World Heritage Site Status
Many countries interested in the conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage sites of the world accede to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was adopted by UNESCO in 1972. Guyana signed the treaty in 1977, the first Caribbean State Party to do so. In the mid-1990s, Guyana seriously began the process of selecting sites for World Heritage nomination, and three sites were considered: Kaieteur National Park, Shell Beach and Historic Georgetown. By 1997, work on Kaieteur National Park was started, and in 1998 work on Historic Georgetown was begun. To date, however, Guyana has not made a successful nomination.
Guyana submitted the Kaieteur National Park, including the Kaieteur Falls, to UNESCO as its first World Heritage Site nomination. The proposed area and surrounds have some of Guyana's most diversified life zones with one of the highest levels of endemic species found anywhere in South America. The Kaieteur Falls is the most spectacular feature of the park, falling a distance of 226 metres. The nomination of Kaieteur Park as a World Heritage Site was not successful, primarily because the area was seen by the evaluators as being too small, especially when compared with the Central Suriname Nature Reserve that had just been nominated as a World Heritage Site (2000). The dossier was thus returned to Guyana for revision.
Guyana continues in its bid for a World Heritage Site. Work continues, after a period of hiatus, on the nomination dossier for Historic Georgetown. A Tentative List indicating an intention to nominate Historic Georgetown was submitted to UNESCO in December 2004. There is now a small committee put together by the Guyana National Commission for UNESCO to complete the nomination dossier and the management plan for the site. In April 2005, two Dutch experts in conservation spent two weeks in Georgetown supervising architecture staff and students of the University of Guyana in a historic building survey of the selected area. This is part of the data collection for the nomination dossier.
Meanwhile, as a result of the Kaieteur National Park being considered too small, there is a proposal to prepare a nomination for a Cluster Site that will include the Kaieteur National Park, the Iwokrama Forest and the Kanuku Mountains. The Iwokrama Rain Forest, an area rich in biological diversity, has been described by Major General (Retired) Joseph Singh as “a flagship project for conservation.” The Kanuku Mountains area is in a pristine state and is home to more than four hundred species of birds and other animals.
There is much work to be done for the successful nomination of these sites to the World Heritage List. The state, the private sector and the ordinary Guyanese citizens each have a role to play in this process and in the later protection of the sites. Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage will open Guyana to more serious tourists thereby assisting in its economic development.
Guyana exhibits two of the World Wildlife Fund's Global 200 eco-regions most crucial to the conservation of global biodiversity, Guianan moist forests and Guiana Highlands moist forests and is home to several endemic species including the tropical hardwood Greenheart.
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