What is a World Heritage Site?


What is a World Heritage Site?

  • A World Heritage Site is a place on earth having a special cultural or physical significance and outstanding universal value to the humanity.
  • It may be a building, a city, a complex, a desert, a forest, an island, a lake, a monument, or a mountain.
  • They have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.


Listing of World Heritage Sites

  • It is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which is based in Paris, France.
  • The International World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee establishes the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • The World Heritage Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention (The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage or the World Heritage Convention), defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 state parties which are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.


Selection of World Heritage Sites

  • The first step towards the listing is the nomination of a site by the respective government of a country.
  • The site should have an Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination.
  • To determine the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination, there are ten enlisted criteria.
  • The proposed nomination must satisfy at least one of these ten criteria.
  • The Nomination File is then evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union.
  • These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee.
  • The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List and sometimes defers the decision to request more information from the country which nominated the site.


Ten criteria for determining Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)

  1. To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
  2. To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a   cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.
  3. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
  4. To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological   ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stage(s) in human history
  5. To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change
  6. To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria.
  7. To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  8. To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
  9. To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
  10. To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.


Importance of World heritage sites for countries

  • When a site is inscribed on the World Heritage List, the resulting prestige often helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation.
  • Greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties.
  • Getting on the World Heritage List could be a major boon for the nominees, as being deemed of “outstanding universal value” can boost tourist numbers and bring in funding.


Section : History & Culture

In focus: Impatiens in India

In focus: Impatiens in India


  • Impatiens is a group of about 1000 angiosperms (flowering plants) species.
  • They are commonly known by different names including balsams, touch me not, jewel weed etc.


  • Impatiens is distributed in the tropical, sub-tropical and northern temperate regions of the world.
  • It is found mainly in India, China and Africa and some parts of Europe and North America.

Balsams in India

  • India is home to about 230 species of balsams with 2 balsam hotspots of the world namely
  • Eastern Himalayas
  • Western Ghats.
  • According to latest study, Easter Himalayas is home to about 83 species of Balsam mainly in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim.
  • In Western Ghats it is mainly concentrated in Shola Forests of Silent Valley National Park, Nilgiris in Kerala.


  • Balsam species are highly endemic and restricted to limited areas.
  • They are called Impatiens because when pressed the curled up flowers throw up the seeds violently.
  • Balsams being angiosperms are known for bright-coloured flowers and thus are important horticulture species.
  • Being highly endemic, they are climate-sensitive species.


  • Balsams grow in rich moist soil.
  • Thus they are confined to wet rocks of evergreen forests, waterfalls, roadside drains, banks of rivers etc.
  • They grow best at altitudes of about 550m.
  • Due to its climate-sensitivity, balsams cannot withstand high temperatures and long exposure to sunlight.


Section : Environment & Ecology

About Victorian structures and Art Deco Buildings

About Victorian structures and Art Deco Buildings

  • The Victorian buildings are amongst the finest and most cohesive group of 19th century Victorian Gothic in the world.
  • The Art Deco of the 20th century is the second largest and homogenous collections in the world.
  • The eastern edge of the property is defined by Mahatma Gandhi Marg and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Chowk within the designated historic precinct of Fort area.
  • This marks the edge of the 19th century fortified city of Bombay (now Mumbai).
  • Though the fort walls were mostly torn down in the 1860s under the governorship of Sir Bartle Frere, the name persists in public memory and is a protected heritage precinct under the Heritage Regulations for Greater Bombay 1995.
  • The western edge of the property is defined by the Arabian sea that lines the 20th century Art Deco buildings of Backbay Reclamation and Marine Drive.
  • The northern edge of the property is defined by Veer Nariman Road and the southern edge by Madame Cama Road.


The collection of buildings include:

  • The row of public buildings of the High Court,
  • Mumbai University,
  • Old Secretariat,
  • NGMA,
  • Elphinstone College,
  • David Sassoon Library,
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya,
  • Western Railways headquarters,
  • Maharashtra Police headquarters to the east of Oval Maidan
  • The first row of Backbay Reclamation scheme,
  • Cricket Club of India,
  • Ram Mahal along Dinshaw Wacha Road,
  • The iconic cinema halls of Eros and Regal
  • The first row of buildings along Marine Drive.

Benefits to Mumbai

  • Mumbai’s tourism and culture would be hugely benefited.
  • Mumbai will be brought on the international tourist map.
  • Being the financial capital of our country, Mumbai attracts many businessmen like London and some European cities. It would have the unique distinction of being both a financial capital and a world heritage site


  • UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization.
  • It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture.
  • UNESCO’s programs contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.
  • Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Maharashtra

    1. Elephanta Caves

    2. Ellora Caves

    3. Ajanta Caves

    4. Kailasa temple, Ellora

Section : History & Culture

About United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

About United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

  • The United Nations Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote.
    • There are five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the UN General Assembly.
  • Under the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
  • The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression.
  • It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.
  • In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.


UNSC1267 committee

  • The Committee makes its decision by consensus. Even if even a single member opposes a decision, there is no consensus
  • If a terrorist or terrorist organisation is included in this list, it helps in restricting their movement, financial penalties and assets freeze among other
  • An assets freeze under the sanctions committee requires that all states freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entitie.
  • Thus, UNSC designation will subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo.


India’s attempts to list Azhar at the UNSC:

  • The UN had banned the Jaish-e Mohammad in 2001. But India’s efforts to ban Masood Azhar after the Mumbai terror attack were not successful as China has repeatedly blocked the move.
  • Three attempts to designate Azhar as global terrorist, in 2009, 2016 and 2017, have been blocked by China at Pakistan’s behest.
  • Backing India’s efforts, a new proposal to designate Azhar a global terrorist was moved in the UN Security Council with the backing of permanent members France, US and UK (which came in response to the Pulwama attack).
  • China again stalled India’s bid to list Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by putting a technical hold for six months.
  • However, China has recently lifted technical hold after Beijing found no objection to the listing proposal.
  • By not objecting to Azhar’s listing at Pakistan’s behest, China had finally shifted from its position after 10 years of consistent stalling to designate him as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 sanctions committee.


How India got China on board?

  • India had hectic negotiations with China since it put a technical hold in March, 2019.
  • India’s Foreign Secretary’s diplomatic visits to Washington, Beijing and Moscow were indicators of stepped-up diplomacy.
  • In addition, US proposal to start a fresh move to list Azhar by moving a resolution (along with UK and France), at the UNSC for discussions leading to a public vote, also put immense pressure on China.
  • However India-China issues remain like NSG membership, UNSC membership, border dispute, trade deficit, but China took the call to remove one contentious issue (Azhar) off the bilateral table.


Section : International Relation

Flood Hazard Atlas

Floods in Odisha

  • The entire coastal belt of Odisha is vulnerable to both storm surges and river flooding. Also, few districts in the western and southern part of Odisha are prone to flash floods.
  • According to NRSC, about 9% of land in Odisha was affected by floods during 2001-2018.
  • Flood prone rivers of Odisha: Mahanadi, Brahmani, Baitarani, Subarnarekha, Rushikulya, Vamsadhara and Budhabalanga.
  • Damages due to floods are caused mainly by the Mahanadi, the Brahmani and the Baitarani, which have a common delta where floodwaters intermingle.
  • Out of total flood-affected area, about 2.8 lakh hectares of land falls under high (inundated seven-nine times) to very high (inundated 10-14 times) flood hazard categories.


Flood Hazard Atlas

  • A large number of satellite images acquired over 18 years (2001-2018) were analysed and flood layers were extracted.
  • All the flood layers corresponding to a year are combined as one inundation layer, so that this layer represents the maximum flooded area in one year.
  • All such combined flood layers for 18 years were integrated into flood hazard layer representing the observed flood-inundated areas with different frequencies.
  • The atlas would serve as a useful resource of information for policy makers, planners and civil society groups in managing floods in the state.


  • The atlas will help the authorities:
    • to systematically plan flood control measures
    • to carry out relief and rescue operations
    • to control developmental activities on flood plains
    • to plan relief shelters and health centers


About National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC)

  • National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad is responsible for remote sensing satellite data acquisition and processing, data dissemination, aerial remote sensing and decision support for disaster management.
  • NRSC has a data reception station for acquiring data from Indian remote sensing satellites as well as others.
  • NRSC Ground station acquires Earth Observation data from Indian remote-sensing satellites as well as from different foreign satellites.
  • NRSC is also engaged in executing remote sensing application projects in collaboration with the users.
  • It is one of the centers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).


Section : Environment & Ecology

About: Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF)

About: Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF)

  • A company diverting forest land must provide alternative land to take up compensatory afforestation.
  • The amount to be paid by industry depends on the economic value of the goods and services that the razed forest would have provided.
  • These include timber, bamboo, firewood, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, water recharge, and seed dispersal.
  • Industrialists pay this money and this is eventually transferred to the States concerned to carry out afforestation.

Spending of the Funds: Funds are to be spent by the States on

  • Afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover
  • Regeneration of forest ecosystem
  • Wildlife management
  • Forest fire prevention
  • Soil and moisture conservation work in the forest
  • Infrastructure development
  • Note: It cannot be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances, making buildings and buying office equipment for forest officers.

News Summary

  • Under Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF), an amount of Rs 54,000 crore has been collected for nearly a decade as environmental compensation from industry, in compensation of razing forest land for its business plans.
  • The Fund will be used as per provisions of the CAF Act and Rules.
  • The Centre would use electronic repositories, geographic tagging technology to keep a tab on whether States were using their allotted funds appropriately.

About: The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016

  • It establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state.
  • These Funds receives payments for:
    • compensatory afforestation,
    • net present value of forest (NPV), and
    • other project specific payments.
  • 10% of these funds is received by National Fund and the remaining 90% is received by State Funds.
  • Mangament of the Funds: The Act also establishes the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) at both central and state level to ensure expeditious and transparent utilization of amounts realised in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.

Cost-benefit analysis of funds and forest cover

  • The FSI collected data on total money allocated by the central government to the state government and forest cover in India between 2009-10 and 2016-17.
  • Its analysis showed that funding by the central government increased at a rate of 84.67 per cent in the period, but the forest cover increased by only 2.42 per cent.
  • So, increase in CAMPA funding by the central government has clearly not resulted in significant increase in forest cover.

Factors which affect compensatory afforestation and forest conservation:

  • Lack of Planning and Implementation Capacity: The state forest departments lack the planning and implementation capacity to carry out compensatory afforestation and forest conservation.
  • Issues in Land Procurement: Land Procurement for compensatory afforestation is difficult as land is a limited resource, compounded by unclear land titles, and difficulties in complying with procedures for land use.
  • Poor quality of compensatory afforestation plantations: The quality of forest cover has declined between 1951 and 2014, with poor quality of compensatory afforestation plantations being one of the reasons behind the decline.
  • Determination of NPV: The computation of NPV (value of loss of forest ecosystem) is complex , which constitutes about half of the total funds collected.
  • Limited Distribution to states: Only a fraction of this corpus had actually been disbursed to States, due to the lack of a legal framework and instances of States using it for non-forestry purposes.


Way ahead

  • The proposed objective of the CAMPA Act must be fulfilled by utilising the CAMPA funds only for the purpose it is meant for.
  • Also, a closer look at the state government activities using CAMPA funding is needed.
  • The central government should adopt the concept of outcome budgeting for allocation of funds to the state government in which funding will be done on installment basis by checking the outcome of previous funds.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)

About United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)

  • UNDRR was established in 1999 as a dedicated secretariat to facilitate the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).
  • Objective: It works towards the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses to ensure a sustainable future.
  • Mandate: To serve as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster reduction and to ensure synergies among the disaster reduction activities of the United Nations system and regional organizations.
  • Headquarters: Geneva
  • UNDRR has been tasked to support the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 adopted in 2015.


About Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

  • The Sendai Framework is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement adopted by UN member states in 2015.
  • Aim: To reduce disaster deaths economic losses and strengthen risk governance by building resilience and investing in early warning system.
  • It was adopted by UN member states in 2015.
  • The Framework recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

The Seven Global Targets

  • Substantially reduce global disaster mortality by 2030, aiming to lower average per 100,000 global mortality rate in the decade 2020-2030 compared to the period 2005-2015.
  • Substantially reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030, aiming to lower average global figure per 100,000 in the decade 2020 -2030 compared to the period 2005-2015.
  • Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.
  • Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030.
  • Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.
  • Substantially enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this Framework by 2030.
  • Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030.

The Four Priorities for Action

  • Understanding disaster risk
  • Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk
  • Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience
  • Improving capacities for  disaster  response  as well as for building back better after disasters.
Section : Environment & Ecology