UNESCO Appreciates Actions to Restore SMNP to its World Heritage Site Status.

By Mebratu Hailu

An international conference on
the theme: “Restoring Simien Mountains National Park (SMNP) to its
World Heritage Site Status,” is held on October 30, 2012 at Radisson Blu
Hotel, Addis Ababa Ethiopia.W/ro Tadelech Dalecho ,Ministry of Culture
and Tourism State Minister, speaking at a half  day conference, told
to participants that taking the unique and outstanding values of the
Simien Mountains National Park into considerations, the park was
inscribed on the World Heritage List some thirty four years back by
UNESCO.

W/ro Tadelech Dalecho added
that, due to serious anthropogenic pressures on the park, the World
Heritage Committee at its 20th session, in 1996
decided to inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage Sites in
Danger. 
  

She further noted that,
currently the federal government of Ethiopia has a firm belief of saving
SMNP by allocating 7million Ethiopian birr in this physical year for
this purpose.  

State Minister said, “I am
confident that through strong collaboration among all actors challenges
ahead will be solved
soon.”

Ato Mulugeta, Amhara National
Regional State President office representative, said that in
collaboration with partners we have played considerable role in
fulfilling three out of four requirements to remove the property from
the endangered list. “We have also partially addressed the fourth
requirement in which about 147 households has been rehabilitated from
the Arquazie village,” he
added,

Ato Ewnetu Bilata, Director
General of Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, on his part said,
taking into account the lessons learned in the course of implementation
of the previous initiatives and the existing commitments from our
partners, we are optimistic that workable mechanisms will be devised
towards addressing the improved livelihood strategies of Gichi village
residents and thereby ensuring sound conservation of the World Heritage
Property.

Her  Excellency  Mrs. Isabel
Cristina de Azevedo Heyvaert, Brazilian Ambassador,  on her
presentation, about the impressions from the Ambassadorial field visit
to Simien, said that the SMNP landscape is “The encyclopedia of the
earth”.  Massive erosion of the Ethiopian plateau
has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, she
added.

The Brazilian Ambassador to
Ethiopia, added that the SMNP is a refuge for extremely rare specious
such as Walia Ibex, Ethiopian Wolf, and Gelada Baboon. “To take the SMNP
out of the UNESCO list of endangered site, the local people need to
have a decent and sustainable way of living and this require the support
of the international community,” she said. 

Mr. Guy Debonnet,
representative of 
UNSECO, expressed his appreciation to Ethiopia for better
achievement in meeting the benchmarks: realignment of the park’s
boundary to exclude the villages along the boundary, extension of the
park to include at least Mesarerya and Limalimo Wildlife reserves,
significant and sustainable reduction the human population density
within the park, specially within the core area, effective conservation
within the extended national park of a larger population of Walia Ibex
and Ethiopian Wolf.   

During the half a day
conference, all stakeholders discussed and agreed that a holistic,
integrated and multi-sectoral approach to the SME conservation and
sustainable development is looked-for. Donors’ interest in supporting
elements of the ‘package’ from existing or future funding programmes is
also identified. 
Moreover, multi-institutional task force to take forwards
the concept and fundraising is
formed.

The SMNP was one of the first
properties inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978. The property
was inscribed on the basis of its importance for biodiversity (criterion
iv) and its exceptional natural beauty (criterion iii).