Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What do Bikini Atoll, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, and the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long-Hanoi Have in Common?

If you guessed that they're UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you get a gold star. These are just 3 of the 21 newest inductees, and I, for one, am thrilled to see that the choices are much less Euro-centric than usual.

(Photo of Everglades National Park by Sarah and Jason)

The biggest winners are China, France, Iran and Mexico, each with two new sites (and I say 'winners' without hyperbole; the UNESCO designation is a powerful marketing tool and often leads to a marked increase in the number of visitors to a destination). Several sites were added that I would have guessed were already on the list including Bikini Atoll of nuclear bomb fame, in the Marshall Islands; and the canals of Amsterdam.

And, of course, there has been some controversy. Aborigine leaders in Australia are complaining there should be no more "white" Australian sites added to the list (11 penal colony sites had been minted) until an Aboroginal site is included. They may have a point.

Another much discussed move: the removal of the Galapagos Islands from the endangered sites list. Many conservationist are upset at the message they worry this action sends.

Five new inductees with the dubious honor of being considered endangered include Everglades National Park in Florida, Agrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery (Georgia), the Rainforests of Atsinanana (Madagascar),the Tombs of Buganda Kings (Uganda). They join 31 other "sites in danger".  Let's hope the negative exposure helps spur some sort of conservation efforts in the countries on this list.

To see the entire list (and perhaps add some new destinations to your bucket list), visit the UNESCO site. 

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