Monday, January 14, 2008

The Wadden - no World Heritage site...

Video courtesy of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality

UNESCO: Reflecting the natural and cultural wealth that belongs to all of humanity, World Heritage sites and monuments constitute crucial landmarks for our world. They symbolise the consciousness of States and peoples of the significance of these places and reflect their attachment to collective ownership and to the transmission of this heritage to future generations.

After many years of preparation in working groups, NGO's, governments and parliaments the Wadden-region almost made it to the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. I say "almost" because today the government of the German city of Hamburg finally declared to be against the proposal. And because all parties should agree: it's all over now.

Is this good or bad news? What does it mean for seakayakers? The Wadden region is such a fantastic seakayaking site because of it's outstanding natural beauty, landscape and wildlife. We do have a serious interest in adequate preservation measures. The inscription of a site on the World Heritage List brings an increase in public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site. When these are well planned for and organised respecting sustainable tourism principles, they can bring important funds to the site and to the local economy.
I am convinced seakayakers respect sustainable tourism principles and as an optimist by nature: I believe we would have profited of the UNESCO status in the long term .
But will it chance much? Is the Wadden Region lost and unprotected without the UNESCO status? Don't worry: the protected status comes anyway for a big deal from National and European rules, and not from the UNESCO. It won't make much difference.

The sad thing about this news: despite all good words policy makers and governments are still thinking in opposites between economical interests and ecological principles. There is a long way to go for a more sustainable future.

Update 30-1-2008:
The 'first conclusion that the "No" of Hamburg's parliament would stop the complete process of nomination for the Wadden Region was premature: Dutch and German National government decided to proceed with the nomination for the rest of the Wadden region - see
this document with the recent letter of Minister Verburg for the Dutch Parliament - the meaning of the UNESCO nomination and the relation with is clearly explained in this letter.


Axel said...

Hi Hans,
Mixed feelings... Yes, the Waddenzee would in a way benefit from being recognized (and protected) as a place of natural beauty. When I first heard of the proposal my first thoughts where of the commercial interests (i.e. the current oil/gas production) being allowed while other interests (i.e. kayaking would be severely regulated). Like it is now in the new Maasvlakte. Environmentally unfriendly expansion of industry 'compensated' by area closures 'under the smoke' of it. Environment would have benefited more by NOT developing the 2nd Maasvlakte industrial area and chemical waste disposal site. Maybe I am too negative about it all.

In the 1990's I was impressed with the US National Park Service protection. Popular areas had tight visitor regulations. Wilderness experience in an area of so unique beauty that otherwise would have been overrun and over developed.

Pro's and cons, or both at the same time.


P.S. Thanks for the nice balance brace picture. That is the only Greenland move that I manage to be keeping ahead of the rest of you. Roll on!

Hans said...

Hello Axel!
It's a complex matter. The UNESCO World Heritage Status in itself doesn't directly effect the recreational (and economical) use of the site. It's mainly a recognition of it's unique natural and cultural values. Protection of this heritage stays a national issue. And I agree - in dealing with this, the Netherlands can learn from good practises abroad.
The hypocrite thing about the nomination is that Dutch Government is blaming the city of Hamburg now. I am sure the Netherlands would never have agreed with a nomination when Rotterdam would have been at stake...


PS: did you see the animation on Rene's weblog? In the background you can see yourself performing the shotgun-roll.