In an earlier post, I mentioned that UNESCO was deciding which new properties to add to its World Heritage List and would Moldova’s Orheiul Vechi be amongst them? It wasn’t. It might not have been nominated this time. Orheiul Vechi is still on the Tentative List, though. Next time, perhaps?

UNESCO logo

13 new properties were added this time, nicely spread out in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa.

Two of the 13 were natural sites: the Dolomites in Italy and the Wadden See in Germany/The Netherlands. The remaining 11 – in Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Peru, Iran, China, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde – were cultural.

Selection is based on a list of 10 criteria; at least one of which must be met. I’m enamoured by the first criterion set by UNESCO:

to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.

There’s a political side to this, I expect. Ideally, I suppose, one would want every country represented.

Three new countries were added to the list this time: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Kyrgyzstan. This will most likely mean more tourism (sustainable, one hopes) to countries that need the income.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal in Northern Wales was added to the UNESCO list; a construction marvel by famous Industrial Age engineer Thomas Telford. Last summer, we became well acquainted with several of Telford’s constructions, both in Northern Wales and in England.

UNESCO – properties in danger

I’m also glad to see UNESCO taking seriously the demands they put on countries: During this session of the World Heritage Committee, 3 sites were put on the Danger List – in Colombia, Belize and Georgia; meaning those countries had better shape up or the sites will be removed from the list.

UNESCO site delisted

Even more seriously, and only for the second time in history, a UNESCO site was delisted. I would think having a site removed from the World Heritage List would be at least slightly humiliating for a country. Which is why I’m surprised Germany would let that happen to Dresden’s Elbe Valley. The Waldschlösschenbrücke, a four-lane bridge, is being constructed in the middle of the landscape, the Loreleytal. If only they had a Telford bridge.

Why it’s called the Loreleytal, I have no idea. The Loreley (or Lorelei) Rock is in the river Rhine, not the Elbe. Know the poem Die Loreley by Heinrich Heine? It’s about a maiden who lures river captains to their death by her beautiful singing. My mum used to sing it to my brother and me all the time. I knew it by heart long before I could actually speak German. All 6 verses. But I digress.

German newspaper Spiegel calls the removal of Dresden’s Elbe Valley from the UNESCO World Heritage list a disgrace – eine Blamage für Deutschland. Bundesbauminister Wolfgang Tiefensee, the Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, even calls it a “Black day for Dresden and for Germany as a cultural nation”.

Well, the decision didn’t come as shock. UNESCO raised the issue several years ago and has reiterated it every year. They could have built a tunnel instead of a bridge. Is it perhaps simply a case of weighing the financial pros and cons? Building the bridge means more to the (local) economy than preserving a World Heritage site? Or is it political prestige or stubbornness?

Whatever the reason, it’s sad.