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Alpine glacier seeks World Heritage status

Switzerland's Aletsch glacier attracts thousands of tourists each year

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Aletsch glacier, the largest in the Alps, could soon be placed on Unesco's list of world heritage sites. The government has announced it intends to put forward the glacier and surrounding region as a candidate to Unesco on Friday.

The head of the environment ministry, Moritz Leuenberger, will formally hand in the bid at the organisation's headquarters in Paris. If successful, the Jungfraujoch region would join the likes of Mount Kilamanjaro and the United States' Grand Canyon,

United Nations officials could take up to one year to examine the request.

The proposed region covers 471 square kilometres, most of it in canton Vaud and 70 square kilometres in canton Berne. The region, which includes three of Switzerland's most famous peaks, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, would be the first natural site in the Alps included on the Unesco list.

Since 1993, the region has been protected under Swiss law and deemed of national importance. The Aletsch glacier is in need of protection as it is retreating on average 50 metres per year. Many scientists have attributed this largely to global warming.

Unesco status would not lend any further protective measures, but would highlight the area's value as an internationally esteemed natural site. It would also help to attract tourists to the Valais region, which relies heavily on tourism for its income.

The old city of Berne, the convent of St Gallen, and the Benedictine convent of St John at Müstair, are the three Swiss places already declared World Heritage Sites by Unesco.

swissinfo with agencies


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