Conserving world heritage sites in HKH region stressed

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DHAKA, June 10, 2019 (BSS) – 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 two-day 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 two-day 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 large-scale
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.

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