China, India, and Nepal Keen on Creating a Trans-boundary UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Kailash Sacred Landscape

   TwitCount

There is interest in creating a transboundary United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site (UNESCO WHS) in the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL) by various governmental agencies in China, India, and Nepal. The development comes as after meetings conducted with government officials and national scientific institutions in the three countries by Dr Edwin Bernbaum, a senior consultant with the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI). Bernbaum, a renowned authority on sacred mountains and visitor interpretation, has been engaged under KSLCDI since February 2015 to facilitate the process of nominating KSL as a UNESCO WHS. 

With iconic sacred natural sites of Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, KSL is rich in cultural heritage. The KSL exhibits a vibrant reservoir of transboundary linkages in this remote corner of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of China, India and Nepal through ties of pilgrimage, ethnic groups, and livelihoods. Bernbaum suggests the best way to nominate KSL for a UNESCO WHS would be a transboundary nomination by the governments of China, India, and Nepal, which would include not just Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in TAR China, but also cultural sites, historic pilgrimage and trade routes leading to this region through KSL India and KSL Nepal. Consultations with local KSL communities on a UNESCO WHS nomination would be crucial in the preliminary stage to push the agenda forward with relevant state agencies. The next step would be for any one of the KSL countries to nominate the trans-boundary KSL under the country’s annual quota for nominations. Bernbaum said Nepal should be that country as it has no present nominations and both China and India have other sites on their tentative lists. 

Government agencies and national scientific institutions in all three KSL countries have shown a great interest in this idea, and also a willingness to formally initiate the lengthy nomination process. Initial steps were organised by ICIMOD at its headquarters on 23 April 2015. A high-level scoping session included officials from various government agencies, UNESCO, and community leaders from the KSL who discussed the possibilities and implications of undertaking a nomination for KSL. A brief field visit was made to Simikot, the district headquarters of Humla district (Nepal) but Bernbaum’s visit was cut short by the 25 April earthquake. 

Work was resumed in late January 2015 with at the ‘Policy Forum on Responsible Tourism for improving livelihoods of the communities in the Kailash Sacred Mountain and Lake Manasorovar areas, Pulan County, TAR, P.R China’ at Chengdu. At the forum, the deputy governor and state authorities from Pulan County, China and KSLCDI’s Chinese partners confirmed their interest in a WHS nomination for KSL, though it remained unclear whether this interest was in a transboundary nomination or a intra KSL China nomination. The government of TAR intends to take the matter up with the central government in Beijing. 

From China, Bernbaum visited India made presentations to the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (Almora), the Central Himalayan Environment Association (Nainital), and the Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun). Bernbaum also met with the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in New Delhi who affirmed its interest in pursuing KSL’s nomination and encouraged ICIMOD to coordinate the project with the three KSL countries.