Helsinki, Finland - In its annual review of the state of conservation of sites on the World Heritage List, the World Heritage Committee today decided to include two additional sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger, while at the same time removing a third site. As a result, the List of World Heritage in Danger now includes 31 properties.
BRAZIL Iguacu National Park
Committee agreed to remove Iguaçu National Park in Brazil from the List of World Heritage in Danger. Iguaçu was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999 after reports of the illegal opening of a road through the Park. Brazil has since closed the road and shown sufficient evidence on the actions taken, that the Committee decided to remove the site from the List in Danger. The State Party has also made efforts to minimize the social impacts caused by the road closure and has set up projects relating to sustainable activities such as ecotourism and sustainable agriculture.
The representative of Brazil emphasised the importance of the In-Danger listing process for proving to the Brazilian authorities that action needed to be taken. This is an excellent example, he said, of how the Convention can be used for the protection of World Heritage sites.
PHILIPPINES Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
In its review of cultural properties later in the day, the Committee decided to inscribe two cultural sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras in the Philippines is a delicate, evolving cultural landscape. In the absence of a systematic monitoring programme or a comprehensive management plan, it is, at present, impossible to guarantee the preservation and sustainable development of these rice terraces. The Philippine authorities saw the Danger listing as an essential tool for mobilizing effective, decisive and rapid intervention for addressing the threats facing the site.
EGYPT Abu Mena
The second site inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger List was the Egyptian archaeological site of Abu Mena, an important Early Christian sanctuary not far from Alexandria. The local soil, which is exclusively clay, is hard and capable of supporting buildings when in a dry state, but becomes semi-liquid with excess water. The destruction of numerous cisterns, disseminated around the city, has entailed the collapse of several overlying structures. Huge underground cavities have opened in the north-western region of the town. The risk of collapse is so high that the authorities were forced to fill with sand the bases of some of the most endangered buildings, including the crypt of Abu Mena with the tomb of the Saint, and close them to the public.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities is trying to counteract this phenomenon by digging trenches, and has enlarged the protected area in the hope of lowering the pressure of the irrigation. These measures, however, have proved to be insufficient, taking into account the scale of the problem and the limited resources available.
The Committee had already approved a Technical Assistance grant from the World Heritage Fund to assist the Egyptian authorities in identifying ways of reducing the level of the water table and preventing further damage to the ancient structures. However, in their decision today, made with the agreement of the Egyptian authorities, the Committee stressed the need for great national coodination between the various national authorities responsible.
The new listing will enable the State Party and the site to benefit from larger amounts of assistance, not only from the World Heritage Fund, but from other international donors as well.
Rising groundwater levels is a problem increasingly common throughout the Mediterranean region, linked to urban growth and agricultural development. By addressing this specific need, the Committee may provide a model for other sites in similar situations, such as Luxor (part of the World Heritage site of "Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis", Egypt), which is also expected to benefit from the World Heritage Fund's Technical Assistance grant to Abu Mena.
The List of World Heritage in Danger was established under Article 11 of the World Heritage Convention for properties in the World Heritage List "for the conservation of which major operations are necessary and for which assistance has been requested under this Convention."