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Culture

UNESCO: Dresden's Bridge Project Must Stop

UNESCO will allow Dresden to keep its world heritage status, but said that construction of a four-lane bridge must come to a halt. If the bridge project goes ahead, Dresden's Elbe Valley could lose its status in 2009.

Dresden skyline at dusk

UNESCO says a tunnel would mar this skyline

Dresden's status was called into question in 2006 because the Waldschloesschen bridge now under construction was viewed as a threat to the valuable cultural landscape. UNESCO has recommended the bridge be replaced with a tunnel.

Voters approved the bridge construction in 2005, however UNESCO offered a grace period last year so alternatives could be evaluated.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee at its 32nd meeting this week in Quebec, Canada "regretted the construction of the bridge underway and urged the authorities to opt for the digging of a tunnel in its stead," according to a press release.

Construction on the 636-meter (2,085 foot) began in November, 2007 after a court dismissed arguments that it would endanger a rare species of bat that lives on the banks of the Elbe River. UNESCO's concern with the construction project is that it would mar the eastern German city's skyline.

Still considered "at risk"

If the bridge is not stopped, the site will be removed from the World Heritage List in 2009, UNESCO has said. Meanwhile, the site remains on UNESCO's so-called "danger list."

Yet the year-long reprieve is seen as a positive step by those who have organized weekly demonstrations to try and put a halt to the bridge project.

"It's a victory for the citizens of Dresden who have been demonstrating every single Monday for the last year," Dresden university architecture professor Ralf Weber told AFP news agency.

Dresden's Elbe River Valley stretches some 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Ubigau Palace to Pillnitz Place. If the valley loses UNESCO support it would be the first site to be stripped of its world heritage status.

German delegate Brigitte Ringbeck said Dresden is facing a final chance to either cease construction or lose the heritage designation. A second grace period was extended because the committee recognizes efforts Germany has made to maintain UNESCO sites.

Germany maintains 32 of the 851 UNESCO heritage sites around the world.

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