical Garens in Suzhou, the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, the Potala Palace in Lhasa (Tibet), the Ancient Architectural Complex on Wudang Mountains, the Imperial Palaces of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang,

 Before the opening of the Session, Francesco Bandarin, Director of the World Heritage Centre, said that China's economic growth and urban development are threatening historic and artistic sites in the larger cities and that they need to be protected. "There is an urgent need to preserve the historical urban fabric, though it might be late, but it is still not too late," the UNESCO official said.

 In China much of the archaeological and natural heritage is in danger. In Yunnan province a hydroelectric project involving 13 plants along the Nujiang River, one of which is in a Protected Area, could have a devastating environmental impact. The capital city of Beijing too has been under severe pressure as a result of the urban renewal that is taking place in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. The traditional hutong —city alleys and lanes that surround residential complexes formed by brick houses with tiled roofs built around a quadrangular courtyard, so typical of old Beijing— are fast disappearing. In their stead, bright skyscrapers with apartments, offices and shopping centres now dot the landscape. According to some estimates, of the 3,600 hutong that once existed in Beijing in the 1980s, less than 2,000 are said to be left.



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