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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Why Los Katios National Park is unique?

Spread across more than 720 sq km on the northwestern part of Colombia, the Los Katios National Park is contiguous to the Darien National Park in the neighbouring country of Panama. Though located in South America, the region is considered a major convergence zone of North, Central, and South America. It is because of this very reason that the Park offers a startling variety of flora and fauna. Spanning hills, tropical and humid forests, alluvial plains, swamps, and marshes, it has an unusual ecological setting that nurtures more than 600 species of vegetation, including palms and several others endemic to the region. It shows exceptional biodiversity in terms of fauna too, with many threatened species calling the place - their home.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the Park was placed on the Danger List in 2009 due to the severe damage it suffered because of illegal poaching, fishing, and logging. However, continued patrolling and engagement with local communities in preserving the habitat paid off, and the Park was removed from the list in 2015.

Wildlife

The Park is part of one of the most species-rich lowland forest areas in the world. Small wonder it nurtures a wide range of fauna. The area is said to have more than 550 species of vertebrates, excluding fish and including more than 400 species of birds. It is believed to be the only region on the continent where many Central American species are found. This includes the threatened American crocodile, giant anteater, and Central American tapir also known as Baird's tapir. Among other species that can be spotted here are the jaguar, west Indian manatee, bush dog, deer, rodents such as coypu and wild mouse, fox, bear, monkey, and marmoset. Among the birds that can be seen here are tinamous, New World passerine birds, shrikes, quails, humming birds, warblers, doves, macaws, pittas, and puffbirds, in addition to the harpy eagle, northern screamer, and the great currasow.

Threats

The region requires close monitoring even today since concerns in the form of illegal and development activities remain. In fact, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's latest assessment (2020), the conservation outlook for this site is of "significant concern". Placing the park on danger list all those years ago did help improve the situation in the region, and some of the efforts continue to be in place. But of utmost concern is the illegal and excess use of legal natural resources. The continuous unsustainable depletion of resources could affect both flora and fauna of the place in the long run. This includes fishing and shellfish harvesting on a scale that may not be sustainable in the future. Security of the property was a concern earlier, and steps were initiated to improve that. However, despite that, illegal activities around the property and the presence of armed groups within it have been reported. Though they do not appear to pose any threat right now, it could later on, if left unchecked. Proposed developmental projects such as roads and power transmission corridors do not suggest "acute threat" yet, but "adequate environmental and social assessment are required to ensure that the natural environment of the property are not damaged in any way if and when these projects are executed.

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What is the conservation status of Srebarna Nature Reserve?

Located almost on the edge of Bulgaria in Europe, the Srebarna Nature Reserve is a freshwater lake and wetland, just a couple of km south of the famous Danube River. Spread across more than 600 hectares, the wetland falls on the route of birds migrating from Europe to Africa. It is said to be the breeding ground for nearly 100 species of birds, including some rare and endangered ones. In addition, it is a temporary habitat for over 75 species that migrate. The floating reed islands (called "kochki" locally) and flooded willow woodlands in the Reserve are important areas for birds to breed. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was placed on the danger list in 1992, due to loss of water and pollution in the lake, resulting in the disappearance of many bird species. However, upstream activities such as housing and farming were halted, bringing about positive changes in the region. Eventually, in 2003, the Reserve was removed from the danger list. The region is also protected as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention and designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.

Wildlife

The Srebarna Nature Reserve is said to host the only colony of Dalmatian pelicans in the country. It is also believed to be home to the largest breeding populations of four more globally threatened bird species, namely pygmy cormorant, ferruginous duck, white-tailed eagle, and corncrake. Among others birds that can be spotted in the region are night heron, purple heron, glossy ibis, white spoonbill, little bittern, squacco heron, little egret, great white egret, and ruddy shelduck. Three species of terns can also be found here. The globally threatened red-breasted goose winters in the reserve. The wintering populations of whitefronted goose, greylag goose, and fieldfare are considered notable. The lake and the areas around it also support more than 20 species of reptile and amphibian species, and 40 mammal species.

Good conservation status, but...

While globally a lot of natural wildlife habitats face several threats-both natural and human-made, Srebarna is one of those rare spaces that enjoys a good conservation status, "with some concerns", according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to IUCN's 2020 Conservation Outlook, there "is an overall trend of improvement of the conservation status of most of the bird populations". Given that the region is very important for birds, it is heartening that the population of some species has increased since it was removed from the danger list.

However, the place is not without concerns. For instance, the conservation status of species such as squacco heron and black tern has deteriorated. Also, "additional information is needed to make reliable assessments of the conservation state" of a few other species. Other concerns, including hydrological management, may not be a severe threat right now, but it is felt that with issues such as climate change looming large, these could affect Srebarna in the future.

Climate change is likely to decrease the water level of the Danube, resulting in the disruption of seasonal flooding in Srebarna. This has the potential to change the quality and quantity of nutrients, sediments, etc. in the region, and lead to a drastic ecological change, affecting both the flora and fauna there.

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Why is the Sumatran rainforest in danger?

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the tropical rainforest regions in Indonesia's Sumatra Island comprise three national parks, namely Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park, and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. Spread across more than 25,000 sq.km. a portion of the area falls within Sumatra's Leuser ecosystem that's often described as "the last place on Earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants still live together".

The Parks, which are located on the spine of Bukit Barisan Mountains of Sumatra, show amazing uniqueness in biodiveristy, and are home to 10,000 species of plants. The regions also show a stunning variety in ecosystem from lowland rainforest to montane forest and subalpine low forest to scrub and shrub vegetation. The Gunung Leuser National Park is the place to see both the world's largest flower (Rafflesia arnoldi) and the tallest flower (Amorphophallus titanum).

Wildlife

The area is said to nurture more than 500 species of birds. Ducks, geese, partridges, scrubfowls, pheasants, grebes, pigeons, doves, quails, cuckoos, coucals, malkohas, koels, frogmouths, nightjars, swifts, swiftlets, needletails, rails, waterhens, crakes, thickknees, stilts, plovers, lapwings, snipes, jacanas, sandpipers, pratincoles, gulls, terns, petrels, shearwaters, storks, frigatebirds, tropicbirds, boobies, darters, cormorants, pelicans, herons, bitterns, egrets, ibises, kites, buzzards, eagles, owls, harriers, trogons, hornbills, kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, woodpeckers, barbets, kestrels, falcons, parakeets, broadbills, pittas, ioras, minivets, shrikes, orioles, drongos, fantails, flycatchers, magpies, swallows, bulbuls, warblers, tailorbirds, white eyes, babblers, thrushes, mynas, starlings, leafbirds, flowerpeckers, sunbirds, spiderhunters, wagtails, weavers, munias, and finches are among the birds that can be spotted in the region. The place also supports more than 200 mammal species, including several that are endemic and endangered. The mammals include the endemic Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, dlouded leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and the Malayan sun bear.

Threats

  • Given the expansive wealth of natural resources in the region, Sumatra has attracted heavy international financing zeroing in on extractive industries, "from precious hardwoods and minerals to palm oil, rubber, and coal". As a result, the precious wildlife in the area is losing their habitats and faces a very bleak future.
  • Road development in the rainforests is of great concern because they not just destroy the natural landscape and displace wildlife, but also provide access to people for illegal logging, encroachment, and poaching.
  • Agriculture is another cause of worry. As rainforests are wiped off to give way for agriculture, it becomes difficult to reclaim the lost forest area. In fact, a study less than a decade ago had said that the rainforests of Sumatra are likely to disappear in 20 years. So, right now, we have perhaps about 10 years to save the rainforests. This would also mean the eventual, permanent disappearance of some of the rarest wildlife species on the planet.
  • In 2011, the UNSECO placed the region under its List of World Heritage in Danger. Mining, encroachment, development activities, and, to a certain extent, invasive species are among the several threats to the rainforests in Sumatra listed by it.

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