Will Heritage Sites Pass Exam?

China's 28 sites included on the World Natural Heritage List or the World Cultural Heritage list face a strict examination when a thorough review on them takes place.

This year regions in Asia and the Pacific will receive evaluations by the world heritage committee.

The check is focused on whether they are well protected. Heritage sites that are thought to have suffered damage, either natural or caused by humans, will be added onto an endangered list. Those that have been seriously damaged will be deprived of the title.

Among the world's 721 natural and cultural heritage sites, 31 have been listed as endangered.

It is no surprise that management departments of the nation's treasures have attached great importance to the forthcoming evaluation, and the country's educational, scientific and cultural organization is planning a training session on how to make preparations for it.

Managers of the natural and cultural heritage sites in China can take some pride in so far as none of the sites are currently on the "black list."

But they should not be too optimistic.

Over exploiting tourism resources and a constant flood of tourists themselves are constituting a serious threat to many natural and cultural heritage sites. Some are crowded with hotels, shops and recreational centers.

The relationship between the protection and exploitation of resources needs to be better handled. Management departments should not regard the title of the world heritage as a gold key to wealth but should also concentrate on protection.

In fact, the red light has already been turned onto some heritage sites. The Wulingyuan natural scene in Zhangjiajie of Hubei Province has been criticized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for the "urbanization" trend.

If the trend is not averted, the day will not be far off when it loses its value and becomes delisted. If this happens, it will finally lose its attraction and be rejected by tourists.

Will all the 28 heritage sites pass the examination? We hope so. After all, the protection level of the world heritage concerns the image of their resident country.

(China Daily May 16, 2002)

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