The UNESCO World Heritage Committee and Ohrid Region Destruction: a saga of deception

Author(s): Nadezda Apostolova
Email (s):
Institution or organization of origin: OhridSOS citizen initiative
Country: Japan


Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest lakes in the world, shared between North Macedonia and Albania displays more biodiversity by surface area than any inland water body in the world . It has supported 7,000 years of continuous human settlements with exceptional cultural heritage. The Macedonian side of the Ohrid region attained World Heritage Site (WHS) status for its natural (criterion vii) and cultural (criteria i, iii, and iv) attributes in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Site boundaries extended to Albania in 2019. Designation as WHS has not, however, protected the site from severe deterioration. Tourism industry, massive legal and illegal construction, pollution by sewage and agricultural waste, unsustainable fishing, boat traffic and other threats have accelerated habitat loss and deterioration2-4. As early as 1998, a UNESCO-ICOMOS-IUCN warned that “the enormous increase in construction and settlement activities has seriously altered the original balance in the region” and identified the need for integrative planning, strengthened management, a protective legal framework and consideration of a buffer zone5 -further highlighted with the UNESCO decision in 20086. The objective of the present study is to review the World Heritage Committee (WHC) Decisions and recommendations over the last two decades as well as the conservation shortfalls of the site7. Given the existence of multiple expert advisory body opinions, copious peer-reviewed material and civil sector reports, WHC’s choice to avoid placing Ohrid region on the list of WHS in Danger (twice, in 2019 and 2021), can only be conceived as a result of political considerations and/or incompetence.

Author’s poster

View the author’s explanation