UNESCO proposes reclassification of Lake Ohrid as endangered site, following government inaction – Exit

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The area surrounding Lake Ohrid in Albania and North Macedonia has been officially proposed to be added to the UNESCO list of endangered sites.

There are currently 53 sites on the list. If Ohrid is added, it will be the fourth such site on the European continent.

Other European sites include the historic center of Vienna, the Maritime Mercantile of Liverpool and the medieval monuments of Kosovo.

A UNESCO spokesperson said being nominated or added to the list is not a punishment. Rather, it offers a State the possibility of requesting “technical and even economic assistance from the international community to safeguard Outstanding Universal Value”.

UNESCO describes Ohrid Lake as a “superlative natural phenomenon” and a refuge for a large number of endemic species of flora and fauna. Some of them date from the Tertiary era, that is, more than 66 million years ago.

It is also home to one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. In addition, it is home to the oldest Slavic monastery, more than 800 Byzantine icons from the 11th to 14th centuries and various remains of prehistoric settlements. There is also a church on the Lin Peninsula which dates from the mid-6th century.

But the region has been under threat for some time. In January, UNESCO has again reclassified the city of Ohrid in danger, after 18 months of prior warnings. The organization claimed that North Macedonia had done little to address various problems and the emergence of new threats.

Problems such as rampant development, failure to respond to illegal constructions, and destruction of nature and the ecosystem were cited as key issues. UNESCO added that there was a lack of awareness among residents and authorities on the need to preserve their heritage and the natural values ​​of the region.

UNESCO has also asked that North Macedonia and Albania coordinate to strengthen legal protection. This includes sorting out the sewage problem, establishing a moratorium on coastal and urban development, creating an inventory of illegal constructions and demolishing those that pose a threat to the area.

The proposals will be examined by the World Heritage Committee in China from July 16 to 31, 2021.

The Committee is also expected to discuss the situation in Gjirokastra, another UNESCO World Heritage site, where the construction of a parking lot and a new road threatens the ancient city.


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