Serious Threat to the Sundarbans

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sundarbansThe Sundarbans in Bangladesh is part of the world’s largest mangrove forests, home to the famous Bengal Tiger and a hotspot for dolphins, turtles, and birds. Millions of people depend on this beautiful part of the world for food, homes, and flood protection.  

The Sundarbans were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997, and will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. As reported by UNESCO, In March 2016, the World Heritage Centre and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conducted a monitoring mission to review the conservation of this iconic area. The mission was requested by the World Heritage Committee during its 2015 session in Bonn.

The goal of the mission was to look at the potential impacts from the construction of the Rampal power plant, assessing risks from climate change, and evaluating the overall management system of the Sundarbans, including provisions around shipping safety. As reported by UNESCO, the mission visited the site of the proposed Rampal power plant, as well as the locations of a 2015 cargo vessel accident and 2016 oil spill. The team also met with with key ministries, industry representatives, port authorities, a small number of researchers and local community members.

 

Earlier this month, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN released a report on the mission. The report concludes that the proposed Rampal power plant, a 1320 megawatt super thermal power plant located just 65 kilometers from the World Heritage property, poses a serious threat to the site. The mission team identified four key concerns related to the plant’s construction. These concerns include: pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related development infrastructure. The mission recommends that the Rampal power plant project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location.

 

The report also concluded that the freshwater flow into the Sundarbans has been drastically reduced, resulting in substantial increases in siltation and salinity that are threatening the overall balance of the ecosystem. It further found that the site lacks a clear and comprehensive assessment of the combined effects from increasing coastal development.

The report recommends immediate action to secure adequate freshwater flow to the site, and calls for a new integrated management plan taking into account the carrying capacity of this fragile ecosystem that can secure a sustainable balance between socio-economic development and conservation.

The State Party of Bangladesh has been requested to provide a progress report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2016, including a 1-page executive summary on the state of conservation of the property. The progress report will then be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017, in view of possible inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Construction Near Pasargade – UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Pasargad-Koorosh12A very urgent and critical report from the experts in Iran has informed WCHV that a group has received permission from the legal authority of the country to build and establish a factory as well as an industrial park on the site adjacent to Pasargade Site. It looks like that Iran’s National Heritage Office has cleared this and is not objecting to building this factory on a site that is so invaluable to the people of Iran and the world as well as a designated World National Heritage site by the UNESCO.

Mbanza Congo Registration for World Heritage Status

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MbanzaAs reported recently by AllAfrica website, in a ceremony attended by government officials as well as UNESCO World Heritage official for the Africa region, the registration was announced.

As stated by the secretary of State for Culture, Cornélio Caley, that the project to register the capital city of the northern Zaire province with UNESCO’s World Heritage list aims, among other purposes, at the rescue of Angola’s African-ness and cultural identity.

The secretary headed a delegation comprising national experts and UNESCO officials for the Africa region stressing that the project “Mbanza Congo” intends to disclose the historical past of this ancient capital of the Congo Kingdom. Secretary Caley spoke at the end of the ceremony of handover by the Government of a facility to serve as an office for the drafting of the application for Mbanza Congo as a World Heritage to be submitted to UNESCO in January 2015.

He added that once the phase of archaeological excavations are completed, the next step will be to gather the elements for all specialists involved like historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and architects, to contribute with ideas to the drafting of the application. At the same time, the foreign experts were asked to help with the discovery of documents related to the history of Mbanza Congo.

Militants Blow Up Jonah’s Tomb

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JonahAs reported by many news outlets last week, the militants have blown up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah in Mosul. The residents said that the militants first ordered everyone out of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, then blew it up.

The mosque which was renovated in the 1990s under Iraq‘s late dictator Saddam Hussein was built on an archaeological site dating back to the eighth century BC and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Qur’an is swallowed by a whale.

The mosque had remained a popular destination for religious pilgrims from around the world just until before the militants took over the city. It has also been reported that several nearby houses were also damaged by the blast.

 

The militants have been destroying many sites in Iraq in any area that they have taken over, and have also seized a large area expanding across the Iraq-Syria border.

Burnt City: Emergence of Complex Societies

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burnt cityLate last month (June 2014), the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added another twenty six new sites to the list of World Heritage Sites bringing the total number to 994.

One of these sites is Shahr-i Sokhta (Iran), meaning ‘Burnt City’ which is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau.  The remains of the mud brick city represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Founded around 3200 BC, it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city. These include a monumental area, residential areas, industrial zones and a graveyard. Changes in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and large number of significant artefacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC.

 

Italian Government Ask Businesses for Help

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Earlier this year, here on WCHV website, we discussed in our blog about a new trend which could gradually become a new trend for funding restoration and preservation of heritage sites (Privatization of Restoration: http://worldculturalheritagevoices.org/?p=3486). This new trend which we called Privatization of Restoration could be a great solution where public funds are not available or are limited.  Just yesterday, Italy’s new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, called on private companies to fund repairs to the ancient city of Pompeii. The ancient city of Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s greatest archaeological treasures. It has been estimated that every year, over two million tourists visit the site in Southern Italy.

Pompeii_Garden_of_the_Fugitives_Pompeii has been suffering from neglect and inadequate restoration for a while. In fact, BBC and other news networks have reported that last year, 105mil-euro ($145m) was raised (including 41.8m euros from EU) allocated for a “Great Pompeii” rehabilitation project. However, it has been reported that only 588,000 euros had been spent so far. 

Due to heavy rain falls and flooding, several areas including walls and buildings have been damaged just in the last several days, therefore, new measures should be undertaken to reduce damage from flooding.  

Mr. Renzi who became Italy’s prime minister last month made the plea yesterday, to private companies and businesses to step in and help with restoring one of Italy’s greatest treasures.  In fact, the Italian government in the past had also requested private assistance for restoration of other ancient monuments, including the Colosseum in Rome and the Trevi fountain. 

Pollution Threatens the Persian Gulf

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persian gulf3

One of the most important parts of Iranian natural heritage and environmental treasures is the Persian Gulf.

The gulf is a source of essential nutrition for marine life . However, the number of these species are decreasing rapidly. The threat comes from unlawful and unregulated fishing.

According to the local people, unlicensed fishing boats that operate far from the control of the authorities are creating many new dangers for marine life.

It is necessary to note that the livelihood of the local people all along the Persian Gulf also depend on fishing and the poor economic conditions of the country has increased this dependency. But, it is obvious that the main threat comes from the pollution caused by oil and gas industry that dominates the coast. Using the sea water for refineries and then returning the polluted water and the industrial waste to the sea is yet another cause of serious threat to the environment and marine life in the Persian Gulf