18 July 2016

New World Heritage Sites in Asia Pacific for 2016

The World Heritage Committee, part of UNESCO, has inscribed new sites on the list of world heritage sites as part of its 40th session which opened on 10 July, 2016. The list includes a transnational site, which is found in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

The newly inscribed sites include:

Khangchendzonga National Park (India) – Located at the heart of the Himalayan range in northern India in the state of Sikkim, the Khangchendzonga National Park includes a unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world’s third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga, also known as Kangchenjunga. The area is also part of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve.

Archaeological Site of Ani, Turkey – This site is located on a secluded plateau of northeast Turkey overlooking a ravine that forms a natural border with Armenia. The site presents a comprehensive overview of the evolution of medieval architecture through examples of almost all the different architectural innovations of the region between the 7th and 13th centuries CE.

This medieval city combines residential, religious and military structures, characteristic of medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by Christian and then Muslim dynasties. The city flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries CE when it became the capital of the medieval Armenian kingdom of the Bagratides and profited from control of one branch of the Silk Road. Later, under Byzantine, Seljuk, and Georgian sovereignty, it maintained its status as an important crossroads for merchant caravans. The Mongol invasion and an earthquake in 1319 marked the beginning of the city’s decline.

Watch a video on conservation at Ani, from the World Monuments Fund

Zuojiang Huashan (左江花山) Rock Art Cultural Landscape, China – Located on the steep cliffs in the border regions of southwest China, in Ningming County, Guangxi, these 38 sites of rock art at Huashan (花山壁画) illustrate the life and rituals of the Luoyue people. They date from the period around the 5th century BCE to the 2nd century CE. In a surrounding landscape of karst, rivers and plateaux, they depict ceremonies which have been interpreted as portraying the bronze drum culture once prevalent across southern China. This cultural landscape is the only remains of this culture today.

Watch a video of the Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art area from the Bradshaw Foundation

Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at Nalanda, Bihar, India – The Nalanda Mahavihara site is in Bihar, northeastern India. It comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal. Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian subcontinent. It engaged in the organised transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted 800 years.

The Persian Qanat, Iran – Throughout the arid regions of Iran, agricultural and permanent settlements are supported by the ancient qanat (قنات‎) system of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many km. The 11 qanats representing this system include rest areas for workers, water reservoirs and watermills. The traditional communal management system still in place allows equitable and sustainable water sharing and distribution. The qanats provide exceptional testimony to cultural traditions and civilisations in desert areas with an arid climate.

Read about the significance of the qanat system in a chapter extract by the late Edward Goldsmith, environmentalist, author and philosopher. In it Goldsmith says: "...until recently, qanats still supplied 75% of the water used in Iran, for both irrigation and household purposes."

Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia, Federated States of Micronesia – Nan Madol is a series of 99 artificial islets off the southeast coast of Pohnpei that were constructed with walls of basalt and coral boulders. These islets harbour the remains of stone palaces, temples, tombs and residential domains built between 1200 and 1500 CE. These ruins represent the ceremonial centre of the Saudeleur dynasty, a vibrant period in Pacific Island culture.

The huge scale of the edifices, their technical sophistication and the concentration of megalithic structures bear testimony to complex social and religious practices of the island societies of the period. The site was also inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats, notably the siltation of waterways that is contributing to the unchecked growth of mangroves and undermining existing edifices.

The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which properties were inscribed on the World Heritage List and rally the support of the international community for their protection.

Natural sites include:

Source: Hubei government tourism website. Shennongjia.
Source: Hubei government tourism website. Shennongjia.
Hubei Shennongjia (神农架), China – Located in Hubei Province, in central-eastern China, the site consists of Shennongding (神农顶)/Badong (巴东县) to the west and Laojunshan (老君山) to the east.

Hubei Shennongjia is one of three centres of biodiversity in China. The site features prominently in the history of botanical research and was the object of international plant collecting expeditions in the 19th and 20th centuries. It protects the largest primary forests remaining in Central China and provides habitats for rare animal species such as the Chinese giant salamander, the golden or snub-nosed monkey, the clouded leopard, common leopard and the Asian black bear.

Lut Desert, Iran – The Lut Desert, or Dasht-e-Lut (دشت لوت), is located in the southeast of the country. The property represents an exceptional example of ongoing geological processes. Between June and October, this arid subtropical area is swept by strong winds, which transport sediment and cause aeolian (wind-caused) erosion on a colossal scale. The site presents some of the most spectacular examples of aeolian yardang landforms (massive corrugated ridges). It also contains stony deserts and dune fields.

Western Tien-Shan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan) – The transnational site is located in the Tien-Shan (天山) mountain system, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world. Western Tien-Shan is situated at an altitude of 700 to 4,503m. It features diverse landscapes, which are home to to many forest types and unique plant communities.. It is of global importance as a centre of origin for a number of cultivated fruit crops.

The new mixed, cultural and natural, sites include:

The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities, Iraq – The Ahwar (الاهوار) of Southern Iraq – also known as the Iraqi Marshlands – are unique as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment. The Ahwar is made up of seven sites: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq. The archaeological cities of Uruk and Ur and the Tell Eridu archaeological site form part of the remains of the Sumerian cities and settlements that developed in southern Mesopotamia between the 4th and the 3rd millennium BC in the marshy delta of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Some accounts say this area is the Biblical garden of Eden.

Besides Nan Madol, the World Heritage Committee has also added Uzbekistan’s Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz to the List of World Heritage in Danger due to the over-development of tourist infrastructure in the site.

The Committee expressed concern over the destruction of buildings in the centre of the site’s medieval neighbourhoods and the construction of modern facilities including hotels and other buildings which have created irreversible changes to the appearance of historic Shakhrisyabz. The Committee has requested that UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) send a joint mission to assess the extent of damage and propose appropriate corrective measures.

The Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz, located on the Silk Road in southern Uzbekistan, is over 2,000 years old and was the cultural and political centre of the Kesh region in the 14th and 15th century. The Historic Centre of Shakhrisabz bears witness to the city’s secular development and to centuries of its history. Its peak was  particularly to the period of its apogee, under the rule of Amir Temur and the Temurids, from the 15th to 16th century.

Watch the Committee’s video recordings (B-roll)

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