World Heritage Committee inscribes two new natural sites from China, and Namibia on UNESCO World Heritage List
Phnom Penh, 21 June—China’s Xinjiang Tianshan and Namib Sand Sea (Namibia) were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List on Friday. Mount Kenya-Lewa Wildlife conservancy (Kenya), was also inscribed as an extension to Mount Kenya Natural Park / Natural Forest.
Xinjiang Tianshan (China) comprises four components—Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbukuke and Bogda— that total 606,833 hectares. They are part of the Tianshan mountain system of Central Asia, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world. Xinjiang Tianshan presents unique physical geographic features and scenically beautiful areas including spectacular snow and snowy mountains glacier-capped peaks, undisturbed forests and meadows, clear rivers and lakes and red bed canyons. These landscapes contrast with the vast adjacent desert landscapes, creating a striking visual contrast between hot and cold environments, dry and wet, desolate and luxuriant. The landforms and ecosystems of the site have been preserved since the Pliocene epoch and present an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary processes. The site also extends into the Taklimakan Desert, one of the world’s largest and highest deserts, known for its large dune forms and great dust storms. Xinjiang Tianshan is moreover an important habitat for endemic and relic flora species, some rare and endangered.
Namib Sand Sea (Namibia) is the only coastal desert in the world that includes extensive dune fields influenced by fog. Covering an area of over three million hectares and a buffer zone of 899,500 hectares, the site is composed of two dune systems, an ancient semi-consolidated one overlain by a younger active one. The desert dunes are formed by the transportation of materials thousands of kilometres from the hinterland, that are carried by river, ocean current and wind. It features gravel plains, coastal flats, rocky hills, inselbergs within the sand sea, a coastal lagoon and ephemeral rivers, resulting in a landscape of exceptional beauty. Fog is the primary source of water in the site, accounting for a unique environment in which endemic invertebrates, reptiles and mammals adapt to an ever-changing variety of microhabitats and ecological niches.
This is the first natural site in Namibia to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Mount Kenya-Lewa Wildlife conservancy (Kenya), was inscribed as an extension added to Mount Kenya Natural Park / Natural Forest. The area added to the Mount Kenya Natural Park consists of a core of nearly 20,000 hectares and a buffer zone of almost 70,000 ha. It is situated between the Tropical Montane ecosystem and the semi-arid savannah grasslands and its inscription completes the preservation of the ecological and biological processes preserved at the Mount Kenya Natural Park, which was inscribed in 1997. The extension lies within the traditional migrating route of the African elephant population of the Mount Kenya Natural Park, world renowned as the location of the second highest peak in Africa, Mt Kenya, that rises 5,199 m above the sea. The extinct volcano numbers 12 glaciers that are receding rapidly, and four secondary peaks overlooking U-shaped glacial valleys. With its rugged glacier-clad summits and forested middle slopes, Mount Kenya is one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa.
The World Heritage Committee is currently holding its 37th session in Phnom Penh. The session will close in Angkor on 27 June.