Conserving world heritage sites in HKH region stressed

DHAKA, Experts at a meeting have stressed the need

for conserving the world heritage sites and global biodiversity hotspots in

the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), saying there is a large potential for

additional heritage sites in the region.

Despite the rich biodiversity and large expanses of wilderness and

protected areas, half of the eight countries, including Bangladesh, in the

region do not have a natural World Heritage property, they said.

The Wild Heritage, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),

and ICIMOD with support from the National Geographic Society recently

organised the twoday meeting on Leveraging the World Heritage Convention

for Transboundary Conservation in the Hindu Kush Himalaya in Kathmandu,

according to an ICIMOD press release received here today.

The experts said currently there are only 17 inscribed world heritage sites

in a region covering eight countries, four global biodiversity hotspots, and

some of the world's highest and most iconic mountain ranges.

The region is also home to more than 1,000 living languages and an

extraordinary diversity of cultures, they added.

The HKH is an extraordinary region the rest of the world doesn't know

enough about, said Cyril Kormos, Executive Director of Wild Heritage, while

speaking about the potential of the World Heritage Convention to bring needed

visibility, protection, and accountability to sites in the HKH of outstanding

natural and cultural value.

The experts and policymakers came together there to revisit existing sites in

the HKH, and to explore potential sites and opportunities to link sites

across international borders.

The twoday meeting contributed to a comprehensive assessment report

planned for the World Heritage sites of the HKH and also focused on providing

guidance and clarity about the nomination process to countries interested in

specific sites.

In the face of rapid global change, including climate change and largescale

infrastructure development, the Convention has been one of the most effective

instruments for protecting large wilderness spaces and preserving natural

capital for future generations. However, it is underutilised as a

conservation instrument according to Tilman Jaeger, senior advisor at the

IUCN, the official advisory body to the World Heritage Committee on natural

heritage.

The Convention is a platform for countries to go beyond business as usual to

create conservation gains, Jaeger said. The protection of large intact

wilderness areas is crucial to address threats to biodiversity and those

posed by climate change.

Sindhu Dhungana, Joint Secretary of Nepal's Ministry of Forests and

Environment, highlighted the importance of transboundary collaboration in

protecting the region's heritage while promoting sustainable development.

Although balancing the protection of a place and the sustainable use of

resources comes with many challenges, these can be faced with collective

action, he said.

Although there are gaps in our knowledge, we can't let uncertainty keep us

from moving forward. In this we have to keep climate change at the forefront

of our minds, said Sandra Elvin of the National Geographic Society.

To assist in moving forward, the planned assessment report will contain a

roadmap with gaps and recommendations for future decision making. Based on

these and the interest of countries in the region, ICIMOD and other meeting

participants will act to better conserve the region's natural and cultural

heritage.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)