World / Europe

China, Italy showcase environmental initiatives

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-09-24 15:01

ROME - Environmental cooperation between Italy and China took center stage at the World Tourism Expo held in the Italian town of Assisi from Friday to Sunday.

The expo, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), provided the two countries with an opportunity to present details of the projects they have undertaken to protect environment over the past decade.

Claudio Ricci, mayor of Assisi and head of Italy's UNESCO heritage association, has been behind the expo since it was first held in the town in 2010.

"The initiative is being held exactly 40 years since the UNESCO World Heritage List was created," Ricci said. "The theme of the expo is harmonious tourism, of emotions and memories."

Li Pei, an official from the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, introduced the efforts China has taken to protect environment and its rich cultural heritage in the past decade.

Li also noted that many joint initiatives between China and Italy have produced "concrete results" over the past 10 years. Cooperation between the two countries has resulted in investments of more than 1.35 million euros ($1.75 million).

With Italian support, China has carried out more than 200 projects to promote renewable resources, eliminate dangerous chemicals and develop technology and systems that favor lower emissions.

Thousands of travel agents, tour operators and government officials gathered in Assisi for the expo, which was held in the unique Medieval town for the third consecutive year.

The UNESCO recognizes more than 960 World Heritage sites that are considered an intrinsic part of the world's cultural, natural and intangible heritage.

Italy boasts the highest number of cultural sites with 47 UNESCO recognized locations - including towns, monuments and natural sites - considered worth preserving in the interests of the international community.

Assisi is famous as the birthplace of Italian patron saint St. Francis. It is also known for its natural beauty and richness in cultural heritage, which led to its recognition as a UNESCO site in 2000.

China ranks the third, with 43 UNESCO recognized heritage sites.

This year's expo featured a special presentation about China's spectacular Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.

The 1.7 million-hectare UNESCO site features the upper reaches of three great rivers in Asia: the Yangtze, Mekong and Salween, which run roughly parallel through steep gorges that are up to 3,000 meters deep.

This year's expo also included an event called "Mediterranean Cuisine Days", an initiative dedicated to promoting the Mediterranean diet, a less tangible but everyday Italian treasure recognized as a world heritage in 2011.

Fabrizio Bracco, regional councillor for tourism, said the expo was "an extraordinary opportunity" for Italy and the region of Umbria. "For that reason, the region decided to support the proposal and offer ourselves as a partner in this initiative," he said.

"The region is working with great determination on tourism promotion in Umbria and the latest data on visitor numbers shows that, despite the fall in Italians due to the economic situation, there is a constant increase in foreign visitors," Bracco said.

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