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World heritage sites lack sufficient management

Update: May, 26/2014 - 08:04
Heritage island: Cu Lao Cham, an example of good natural heritage management by local authorities. — VNS File Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — Most of the participants at a recent seminar on managing world heritage sites in Viet Nam shared the same opinion that the sites were not properly controlled.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Dang Thi Bich Lien stated that the most important issue in managing heritage sites was overlapping moves among ministries and agencies at the central and local levels.

Nguyen Quoc Hung, deputy head of the Department for Heritage under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, admitted that there was a lack of unified regulations on managing heritage sites at various locations.

"For example, sites such as Thang Long Citadel Complex in Ha Noi, Hue Former Citadel in central city Hue and My Son Sanctuary in the central province of Quang Nam have no regulations for controlling, preserving and bringing the sites into full focus," he stated, adding: "Or there are regulations, but the rules have not been updated to suit new issues."

According to a researcher Dang Van Bai, a Vietnamese representative at UNESCO, the actual effectiveness of management boards at heritage sites was very important.

"The management board should be formed according to the requirements of each locality," he noted. "For instance, the ancient town of Hoi An is an ecological town heritage while Hue is an old urban architecture heritage. We should not apply the same form of management board to all sites throughout the country," he added.

He gave an example on how to protect the environment in Cu Lao Cham Island off Hoi An Town.

A month after the first movement "Cu Lao Cham Says ‘No' to Nylon Bags" in 2009, all nylon bags in the island were collected. The movement has helped enhance local people's awareness of protecting environment and attracting tourists.

"This is a better way of showing the determination of Hoi An Town authorities in protecting natural heritage site," he added.

Nguyen Viet Cuong, from the Heritage Department, suggested a clearer task to be assigned among ministries and sectors to control world heritage sites.

"Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park [in the central province of Quang Binh] was under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development before being recognised as a World Natural Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2003," he noted, adding: "After the recognition, UNESCO warned that the park should be controlled by the culture ministry."

Prof Bai suggested that the state should invest in enhancing management skills of concerned staff.

Phan Thanh Hai, director of Hue Monument Conservation Centre, stated that UNESCO advised Hue to set up a multifunction heritage preservation institute, with many units for researching various matters of relics and preservation and units for researching preservation tasks.

"Thanks to the multifunctioning institute, the heritage sites will be brought into full play in both culture and economic fields," he noted.

The participants also admitted that the world cultural and natural heritage sites in Viet Nam have made great contributions to socioeconomic development, particularly in localities where the sites are located.

Hung, from the culture ministry, stated that such heritage sites constitute a major tourism resource.

He said while no official statistics are available, the recognition of a world heritage site is almost always followed by a fast increase in the number of tourists. According to UNESCO statistics, more than 1 billion tourists visit the natural and cultural heritage sites each year.

Viet Nam currently has seven world heritage sites, which are a complex of monuments in the ancient imperial city of Hue, Ha Long Bay, My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An ancient town, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the central sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long—Ha Noi and the Ho Dynasty Citadel.

At present, an average of 2 million tourists visit Ha Long Bay and Hue each year, while 1.5 million tourists visited Hoi An last year. Other heritage sites also attracted large crowds of tourists, contributing to local development.

However, the rising number of tourists also poses danger to heritage sites in terms of environmental pollution. Ha Long Bay and the Hue monument complex were once listed as world heritage sites that were in danger.

Hue was removed from the list in 2013, while Ha Long Bay is under inspection by UNESCO experts in order to be considered for removal from the list this June.

The seminar, which was held here on Friday, also learnt that Viet Nam has received substantial assistance from UNESCO and international organisations in preserving its world heritage sites.

However, experts noted that the country has not been able to obtain the community's involvement in the conservation work. They called for appropriate policies to encourage all economic sectors, organisations and individuals to invest in this field. — VNS

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