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Dolomites named Unesco heritage site

Italy's famous Dolomites mountains became a World Heritage Site, joining natural wonders such as the Galapagos Islands and manmade ones like Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia and Versailles palace in France.

Announcing its decision in Seville, a United Nations heritage panel praised the Alpine range as ''one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere.'' The World Heritage Committee panel voted unanimously for the stunning mountain range.

Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, who was in Seville, hailed the decision as ''a great victory for Italy'' and said Italy might now launch a bid for the rest of its Alps to earn a UNESCO laurel. When he helped launched the Dolomite bid in 2004, Messner said: ''The Dolomites are completely unique - they cannot be compared to any other mountain in the world''.

''Their beauty derives from the contrast between the green of the meadows and the vertical rock faces and the composition of the rock itself, which changes colour throughout the day.

''It also comes from the fact that each mountain in the range has its own unique, recognizable face and its own peculiar characteristics,'' said Messner, considered the world's greatest mountaineer, who has been climbing in the Dolomites for six decades.

The Dolomites - named after the dolomite rock that gives them their special colour and shape - were formed around 90 million years ago, when the landmasses that are now Europe and Africa came together and pushed the Alps up out of the sea.

The reefs and coral that once surrounded lagoons, home to thousands of marine organisms, helped create the Dolomites' striking appearance and its unusual geological characteristics.

The unique formations were further shaped by glaciers that covered the earth during various ice ages and then melted as the world grew warmer again, carving out valleys and peaks.

The northern Italian range is today a haven for active holidaymakers, drawing climbers, hikers and skiers from around the world.

by S. C.
28 june 2009, World News > Italy