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Saturday, November 27, 2021

UNESCO Gives North Macedonia More Time to Protect Ohrid

The UN cultural organisation, UNESCO, on Friday gave North Macedonia two more years to take action to properly protect the heritage of the lakeside city of Ohrid and its surroundings – or be added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

The decision was reached at the 44th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Fuzhou, China. It also refers to neighbouring Albania, which shares a smaller part of the protected Ohrid lake basin with North Macedonia.

This is the second time since 2019 that, at a session of the Committee, an initially tougher expert report on the protected site has been amended to give North Macedonia more time to deal with the issues.

An amendment submitted by Bosnia and Herzegovina, backed by Russia, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, China and Guatemala, scrapped the draft provision to immediately reclassify Ohrid.

As in 2019, the initial report presented to the Committee threatened to put Ohrid and the surrounding area immediately on its list of endangered heritage sites, citing persistent uncontrolled urbanisation and illegal construction, which “had eroded the authenticity and integrity” of the site.

Earlier this week, environmental organisations from North Macedonia and Albania urged the Committee not to grant any more extensions, arguing that immediate reclassification of Ohrid as one of the World Heritage Sites in Danger would put more pressure on North Macedonia and Albania to work on the problems.

This viewpoint was shared by Norway, Bahrein and Australia.

The town of Ohrid, which sits beside the deepest and oldest lake in the Balkan semi-peninsula, is one of only 28 sites across the world that UNESCO has named a world heritage site in both the culture and nature categories.

Along with its natural beauty – it is home to many endemic species such as Ohrid trout – what makes the area special is its rich cultural heritage. The old town is full of old churches, picturesque houses and centuries-old monuments.

Ohrid is by far the biggest tourist hotspot in North Macedonia.

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