Italy's Mount Etna gains World Heritage status

Phnom Penh, June 21 (IANS) One of the world's most active volcanoes, Italy's Mount Etna, has been named a World Heritage Site at the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) here Friday.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, chairman of the 37th WHC session, congratulated Italy on the inscription of the site on the World Heritage List, reported Xinhua.

Located on the east coast of Sicily, Mount Etna is renowned for its exceptional level of volcanic activity, according to a press release of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is an advisory body for UNESCO on natural World Heritage Sites.

There have been 13 eruptions since the beginning of February this year, the IUCN said.

Mount Etna has been documented for at least 2,700 years. Today, it is one of the best studied and monitored volcanoes in the world, which continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other earth science disciplines.

"Researchers have been fascinated by Mount Etna for thousands of years," said Tim Badman, director of IUCN World Heritage Program.

"Its scientific, cultural and educational values are of global importance. We hope that this prestigious status brings with it enhanced protection of the site, especially in the face of growing pressures from tourism."

Mount Etna, 3,329 metres high, is an outstanding example of ongoing geological processes and volcanic landforms.

It is characterised by almost continuous eruptive activity from its summit craters and frequent lava flow eruptions from craters and fissures on its flanks, the IUCN said, adding that the diverse and accessible volcanic features such as summit craters, cinder cones, lava flows, lava caves and the Valle de Bove depression situated on its east side, have made Mount Etna a prime destination for research and education.

The WHC is currently holding its 37th session in Phnom Penh to consider inscribing 30 new properties on the World Heritage List.

Dim Sovannarom, a spokesman for the 37th WHC session, said Friday that about 17 of the 30 candidate sites are likely to be inscribed on the list during the session, which will last till June 27.

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