Heritage sites exalt preservation spirit
Hoh Xil in Northwest China’s Qinghai province and Gulangyu Island in East China’s Fujian province were included in the UNESCO World Heritage list last week, which means China now has 52 world heritage sites, second only to Italy’s 53. Two experts share their views with China Daily’s Zhang Zhouxiang on how to better protect such sites:
The inclusion of Hoh Xil, a plateau famous for its natural beauty and biodiversity, and Gulangyu Island, called Kulangsu in the local dialect and known for its well-preserved historical buildings, in the World Heritage list reflects the success of not only the managements of the two sites, but also the local governments and people, because it takes collective effort to preserve a site. This is something worth celebrating.
But it should be emphasized that UNESCO’s announcement is a new beginning rather than the end for the preservation of the sites, as the local governments and managements, as well as residents have to take stricter measures for their protection. If the local authorities, especially tourism and cultural departments, and local enterprises want to continue capitalizing on the sites’ popularity, they have to implement global standards to ensure the flow of
tourists does not cause any damage to them.
Besides, the two managements have to be much more transparent about their protection methods, as media outlets will now keep a closer eye on them. Therefore, the inclusion of the two sites on the World Heritage list is only the first step of a giant project.
Actually, the project began when the process to seek World Heritage status for the sites was initiated, which requires the entire society’s pledge to protect them. To apply to be enlisted as World Heritage sites, the two local governments mobilized all the resources possible and educated local residents about the importance of protecting them. And the two managements have rendered excellent service by preserving the sites.
Some scholars claim it is economic interest that prompts local governments and tourist spot managements to apply to UNESCO for World Heritage status. They say that once a site is included in the World Heritage list, the managements can attract more tourists and raise ticket prices, which in turn will raise local govern- ments’ tax revenues. The resulting boom in the local tourism industry also benefits the local people.
Such claims are based on only one part of the story. The inclusion of any site in the World Heritage list is good news not just for the management and local authorities but also for the economy of the entire area. We should not forget, either, that China has strict regulations for the tourism industry, and a scenic spot has to pass through many procedures, including public hearings, to raise its ticket prices. In fact, for any site, being included in the World Heritage list means recognition from the entire world, as well as better protection of its natural and/or cultural resources. A tourist boom is just one of the benefits.