Galapagos Islands removed from UN list of World Heritage sites in danger
Ecuador’s headway in combating threats posed by invasive species, unbridled tourism and over-fishing has allowed the Galapagos Islands to be removed from the list of World Heritage sites considered to be in danger by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Galapagos, comprising 19 islands and a marine reserve, are situated some 1,000 kilometres from the South American continent. Deemed a World Heritage site in 1978, they have been described as a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution.”
Situated where three ocean currents meet, the Galapagos were formed by seismic and volcanic activity.
Along with the islands’ extreme isolation, these processes led to the development of unusual animal life, such as the land iguana and the giant tortoise, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection after his visit to the Galapagos in 1835.
They were put on the list of sites in danger in 2007, and the World Heritage Committee, currently meeting in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, welcomed the Ecuadorian Government’s ongoing efforts to bolster conservation measures, especially in the use of biosecurity measures to prevent foreign plant and animal species from reaching the islands through the use of sniffer dogs and other means.
The Committee also lauded the country’s moves to limit the number of tourists and arrivals of ships and aircraft, as well as to control fishing.
Added to the List of World Heritage in Danger by the 21-member Committee today was the Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. It contains four royal tombs within the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga main building, which was nearly completely destroyed in a fire in March.
Considered an outstanding example of an architectural style developed by the Buganda Kingdom since the 13th century, the building will be reconstructed.
Also joining the danger list today is the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery in central Georgia. The Committee voiced its serious concern over a major reconstruction project at the Cathedral, which it believes will undermine the integrity and authenticity of the site, calling for it to be halted immediately.
The construction of the Cathedral, named after Bagrat III, the first king of united Georgia, began at the end of the 10th century and wrapped up in the early 11th century. It was partly destroyed by the Turks in 1691.
The Gelati Monastery’s main buildings were erected between the 12th and 17th centuries and is well-preserved.