05.07.2012 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Rock Island Southern Lagoon Puts Palau On The List Of World Heritage Sites

Ngerukewid Islands National Wildlife Preserve (2010) © Patrick Colin

The World Heritage Committee in their meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia approved the inscription of the ‘Rock Islands Southern Lagoon’ site on the World Heritage List. The decision was based on the recommendation by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is the official World Heritage advisory body on nature.

The Rock Islands is part of Palau, a tiny island in the Pacific.  It is located between the states of Koror and Peleliu but is now an incorporated part of Koror State.  It has been recognised for its exceptional ecological diversity, coral reefs, marine lakes and limestone islands.  It covers 100,200 hectares and numbers 445 uninhabited limestone islands of volcanic origin. Many of them display unique mushroom-like shapes in turquoise lagoons surrounded by coral reefs. The aesthetic beauty of the site is heightened by a complex reef system featuring over 385 coral species and different types of habitat. They sustain a large diversity of plants, birds and marine life including dugong and at least 13 shark species. The site harbours the highest concentration of marine lakes anywhere in the world. These are isolated bodies of seawater separated from the ocean by land barriers. They are among the islands’ distinctive features and sustain high endemism of populations which continue to yield new species discoveries.

The success by Palau in inscribing the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon on the World Heritage List brings with it prestige that often helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation. Greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties.

World Heritage Sites generate significant interest in the international community marks the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon as a site for protection for future generations by both the local and international communities.

Mr. Alexander Dwight, Secretary-General of the Palau National Commission for UNESCO expressed his feelings of happiness on this occasion.  He also explained that the process that they went through to inscribe their site was very challenging, long and arduous.  However, they could not have done it without the support and technical assistance by many people and organizations.  “I feel relieved and inspired,” said Mr. Alexander. “It is a wonderful feeling to know that everybody did everything right, which resulted in a successful consideration. The challenging part is to ensure that we meet the requirements of the actions required from the state party such as preservation, management and monitoring.”

Further information on World Heritage Sites in the Pacific can be obtained from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/apia/culture/world-heritage/



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