UNESCO delists a World Heritage Site

It would be easy to think that once a location becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site that such an honor is irrevocable.

UNESCO, however, recently shocked the world by proving that they can just as easily remove a site from the list as they can add one.

And why would they do such a thing?

Because sites can change for the worse over time and become something entirely different.

Ironically, it is quite often the UNESCO stamp itself that is the downfall of these World Heritage Sites. Once a location makes the list, tourists soon follow. And tourists, as we all know, quickly attract local authorities and entrepreneurs trying to make a buck.

The problem is that UNESCO actually has no authority over their World Heritage Sites–that’s up to the local governments. And when these local governments start dabbling in the sites, their status becomes endangered.

This is exactly what happened at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman after poaching decreased the oryx population by 85% and the government followed up reducing the land area by 90%. This pissed off UNESCO bad enough that they responded by honoring the sanctuary with the organization’s first ever delisting.

It’s sort of sad to see it on the website, with a big line drawn through the name, but I think UNESCO made the right choice. Hopefully this will be a shot across the bow for other countries that need to start thinking seriously about protecting their own World Heritage Sites.