World Heritage Site In Danger

Canaima National Park is the home of indigenous tribes, the highest waterfall in the world and several table top mountains called tepuys. The Park is now being assessed by UNESCO to determine whether it should remain a World Heritage Site. This is happening due to the power lines being constructed through the eastern part of the Park to export Venezuelan electricity to Brazil.

Venezuelan President Chavez so far is continuing with the electric project, despite the importance of Canaima N.P. as a natural monument. A few prominent politicians are against this project, but they are the minority and the new Environment Minister, Jesus Perez, supported Chavez's stand, declaring that "there are compromises already established with Brazilian Goverment, and Chavez cannot say the electric line will be stopped just to keep a group of people happy" (words from an Interview with J.I.Cortinas journalist).

The UNESCO commission has not yet declared Canaima as a "Heritage in Danger", as they usually do prior to removing a site from the World Heritage list, but if the Venezuelan goverment does not take drastic measures in this matter, then it is possible this will happen. A 5 year observation period would then follow during which it will be decided whether to remove the Park's World Heritage listing.

The IUCN is now visiting Venezuela, and interviewing politicians and other Venezuelan experts to prepare a report of the situation. There appears to be a possibility of reducing the size of the National Park to exclude the east zone were the electric line is already constructed. But in the eastern part of the Park, there are several tepuys, including Mount Roraima which probably is the most famous tepuy of all due to its historical connection with the explorations of Sir Walter Raleigh.

Source: Jose Rafael Leal

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