The oldest and one of the most biodiversity rich lakes in Europe is now recognised as World Heritage in its entirety. The already inscribed part of the Ohrid region, located in North Macedonia, was extended at the 2019 World Heritage Committee meeting held earlier this July in Baku to include the remaining one-third of the lake in Albania. National authorities from both countries and local and international community gathered on 29 July in Pogradec, Albania to celebrate the WH extension and confirm their commitment to safeguard exceptional natural and cultural values of Ohrid Lake, home to over 200 endemic species.
Minister of Tourism and Environment, Blendi Klosi and Minister of Culture, Eleva Margariti from Albania hosted the celebration and warmly welcomed their counterparts from North Macedonia, Naser Nuredini, Minister of Environment and Physical Planning and Hysni Ismaili, Minister of Culture. They all confirmed readiness to work together to protect and promote the Lake Ohrid region as a place of Europe’s earliest human settlements and heritage routes and exceptional natural heritage.
Even though IUCN’s recommendation to inscribe Lake Ohrid on the Danger List was not adopted by the World Heritage Committee it is crucial to recognise a critical state of its conservation. For years now, the site has been under pressure from multiple threats, ranging from large-scale infrastructure projects, increased pollution, and uncontrolled urban development to coastal exploitation. These severe issues can only be successfully addressed by managing the entire lake system, in the cross-border context, which is now facilitated by the extension.
“IUCN is committed to continue supporting the authorities, local communities and civil society organisations in the Ohrid Region to safeguard the unique natural and cultural resources of the area in its transboundary context,” said Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia on this occasion. “High-level political commitment, participation of the local community and international organisations we witnessed today in Pogradec prove that the momentum built over the past years and interest in enhancing the management of this unique site remain strong,” he stressed.
The Ohrid Region WH extension is an excellent example of upstream process and advice provided by the Advisory Bodies to the State Party in the course of World Heritage nomination. IUCN supported a participatory process for integrated management planning and the preparation of a dossier by the Albanian authorities to extend the World Heritage property to their part of the lake. Through a project preceding this extension, IUCN assisted the authorities to identify and decide on appropriate conservation measures for the natural components of the Lake Ohrid region, while improving their capacities for the protected area designation and management.