People, Travel

UNESCO Offers to Help Aras Geopark Go Global

UNESCO Offers to Help Aras Geopark Go GlobalUNESCO Offers to Help Aras Geopark Go Global

UNESCO has expressed readiness to cooperate in the project to help Aras Geopark in East Azarbaijan Province join the Global Geoparks Network.

Speaking on the sidelines of the first international meeting on trans-boundary environmental protection in Iran and neighboring countries, Esther Kuisch Laroche, director of UNESCO’s Tehran Cluster Office, said Aras bears the hallmarks of a geopark ready to enter the sought-after network.

She also visited the historical monuments of Aras Free Zone, including St. Stepanos Monastery, and commended the efforts of Iranian authorities in preserving and restoring heritage sites.

“Protecting cultural and historical heritage in Aras is an important mission that must never stop,” she was quoted as saying by  

A couple of years before Iran’s only geopark on Qeshm Island was dropped from the network in 2013 (due to problems that remained unresolved for too long, such as underdeveloped infrastructure and unenforced environmental regulations), Iranian officials tried but failed to register an ecologically-rich portion of Aras as a geopark.

After inspecting the site in 2011, UNESCO’s assessors ruled that the region failed to meet GGN criteria and suggested improvements be made before authorities could resubmit the application.

Although the site’s precise problems have not been disclosed, underdeveloped infrastructure continues to prevent Aras from joining the GGN.

Experts define geoheritage sites as historically and/or culturally important sites with features of geology that offer information or insights into the formation or evolution of the Earth, or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference.

The site is said to have evidence of the Permian (299–252 million years ago) and Triassic (252–201 million years ago) geological periods—one of the most important features of Aras.

Plant and animal fossils in macro and micro scales and evidence of structural evolution are some of the other scientific and educational attractions of the area.

Among other attractions of the region are local traditions and historical and cultural features such as ancient churches.

Establishing a geopark in Aras can help develop tourism in the region, and by extension, boost the economy.