UNESCO adds old, new to world heritage list

July 8th, 2008 - 8:50 am ICT by IANS  

Washington/Quebec City, July 8 (DPA) The UN cultural agency UNESCO has added 11 new heritage sites covering a swath of civilization from 10,000-year-old agriculture in Papua New Guinea to 20th-century social housing in Berlin. UNESCO added eight new listings Monday including sites in the Straits of Malacca, Papua New Guinea and San Marino. Three others in Mauritius, Saudi Arabia and China were added Sunday, and Germany maintained world heritages for Dresden’s Elbe Valley landscape despite controversial construction plans.

The most modern site ever accepted for the world heritage list is a group of six Berlin housing developments, bundled as a single UNESCO bid. They were built between 1913 and 1934, using a horseshoe layout associated with architects including Walter Gropius, and introduced the then-new trend of social housing, while their clear forms influenced construction methods for the rest of the century.

The Berlin housing brings Germany’s total to 33 heritage sites on the prestigious list, though construction now underway on a controversial bridge in the Elbe Valley could reduce Germany’s total by one if no compromise is found by 2009.

Papua New Guinea’s first designated heritage site of Kuk consists of an archaeological excavation that uncovered patterns of agricultural development on a reclaimed wetland that has been worked by people almost continuously for 10,000 years.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is meeting through Thursday in Quebec City, Canada, timed to coincide with the kickoff of the provincial capital’s 400th anniversary celebrations as one of North America’s oldest continuously inhabited, European-founded cities.

UNESCO’s World Heritage list currently includes 851 properties of “outstanding universal value,” including 660 cultural, 166 natural and 25 mixed properties in 141 countries.

At least 30 sites are on an endangered list, including Dresden’s Elbe Valley, meaning they either need special attention to be preserved or have risked being delisted because conservators have failed either to take proper care of the sites or to comply with UNESCO rules.

Saudi Arabia’s first site, al-Hijr, formerly known as Hegra, is the largest conserved site of Nabataean civilization south of Petra in Jordan. It features well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating from 2,000 ago.

Also approved Sunday was Mauritius’ Le Morne cultural landscape and an earthen architectural site in the southern Chinese province of Fujian, the so-called Fujian Tulou, a grouping of 46 buildings that date from the 12th to the 20th centuries.

Further sites that received world heritage designatiMonday are Malaysia’s historic cities of Melaka and George Town, which have seen 500 years of trade in the still-important Straits of Malacca, and the Stari Grad Plain on Croatia’s Adriatic island of Hvar, a cultural landscape that has remained largely intact since colonization 2,400 years ago by Ionian Greeks from Paros.

The fortifications of Vauban, consisting of 13 groups of buildings and sites along the western, northern and eastern borders of France, was added as a heritage site, representing the work of Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), a military engineer for King Louis XIV.

The Italian Renaissance cities of Mantua and Sabbioneta made the UNESCO list Monday, as did San Marino Historic Centre, which covers 55 hectares in the tiny Republic, including Mount Titano and the historic centre of the 13th century city-state.

Wooden churches in Slovakia’s Carpathian Mountains made the world heritage list with two Roman Catholic, three Protestant and three Greek Orthodox churches built between the 16th and 18th centuries in small, poor villages in an area formerly known as Upland Hungary.

During Monday’s morning session, UNESCO also approved the expansion of the Mountain Railways of India heritage site with the addition of the Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96-kilometre long, working railroad built in the mid-1800s to provide a link to the highland town of Shimla.

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