Tourism boom threatening heritage sites in China

The booming tourism growth in China is threatening the country’s heritage sites.

With China’s economy currently firing on all cylinders, domestic tourism has increased dramatically. In addition, globalisation has brought more foreign visitors to experience a country that was once behind the Bamboo Curtain. However, the increase in tourism has affected the upkeep of heritage sites in the country with many now believed to be under threat from irresponsible tourism. Some sites are thought to be under greater threat than others.

One example is the tiny village of Zili in southern China, famous for its Kaiping watchtowers, which make it a UNESCO world heritage site. The site houses hundreds of abandoned watchtowers in the Pearl River Delta. Surrounding the watchtowers are rice fields and lush bamboo groves. Families and villagers supposedly built the ornate towers during the early 19th and 20th centuries when it was common for hoards of bandits to attack. The turrets in the watchtowers helped villagers to look out for such attacks.

However the Kaiping watchtowers, also known as diaolou, are finding it more difficult to defend themselves against the ever-increasing number of tourists and the destruction they leave behind. Hoards of tourists are visiting these sites to take photos and to taste what is known locally as ‘peasant family foods’. The rustic charm of the village is an attractive selling point for tourists, who see a visit simply as a means of amusement. The state is also using other UNESCO sites to help develop backward rural areas.

China now has 43 world heritage sites, and the nation is trying to include more sites on the list, as listings attract tourists with money to spend. The downside is that at many heritage sites, conservationists are losing a battle against commercialisation.

Authorities are now trying to limit the number of customers by using various means, such as increasing costs or restricting visitor numbers.


Tanzania National Parks joins ICTP

The International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP) has announced that Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) has joined it as a destination member.

Tanzania National Parks, which is claimed to play a significant role in integrating sustainable conservation with high-class tourism products and services, is expecting the move to enhance its activities and influence its conservation efforts in a positive manner. The organisation has 15 national parks in its portfolio, and many of them form the core of a much larger protected ecosystem.

The existing park systems protect a number of internationally recognised biodiversity and World Heritage sites. The park is also working to expand the scope of the national park and raise the status of traditional migration corridors connecting protected areas. Tanzania has more than 46,348.9 square kilometres of national parks, and tourism provides a significant encouragement for the nation to support conservation efforts.

ICTP president, professor Geoffrey Lipman said, ‘The engagement of TANAPA is another important milestone. Tanzania has a proud reputation for conservation and heritage. The Serengeti is the home of one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet, and Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain – is a global icon for adventure travel. Members like this add immensely to the collective knowledge and resource base of ICTP – we welcome TANAPA’s commitment to work with us to promote quality green growth.’

The chairman of ICTP, Juergen T. Steinmetz, said, ‘We firmly believe in the work TANAPA is doing and the fact that this organisation has resisted the temptation to cash in on the short-term gains of mass tourism. Instead, it is committed to low impact, sustainable visitation to protect the environment from irreversible damage, while creating a first-class ecotourism destination. This fits in perfectly with the mission of ICTP to promote quality green tourism growth.’


Travellers have new options with additions to World Heritage list

Those travellers that have yet to finalise a destination for their next trip now have a plethora of new sites identified under the World Heritage List.

Travellers can now enjoy visiting 26 new sites that have been added to the list. In Paris, the World Heritage Committee ended its 36th session under the chair of Eleonora Mitrofanova, the Ambassador of Russia to UNESCO. The committee added the 26 new sites at the close of two weeks of deliberations.

The new additions include five natural destinations, twenty cultural destinations and one under the mixed category. With the new additions, the UNESCO’s World Heritage List now has a total of 962 properties. The countries in which these sites are located have now increased to 157 with Chad, Congo, Palau and Palestine the latest to be granted World Heritage sites on their territories.

Another positive development was that the committee removed Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore (Pakistan) and the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines) from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

However, five sites were added to the Danger List because of concerns about their conservation. They include Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia (Mali), The Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine), Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Panama); and Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (UK).

The committee’s next session will be held in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) from 17 to 27 of June 2013.

The new sites are:

Lakes of Ounianga (Chad);

Sangha Trinational (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo,);

Chengjiang Fossil Site (China);

Western Ghats (India);

Lena Pillars Nature Park (Russian Federation).

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site.

Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy (Bahrain); Major Mining Sites of Wallonia (Belgium);

Rio de Janeiro, Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (Brazil);

The Landscape of Grand-Pre (Canada);

Site of Xanadu (China);

Historic Town Grand-Bassam (Cote d’Ivoire);

Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin (France);

Margravial Opera House Bayreuth (Germany);

Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (Indonesia);

Masjed-e Jame of Isfahan (Islamic Republic of Iran),

Gonbad-e Qabus (Islamic Republic of Iran);

Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel : The Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Israel);

Archaelogical Heritage of the Lenggong Valley (Malaysia);

Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage (Morocco);

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine);

Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (Portugal);

Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes (Senegal);

Heritage of Mercury Almaden and Idrija (Slovenia/Spain);

Decorated Farmhouses of Halsingland (Sweden);

Neolithic Site of Catalhoyuk (Turkey).