What is a World Heritage Site?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is made up of a committee who decides what places of interest (for example: a mountain, island or building) holds a special cultural or physical significance. If declared a World Heritage Site, these places can then obtain financial support from the World Heritage Fund, who in return, provide preservation or protection of these sites.
As of the 21st of June 2013, 5 places were declared World Heritage Sites:
1. The Namib Sand Sea in the arid Namib Desert is proudly Southern African! The sand sea is in the Naukluft National Park in Namibia and trails along the southwestern African coast. The sand dunes are constantly changing, creating ripples and waves of shifting golden sands – a site well-worth being preserved.
2. Mount Etna situated in Sicily, Italy was also declared a World Heritage Site. At 3,330 metres high it is Europe’s tallest active volcano. The interest in viewing the volcano could be to its detriment, hence the protection from UNESCO of this amazing sight.
3. China can proudly boast of its Xinjiang Tianshan mountain range which also fitted the bill. With 140 endemic plants and 477 rare endangered species, this site needs the protective arm of UNESCO.
4. Tajikistan was given their first World Heritage site: Takij National Park. With deserts, glaciers, alpine lakes and deep gorges, this Asian country can be proud of its new accolade.
5. The fifth World Heritage site is Mexico’s El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve. A land of dormant volcanos and ever-shifting sand dunes, this is well worth UNESCO’s preservation efforts.
Photograph of Namib Sand Sea by George Steinmetz, National Geographic