UNESCO had a meeting with the Ministry of Environment, offering to provide technical assistance to identify and assess potential sites for inscription in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites in Cambodia.
UNESCO project officer Sriharsha Masabathul told The Post on December 1 that the Tentative List is an inventory of heritage sites which a country considers for nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
He added that currently, Cambodia has three cultural sites, namely Angkor Archaeological Park, the Preah Vihear Temple, and Sambor PreiKuk Temple.
All three are listed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.
Cambodia has an opportunity to enlist natural sites on the Tentative List of World Natural Heritage, as the country is blessed with rich natural heritage, including unique natural habitats, ecosystems, and biodiversity, Masabathul said.
“As a first step, UNESCO will provide technical support to sensitise and enhance capacities of environment ministry officials and relevant stakeholders on the World Natural Heritage nomination process and the potential benefits of World Heritage listing,” he said.
Masabathul added UNESCO will also provide support to the Cambodian government to designate more sites in Cambodia as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, and as UNESCO Global Geoparks.
“At present, Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is the only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Cambodia so far, and UNESCO appreciates and supports the government’s efforts to expand and enlist new sites as World Natural Heritage, Biosphere Reserves, and Global Geoparks from Cambodia,” he said.
Masabathula said the UNESCO World Natural Heritage listing, along with Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks, provide tremendous benefits from strengthened conservation, protection and management mechanisms for the sites.
Additionally, it also provides opportunities for community-livelihood development, including eco-tourism and diversification of livelihoods for promoting socio-economic prosperity, and will play a significant role in increasing the revenue and employment in the tourism industry.
The environment ministry’s Heritage Area Department director Loeung Kesaro said his ministry and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts had the duty and obligation to compile, assess and identify potential and high-profile areas of any natural areas of Cambodia and include them in the World heritage List in accordance with criteria set by UNESCO.
He said the environment ministry had held a meeting with relevant sides, which comprised of UNESCO and international experts from the International Coordinating Committee- Angkor (ICC- Angkor).
At the meetings, they agreed to three areas – Tbeng Meanchey natural area, the Cardamom Mountains and the natural area of the Tonle Sap Lake – to be enlisted on the World Heritage List.
Kesaro expected that in December or January UNESCO will invite international experts to train environment ministry officials to prepare and get information of each area in a comprehensive and scientific manner.
All information must go through the ministry’s leadership in regards to policy, strategies, the economy and the environment.
“We are preparing a request, but we have yet to submit it. Hopefully in December or the upcoming January and February, it will be ready,” he said.
Kesaro said when one of the three natural areas is listed on the World Heritage List, Cambodia will get a lot of benefits including support and resources from development partners, the private sector and relevant parties.