The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added the Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands to the World Heritage List. This new status provides these unique ecosystems with international protection and technical assistance to ensure that they are sustainably managed, monitored and conserved.
The Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands, known as a ‘slice of the Amazon in Eurasia’, is a temperate broadleaf and mixed forests ecoregion located along the southern shore of the Black Sea. It sheltered heat-loving plants during the previous glacial period and is abundant in relict and endemic species.
The Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands are located within the boundaries of four protected areas in Georgia: the Kolkheti and Mtirala National Parks and the Kintrishi and Kobuleti Protected Areas. Georgia applied for the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2019. The final decision to list the Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands as a UNESCO natural world heritage site was made in July 2021 at the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee in Fuzhou (China).
President of Georgia Salome Zourabishvili and Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture Levan Davitashvili announced this decision at an event held in Kolkheti National Park on 27 July.
“UNESCO’s decision to add Georgia’s unique natural site to the World Heritage List is important not just for Georgia. It’s important for the entire region, for the Black Sea basin. It’s international recognition,” said Levan Davitashvili. “Georgia has once again appeared on the world map as a country of distinctive biodiversity. UNESCO has confirmed that Georgia's unique nature belongs to the whole world."
The UNESCO decision follows years of biodiversity protection and conservation led by the Georgian Government and supported by the European Union, Germany, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United States and other international partners.
To support protected areas associated with Colchic Rainforests, UNDP helped develop ten-year management and biodiversity monitoring plans, introduced SMART patrolling technology (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) and established e-learning platforms for staff. UNDP is also helping to assess and counter the risk of plant diseases (like Chestnut blight) that endanger the entire ecosystem.
“The Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands — which survived a glacial period — present us with the opportunity (and privilege) to admire a magnificent natural system that goes back 15,000 years. Cherishing and protecting this unique ecoregion is our shared responsibility,” said UNDP Acting Head Anna Chernyshova. “UNDP assists Georgia to integrate ecosystem services into the country’s economic and social development and introduce new models and approaches to protecting biodiversity.”
UNDP’s decade-long support to Georgia’s protected areas draws on GEF funding and on close partnerships with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the Agency of Protected Areas and the Caucasus Nature Fund. UNDP support focuses on assisting Georgia to expand its protected areas, improve their management and ensure their financial sustainability. UNDP also helps make it possible for communities surrounding national parks to play an integral role in environmental protection and to benefit from green economic opportunities.