Seven of the Valley's World Heritage Sites have been placed on the danger list by UNESCO. The announcement came as a shock for conservationists, tourism industry and many other professionals, but the government is playing it cool. The reason? They claim that the UN agency is yet to inform them about its latest findings. Instead, they brandish a "positive" report the UNESCO faxed them in the past. "There is no reason to panic," says Binod Gyawali, spokesperson at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. "So far, we have a UNESCO report that says almost everything is OK."
The new report blames rampant urbanisation for deterioration of the sites at Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur that were put on the World Heritage Site list in 1979. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, was also on the same list. The Royal Chitwan National Park and the Sagarmatha National Park have been placed on the UNESCO list of World Natural Sites.
Meanwhile, the American Alpine Club has pledged financial support for a major new conservation initiative in the Sagarmatha National Park. Community-Based Conservation and Restoration of the Mt Everest Alpine Zone will address the impact of trekkers and climbers. It will be implemented in partnership with Sherpa communities, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, and The Mountain Institute.