In an unprecedented step towards conservation of natural heritage sites in Asia and the Pacific region, the foundation stone of the world’s first Natural World Heritage Centre was laid at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), in Dehradun on Saturday.
Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, who laid the foundation stone said, “Natural heritage conservation in Asia and the Pacific region has been facing many challenges in recent years as a result of extreme pressure exerted on natural ecosystems.... Very few countries are equipped with proper natural heritage training facilities.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Category 2 centre on ‘Natural World Heritage Management and Training for Asia and the Pacific Region,’ would be established with the objective of achieving a more balanced representation of properties from Asia and the Pacific on the World Heritage List, and raising awareness towards protection and conservation of the natural world heritage.
Dr V.B. Mathur, Director, WII, said, “UNESCO has established World Heritage centres in South Africa, Spain, Italy, China, Bahrain, Brazil, Mexico and Norway.
However, the centres in the eight countries of the world are only for the conservation of cultural heritage.”
“This is UNESCO’s first centre in the world for the conservation of Natural World Heritage,” Dr Mathur said.
Dr Mathur said that the centre would work towards protection and conservation of around 67 Natural World Heritage sites across the 50 countries in Asia and the Pacific region.
Capacity building courses, research for Natural World Heritage protection, and tasks ensuring community participation towards conservation of the natural heritage would be undertaken at the WII centre, Dr Mathur said.
The centre at WII was the result of the Central government’s ‘Request for Action’ submitted to UNESCO in the year 2012 for the establishment of a Centre of Excellence on Natural World Heritage for Asia and the Pacific region at WII. The proposal was approved by UNESCO in November, 2013.