UNESCO declare Arabic calligraphy a cultural heritage

UNESCO late last year added Arabic calligraphy, a key tradition in the Arab and Islamic worlds, to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It is nothing but the practice of handwriting and calligraphy based on the Arabic alphabet.

In total, 16 Muslim-majority countries, led by Saudi Arabia, presented the nomination to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which announced the listing on Twitter.

In Arabic, this practice of calligraphy is called khatt. It is derived from the word line, 'design' or 'construction'. While most use Arabic calligraphy and Islamic calligraphy interchangeably, the two are not the same.

This listing by UNESCO is welcomed by conservationists as many have complained about the lack of people taking to Arabic calligraphy due to technological advancements. Researchers believe that the tag would contribute to developing this cultural heritage

What is intangible heritage?

It includes traditions or living expressions inherited from ancestors and passed on through generations. These may be in the form of performing arts, oral traditions, social practices, rituals, knowledge, festive events and crafts among others. Intangible cultural heritage plays an important role in maintaining cultural diversity in the times of globalisation.

As of 2021, 629 elements from 139 countries have been added to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. These include, the Kumbh Mela, Yoga, Chhau dance, Kutiyattam, and Ramlila among others from India.

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Is Durga Puja a UNESCO World heritage Site?

The UNESCO has accorded heritage status to Kolkata's Durga puja festival, bringing glory to the country. "Durga puja in Kolkata has just been inscribed on the intangible heritage list. Congratulations India," UNESCO said in a tweet attaching a photo of the goddess with hashtag living heritage.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed UNESCO's decision as a "matter of great pride and joy for every Indian", the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, called it a "proud moment for Bengal."

What makes Kolkata's Durga puja special? Well, according to the UNESCO, Durga Puja is seen as the best instance of the public interface of religion and art and as a thriving ground for collaborative artists and designers. The festival is characterised by large-scale installations and pavilions in urban areas. During the event, the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse as crowds of spectators walk around to admire the installations.

Quick facts

  • Durga puja is celebrated in the month of Ashwin in the Hindu calendar (September October). The 10-day festival marks the worship of Goddess Durga. “It is the major annual festival in West Bengal, It is also celebrated in other parts of India and amongst the Bengali diaspora.” Months before the festival, artisanal workshops in Kolkata sculpt idols of Durga and her children using unfired clay from the river bed of Ganga.
  • The festival marks its beginning on the day of Mahalaya when the ritual of 'pran pratistha' is done by painting the eyes on the goddess idol.
  • Sasthi, Saptami, Ashtami...every day the festival has its own significance and set of rituals. The celebrations culminate on the tenth day known as Vijaya Dashami when the idols are immersed in the river from where the clay was sourced.
  • The significance of Durga puja goes beyond religion and is revered as the celebration of compassion, brotherhood, humanity, art and culture.
  • The city of Kolkata turns into a dazzling place with the decoration of colourful lights. The sound of 'dhaak' reverberates across the city. From new clothes to delicious food, the mood is one of cheer during these days.

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Why is Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve a World Heritage Site?

Covering an area of more than 180 sq.km., the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve is located in the western part of Africa, straddling the borders of Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire. Towering over the region is Mount Nimba. One of the highest elevation forest ecosystems in this part of the continent, the area is a stunning mosaic of valleys, plateaus, and cliffs. The slopes of the mountain are marked by dense forests and savannahs, offering fantastic habitats for a wide variety of flora and fauna, many of them endemic to the region. The Reserve is said to support more than 2,000 species of plants, 300 species of vertebrates, and 2.500 species of invertebrates. Among its most noted endemic species are micropotamogale (otter shrew- an insectivore), the viviparous toad (unusually for a reptile, it gives birth to young ones rather than lay eggs), and "chimpanzees capable of using tools". These creatures, however, are critically endangered or are on the brink of extinction. In fact, this Reserve was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 for its "Outstanding Universal Value". But, 11 years from then, it fell under the "List of World Heritage in Danger, and remains there. While activities such as poaching and clearing the land for agriculture have had a negative bearing on the Reserve, long-term mining just outside of it too has been a cause of grave concern.

Wildlife

Among the birds that can be spotted here are ducks, garganeys, guineafowls, quails, francolins, grebes, pigeons, doves, nightjars, swifts, coucals, cuckoos, rails, flufftails. Turacos, storks, herons, bitterns, egrets, ibises, stilts, lapwings, plovers, jacanas, sandpipers, kites, buzzards, vultures, hawks, eagles, owls, owlets, trogons, hombills, hoopoes, honeyguides, woodpeckers, barbets, tinkerbirds, bee-eaters, rollers, kingfishers, falcons, kestrels, pittas, broadbills, orioles, cuckooshrikes, flycatchers, drongos, sunbirds, weavers, finches, waxbills, sparrows, pipits, buntings, larks, warblers, swallows, martins, babblers, starlings, and robins.

Threats

The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "critical" in the latest assessment cycle (2020) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. According to the report, several aspects such as poaching, bush fires, and increasing human activity on the periphery of the Reserve are all together putting pressure on it, and causing "progressive ecological isolation of the region. Adding to the concern is the fact that "the buffer zone is not very functional in Guinea and does not exist in Ivory Coast". Further, many iron mining projects happen to occur close to Reserve's boundaries in Guinea. This points to open pit mining, and it could have a negative impact on wildlife, especially key species, and habitats, particularly if their effects are continuous. Though the Reserve straddles the borders of two countries, there is no transboundary master plan in place. In fact there is no common management system for the whole region either. This could be one of the main reasons for poaching. It could also be aggravated by the lack of good monitoring. Unlike in many regions across the world local communities here are not engaged that well in conservation initiatives or for that matter, even the development of alternative income generating activities is insufficient to reduce the pressure on natural resources”.

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What is Dholavira famous for?

Dholavira is a well-preserved Harappan-era city situated in the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat. It is the fifth largest metropolis of Indus Valley Civilisation excavated so far, after Mohenjo Daro, Harappa, and Ganeriwala in Pakistan, and Rakhigarhi in Hanjana, India. Dholavira is also the most dominant archaeological site of the Indus Civilisation in India.

The ancient city, dating from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE (3000-2500 BCE), was excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1967. The site, which served as a commercial hub for over 1,500 years before its decline in 1500 BC has a citadel, a middle town, and a lower town with walls made of stone. According to UNESCO, the ancient urban settlement stands out for its water management system, multi-layered defensive mechanisms, extensive use of stone in construction, and special burial structures. A range of artefacts of copper, shell, stone, jewellery, and terracotta had been found at the site. Sites such as these provide valuable insights into the ways of life of earlier societies, their knowledge, and customs.

With Dholavira joining the coveted list,Gujarat now has four world heritage sites - the others being Rani Ki Vav of Patan, Champaner fort, and Ahmedabad City.

The Indus Civilisation

The Indus Valley Civilisation or Harappan Civilisation was one of the earliest human civilisations which flourished around 2.500 BC in the western part of South Asia (present day Pakistan and western  India) Basically an urban civilisation, it was characterised by neatly planned, well-built cities which served as centres of trade. So far over 1.400 sites of the indus Civilisation have been discovered, of which over 900 are in India and over 400 in Pakistan.

What is a World Heritage Site?

 A World Heritage Site is a place designated by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) for its special cultural, historic or physical significance. The list of World Heritage Sites is maintained by the World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. UNESCO, headquartered in Paris, France, seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of heritage around the world.

What does the status mean?

UNESCO awards world heritage status to sites considered to be of special value to humanity. The sought-after distinction brings intangible benefits boosts tourism, and can help secure funding for the preservation of sites.

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In Bolivia, more than 25% of major fires burned in protected areas

Situated in the northeastern part of Bolivia, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in South America borders Brazil. Spanning more than 15,000 sq.km., it is considered one of the largest and the most intact Parks in the Amazon basin. Within its boundaries, it holds a variety of habitats from evergreen Amazon rainforests, grasslands, and swamps to savannahs and semi-deciduous dry forests. Small wonder this region, with large swathes of untouched land, offers incredible biodiversity - think 4,000 species of plants, more than 600 species of birds, 250 fish species, and more than 300 mammal, reptile, and amphibian species together! This includes several globally threatened and endangered species too.

In 1996, the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project, a joint government and private initiative, was set up in the Park. The project ended logging rights and strives for continuous action towards forest protection, reducing emission and degradation, conservation, and sustainable development, among others. In 2005, it became the world's first "forest emissions reduction project to be verified by a third party based on international standards established by the Kyoto Protocol". In 2000, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wildlife

Fed as it is by the mighty Amazon, the Park's waterways are home to several water-dwelling creatures such as giant otters, dolphins, and caimans. Among the several mammals and marsupials in the region are opossums, tapirs, deer, marmosets, pumas, jaguars, wolves, oxes, raccoons, armadillos, giant anteaters, and monkeys. The birds in the region include tinamous, herons, cormorants, egrets, storks, ibises, ducks, vultures, kites, hawks, eagles, falcons, kestrels, crakes, lapwings, terns, sandpipers, pigeons, doves, macaws, cuckoos, owls, nightjars, swifts, quails, trogons, kingfishers, toucans, piculets, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, flycatchers, atbills, manakins, swallows, martins, thrushes, seed-eaters, honeycreepers, and more than 20 types of parrots / parakeets.

It's good, but...

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's latest report (2020), the conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "good with some concerns. The assessment says that this comforting fact is due to how isolated the Park is. This isolation offers the place a lot of protection from livestock the transmission of diseases from livestock to wildlife, and commercial fishing And so "ecological processes, biodiversity and threatened species are in a good state of conservation Despite this aspects such as illegal logging, fishing, and hunting are of concern. Also, due to its very isolation, there is no clear data on management effectiveness in the region. It is also believed that the park rangers do not have enough means to carry out their work and carry out effective control and surveillance of the advance and incursion of settlers

Forest fires

The foremost threat to the region are forest fires. As recently as 2020, Bolivia witnessed more than 120 forest fires and a quarter of it is said to have burned in protected areas. One of the places affected was the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, at least 21,000 acres burned then. The Park encompasses three biomes Amazon rainforest, Chiquitano dry forest and Cerrado savanna. It is reported that fires were detected in the transition zone between the rainforest and savanna, moving mostly into the park's drier savanna biome" As climate change becomes more and more severe, forest fires in the region are expected to reach even greater proportions, and perhaps touch such severity this place will be unable to recover from.

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