Marrakesh - UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, meeting in Marrakech (Morocco) since November 29, has today included four new sites on its List of World Heritage in Danger.
They are the Iguacu National Park (Brazil), the Rwenzori Mountains (Uganda), the Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the Groups of Monuments at Hampi (India).
The inclusion of the Iguacu National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger follows a mission carried out at the site in March 1999. The illegal opening, by local people, of a road cutting the park in two, and affecting the values for whch the site was inscribed in the World Heritage List was the main cause of concern. The Committee recognized the efforts made by the State Party to implement the recommendations of the mission. However, in the absence of satisfactory progress with regard to the permanent closing of the road and the implementation of the recovery plan, the Committee decided to include Iguacu National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Regarding the Rwenzori Mountains, the Committee stressed that the security situation - rebels having occupied the site since 1997 - has prevented any conservation activity worthy of the name. It called on the World Heritage Centre and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which work in close co-operation with the Ugandan body responsible for wildlife preservation, to consult non- governmental conservation organisations and other international organisations present in the region to discuss ways of making all the parties involved in the conflict aware of the need to respect the site's world heritage status and to develop projects to support site management.
Salonga National Park was the only site, out of five in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not yet included on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Given its location in the centre of the country, it was less affected by on-going armed conflict. Poaching and housing construction, however, have threatened the site's integrity and inclusion on the List will enable Salonga - along with the four other sites in the DRC - to gain from a UNESCO project, financed largely by the United Nations Foundation, aimed at providing assistance - a sum of 4.1 million dollars - for personnel training and equipment as well as bio-diversity conservation.
The inclusion of the Groups of Monuments at Hampi has been prompted by the construction of two suspension bridges which dominate the natural environment and threaten the World Heritage site's integrity. The construction of a road towards one of the bridges will result in a major increase in heavy goods traffic and has already resulted in the dismantling and reconstruction of an important historic monument - a mandapa (a pillared stone rest-house) within the borders of the site. This dislocation signifies serious problems in the implementation of cultural heritage policies and regulations.
The List of World Heritage in Danger now numbers 27 sites around the world. They include natural reserves and historic monuments such as Angkor (Cambodia), the Everglades and Yellowstone national parks (United States), and Timbuktu (Mali). The List also includes the four other sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo: the Garamba, Virunga, Kahuzi-Biega National Parks and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
The List of endangered sites is designed to attract the attention of world leaders and focus public opinion on the need to preserve cultural or natural sites of universal value that are particularly threatened by natural causes or by human intervention. The List is revised annually at the meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, which this year is taking place in Morocco - from November 29 to December 4. The Committee will announce new sites to be included in the World Heritage List tomorrow, December 1