At a working conference for the selection of China's third batch of world geoparks, convened late February in Beijing, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) drew up detailed appraisal standards for those parks which hope to win the title of "world geopark."
Eight geoparks that expect to make the list participated in the conference. They include Mount Tai Geopark in Shandong, Mount Wangwu Geopark and Nanyang Funushan Geopark in Henan, Fangshan Geopark in Beijing, Leiqiong Geopark (volcano geoparks) in Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan, and Jingbo Lake in Heilongjiang .
According to the new evaluation standards, six major aspects, including geology and landscape (such as territory, geo-conservation, natural and cultural heritage), management structures, information and environment education, geotourism, sustainable regional economic development and public access, will be taken into consideration.
Among these, "geology and landscape" are weighted the most, taking up 35 per cent of the total score during appraisal. "Management structure" is also critical, with a share of one-fourth of the final score.
The six major criteria are further subdivided into particular standards, covering almost all the elements for geopark appraisal.
"The criteria are not only standards the applicants should observe, but also a vital guideline for the further development of those who acquire the 'world geopark' laurel," said Jiang Jianjun, director-general of the Department of Geological Environment, under the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR), at the conference.
"Hence, every geopark, either with or without world geopark status, should acquaint itself with the criteria which is also available at the world-geopark website (www.worldgeopark.org)," added Jiang.
Application documents and supporting material must be verified and assessed before an on-the-spot evaluation by an independent expert group from the UNESCO, which will then make its recommendation for the applicant geopark.
Nominations will be finalized by a meeting of international experts every two years.
More than just criteria
Under the guidelines of the criteria, Jiang outlined work assignments for each of the applicants.
"The application material submitted should be practical and realistic and each applicant park is supposed to display substantial achievements in park construction," Jiang said.
Based on the experience of two previous rounds of application and appraisal, the director-general required these geoparks to make full preparations for the upcoming UNESCO examination in autumn.
They are expected to prepare at least two language (Chinese and English) versions of self-promotion movies as well as other multi-media introduction material.
As to field study by experts, the study route is supposed to highlight the popularization of science, local culture and species, showcasing the relationship between geography and local life style and production mode.
Furthermore, at the MLR's request, each candidate park should set up a work team to take charge of the whole application process.
With regard to infrastructure construction, the applicant park is expected to establish or rebuild a geological museum, considered vital for attracting visitors, especially those with a scientific bent of mind.
"The park construction should pay more attention to the combination between geological protection and tourism and economic development, making local culture a prominent feature," Jiang stressed.
According to Li Minglu, an official with the MLR's Department of Geological Environment, mid-May could be the deadline for application preparation.
MLR sources said the application and assessment for "national geopark" listing will be suspended in China this year so that authorities concerned will focus on strengthening supervision and management of the present national geoparks, helping them develop healthily and fulfil their expected functions.
(China Daily March 3, 2006)