Na­tional trea­sures vie for World Her­itage sta­tus


The leg­endary Alamo bat­tle­ground and the vine­yards that pro­duce France’s beloved cham­pagne are among the sites likely to get World Her­itage sta­tus at a UNESCO meet­ing start­ing Sun­day.

At least 36 nat­u­ral and cul­tural sites, in­clud­ing a dis­puted bid from Ja­pan, are vy­ing to get the United Na­tions cul­tural body’s pres­ti­gious dis­tinc­tion and add their names to the more than 1,000-strong list.

The 39th com­mit­tee ses­sion of the U.N. Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UNESCO) will take place in the western Ger­man city of Bonn from June 28-July 8.

In­clu­sion on its vaunted list can bring ma­jor eco­nomic ben­e­fits, as a World Her­itage site is el­i­gi­ble for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to­wards preser­va­tion and the sta­tus is also a pow­er­ful tourist draw.

The Paris-based in­sti­tu­tion has seen ap­pli­ca­tions soar “as the no­tion of her­itage has evolved,” said Alessan­dro Bal­samo, head of the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee.

“We’ve gone from an iconic, mon­u­men­tal idea of her­itage to­ward a more open def­i­ni­tion,” he said, not­ing that the UNESCO list had also started to in­clude “cul­tural land­scapes” such as Italy’s Pied­mont wine coun­try.

France is try­ing to


the “slopes, houses and cel­lars” of its own Cham­pagne re­gion, home to its renowned bub­bly, as well as the vine­yards of Bur­gundy.

The United States is hop­ing to see Texas’ San An­to­nio Mis­sions, the ru­ins of Span­ish out­posts es­tab­lished by Catholic re­li­gious or­ders, placed on the register.

The site in­cludes the Alamo fort, where in 1836 some 180 Tex­ans fight­ing for in­de­pen­dence from Mexico fought to the death against Mex­i­can Gen­eral Santa Anna’s army of sev­eral thou­sand sol­diers.

Ja­pan, mean­while, has touched off a diplo­matic spat with its bid.

It aims to have 23 sites rep­re­sen­ta­tive of its in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion un­der Em­peror Meiji reg­is­tered.

How­ever South Korea and China say that seven of the places be­came cen­ters for de­por­ta­tion and forced la­bor dur­ing their re­spec­tive Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tions.

Seoul has said it would not block the Ja­panese bid if Tokyo owns up to the history of the sites. How­ever Bei­jing op­poses what the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency calls a “white­wash­ing” of Tokyo’s mil­i­taris­tic past.


Sites in Dan­ger

Of the 36 sites ap­ply­ing UNESCO dis­tinc­tion, five are dus­trial in char­ac­ter. for in-

The se­lec­tion com­mit­tee con­sists of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 21 coun­tries elected for six years.

Be­yond the Ja­panese ap­pli­ca­tion, Uruguay has sub­mit­ted its Fray Ben­tos cul­tural in­dus­trial land­scape where its fa­mous beef in­dus­try grew up around the es­tab­lish­ment of a salt meat fac­tory in 1859.

Nor­way is push­ing RjukanNo­tod­den, a site set among moun­tains and wa­ter­falls since the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury for the pro­duc­tion of chem­i­cal fer­til­izer.

The UK is cheer­ing for its iconic rail­way Forth Bridge which spans the Firth of Forth in eastern Scot­land, while Ger­many has put for- ward the port ware­house dis­trict in its north­ern city of Ham­burg.

More tra­di­tional hope­fuls in­clude Tur­key’s Eph­e­sus, the an­cient Greek-Ro­man city once home to the now-de­stroyed Tem­ple of Artemis, the Padre Tem­bleque aqueduct in Mexico and one of Iran’s main his­tor­i­cal sites, the an­cient Elamite cap­i­tal of Susa.

Is­rael’s Bet She’arim Ne­crop­o­lis in Jerusalem and Nyero plus other hunter-gatherer geo­met­ric rock art sites in eastern Uganda are also can­di­dates.

Win­ning a spot on the UNESCO World Her­itage list, which cur­rently boasts 1,007 sites in 161 coun­tries, can help un­lock fi­nan- cial sup­port for con­ser­va­tion.

The com­mit­tee will also re­vise its List of World Her­itage in Dan­ger, which to­day stands at 46, and could see the ad­di­tion of his­toric gems in quake-dev­as­tated Kathmandu.

Another en­try to the list could also be the fortress city Ha­tra in Iraq, which is more than 2,000 years old and where trea­sures from Syria at risk due to the con­flict and ad­vance of Is­lamic State ji­hadists have been stored.

On Mon­day, on the mar­gins of the com­mit­tee’s con­sid­er­a­tions, UNESCO will launch a cam­paign to save her­itage threat­ened by ex­trem­ists.

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