MAY 2019: The UNESCO World Heritage Centre has submitted a draft decision for the Republic of Macedonia’s Ohrid region to be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger during the 40th anniversary year of its designation as a World Heritage Site.
This is a reaction to chronic management and conservation failures that are slowly eroding natural and cultural heritage that was once considered to be of universal value to all humankind, but which now risks being lost forever. To put the matter in context, around 50% of sites officially in peril are located in conflict zones.
If the Ohrid region does formally join the List of World Heritage in Danger, it may become the only natural UNESCO property in Europe to have such dire status. It could also be the only mixed site in the world to be in this terrible situation.
Yet all is not lost. Danger listing has apparently sparked improvements at other sites around the globe and the World Heritage Centre has made various recommendations for improvement. These are far from comprehensive, not least because they overlook direct mention of wetland protection, but they will bring Lake Ohrid and the surrounding region to a brighter future if implemented.
The big question is whether national and regional leaders will back up their much-stated love for Ohrid with real action to reverse its decline and transform it into the kind of paradise that it should be.