Landmark UNESCO statement aims to conserve World Cultural Landscapes
Updated: 2013-12-11 16:01
By Zhang Zixuan (chinadaily.com.cn)
Heritage and conservation experts have published the world's first statement of intent that specifically addresses the conservation of World Cultural Landscapes, improving their management while reducing the harm caused by poorly planned tourism and urban development.
The Lushan Statement of Intent was announced during a press conference in Beijing on Dec 10, and reflects the work of experts and officials from eight East Asian countries and UNESCO.
The document sets out the guiding principles for managing areas of exceptional natural beauty that have been designated World Cultural Landscapes. It covers legal frameworks, planning and research, the participation of local communities and the raising of public awareness.
"The harmonious relationship between nature and man is the basis of the 'cultural landscape' concept, which represents the delicate balance between people, nature and heritage," said UNESCO Beijing Office Director and Representative Abhimanyu Singh.
"I am confident that our endeavors will contribute positively to the protection and conservation of our heritage for future generations," he said.
The statement is the outcome of the Lushan Forum on World Heritage Cultural Landscapes in East Asia, which was held at Lushan National Park in Jiangxi province from Oct 24 to 26.
Co-hosted by the UNESCO Beijing Office and the Lushan Scenic and Historic Area Administration Bureau, the forum was part of the UNESCO-Mercedes-Benz project on Conservation and Management of World Heritage sites in China.
During the Lushan Forum, Peter Ogden, a project expert with UNESCO, said that about a quarter of world heritage sites in East Asia had been threatened by booming tourism, and that China's sites were under particular pressure.
Since 1992, UNESCO has designated 82 natural landscapes as official World Heritage sites with the aim of protecting their natural beauty. Of these, seven are located in East Asia and four of them are in China.
Lushan was chosen as a location for the recent forum in part because of its stunning natural scenery, with around 90 mountain peaks contained in a national park covering 500 square kilometers. In 1996, it was the first natural landscape in China to be added to the World Heritage List, and it continues to be a popular destination for tourists.
According to the text of the Lushan document, "a clear ambition must exist which reflects the need for an integral balance to be achieved between people, nature and the heritage ideals of all World Cultural Landscapes".
"The statement is a milestone to show that the work of world cultural landscape conservation, research and management in East Asia and even the whole world has entered a new stage," said Yang Jian of the Lushan Scenic and Historic Area Administration Bureau.