UNESCO World Heritage Sites list grows

Italy has reason to celebrate with a glass of something fizzy — its Prosecco Hills region, famous for producing sparkling wine, has been named as one of the latest additions to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The inclusion on the list of northeast Italy’s vineyard-covered Conegliano and Valdobbiadene hills, make the country one of leading destinations for World Heritage sites, alongside China.

UNESCO is currently deliberating in Baku, Azerbaijan, to decide which destinations should be added to a portfolio that already names 1,092 sites in 167 countries.

Babylon, in Iraq, one of the most important sites in the ancient world, a complex of centuries-old temples peering out above treetops in Bagan, Myanmar, a bird-filled estuary along China‘s Yalu River and the stunning Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland are among the newest to be inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List 2019.

One of the more unusual additions was Jodrell Bank Observatory, a site in northwest England that’s home to some of the planet’s leading radio astronomy telescopes. Dating back to 1945, the Observatory’s research on cosmic rays, meteors, the moon and astral phenomena are credited with expanding our understanding of the universe.

This week the committee responsible for the list will wrap up deliberations over which sites will make the grade in 2019. Those chosen earn valuable tourism currency as well as nominal protection conveyed by UNESCO.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — UNESCO — aims to promote collaboration and peace among nations, while also striving to protect the world’s heritage.

Spectacular spots

Inaugurated in 1978, UNESCO’s site list includes famous destinations such as Yellowstone National Park in the United States, India’s Taj Mahal, Petra in Jordan and the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

The 2019 nomination list is separated into different categories — from natural properties like Vatnajökull National Park to cultural sites such as Babylon and mixed sites, which combine natural and cultural elements, such as Paraty in Brazil — which has also been confirmed as a new addition.

There’s one US-based nomination: the 20th-century architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, which has also been inscribed.

In January 2019, the United States quit UNESCO, claiming the organization was anti-Israel because it had accepted a Palestinian bid for full membership and identified several ancient locations as Palestinian World Heritage sites. Israel also cut ties with the agency.

Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, in a statement issued in 2017, when the United States first filed its intent to depart, called a US withdrawal “a loss to UNESCO.”

Lengthy process

The selections for 2019 follow a lengthy evaluation during which field experts are sent to check out the nominated destinations and assess what is being done to preserve them.

Sites that don’t get selected can still be nominated in subsequent years.

UNESCO’s Twitter account is announcing new inscriptions as they’re decided. The process will conclude by July 10.

Those gathering in Azerbaijan will also take a look at the state of conservation of the properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Last year, the committee voted to remove the world’s second-largest coral reef, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve system, from this list after the government of Belize worked with non-governmental groups to protect the reef.

This year, sites including the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal and the Ancient City of Nessebar in Bulgaria are proposed as new additions to the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The first news alert from Baku, announced on July 2, 2019, was that the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, West Bank, has been removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The World Heritage Committee said this decision was made because of restorative work carried out on the Nativity Church, the decision not to dig a tunnel under Manger Square and the management plan for the site’s conservation.

The Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works in Chile has also been removed from the “in danger” list, due to new measures adopted over the past 15 years to protect the site.

Meanwhile the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California in Mexico are a new addition to the endangered list.

2019 nominees

Here’s the list of destinations nominated for the UNESCO list in 2019. Check back to see which make the grade:

Natural sites:

• Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China, Phase I (China) — Confirmed

• Hyrcanian Forests (Iran) — Confirmed

• Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex (Thailand)

• French Austral Lands and Seas (France) — Confirmed

• Alpi del Mediterraneo — Alpes de la Méditerrané (France / Italy / Monaco)

• Vatnajökull National Park — (Iceland) — Confirmed

Mixed sites (natural and cultural):

• Extension of the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region, North Macedonia (Albania) — Confirmed

• Paraty and Ilha Grande — Culture and Biodiversity (Brazil) — Confirmed

Cultural sites:

• Ancient ferrous metallurgy site (Burkina Faso) — Confirmed

• Dilmun Burial Mounds (Bahrain) — Confirmed

• Babylon (Iraq) — Confirmed

• Budj Bim Cultural Landscape (Australia) — Confirmed

• Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City (China) — Confirmed

• Jaipur City, Rajasthan (India) — Confirmed

• Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto (Indonesia) — Confirmed

• Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan (Japan) — Confirmed

• Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhuang — Plain of Jars (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) — Confirmed

• Bagan (Myanmar) — Confirmed

• Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies (Republic of Korea) — Confirmed

• Großglockner High Alpine Road (Austria)

• Frontiers of the Roman Empire — The Danube Limes (Austria/Germany/Hungary/Slovakia)

• Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi (Canada) — Confirmed

• Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří Mining Region (Czech Republic / Germany) — Confirmed

• Landscape for Breeding and Training of Ceremonial Carriage Horses at Kladruby nad Labem (Czech Republic) — Confirmed

• Water Management System of Augsburg (Germany) — Confirmed

• Krzemionki prehistoric striped flint mining region (Poland) — Confirmed

• Royal Building of Mafra — Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park, Tapada (Portugal) — Confirmed

• Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga (Portugal) — Confirmed

• Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture (Russia) — Confirmed

• Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape (Spain) — Confirmed

• Jodrell Bank Observatory (United Kingdom) — Confirmed

• Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace (Azerbaijan) — Confirmed

• Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano a Valdobbiadene (Italy) — Confirmed

• The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright (United States of America) — Confirmed

• Sunken City of Port Royal — A Relict and Continuing Cultural Landscape (Jamaica)

• Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá (Panama)

Sites proposed for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger:

• The Sundarbans (Bangladesh)

• Ancient City of Nessebar (Bulgaria)

• Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region (Albania / North Macedonia)

• Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)

• Babylon (Iraq)

• Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Mexico) — Confirmed

Sites to be withdrawn from List in Danger:

• Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem, West Bank

• Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Chile)

CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report