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Change of Plans

DW staff (sms)
June 25, 2007

Though the Dresden-Elbe River Valley will remain an official World Heritage site for now, UNESCO threatened to remove it from the list of sites if a bridge near Dresden is built across the river as planned.

A narrower bridge or tunnel could be presented as alternatives in three monthsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Germany has until Oct. 1 to submit an alternative to a modern bridge planned for the park-like Elbe Valley near Dresden, or the area may lose its world heritage status, the United Nation's World Heritage committee announced on Monday.

"If present plans for a bridge were replaced by a solution that respected the outstanding universal value of the cultural landscape, the site would remain on the World Heritage List," a statement on the organization's Web site said.

After evaluating the alternative plans for the the Waldschlösschen Bridge, the UNESCO committee will decide if the ensemble of gardens, palaces, woods and meadows along 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the valley on both sides of the Elbe will continue to qualify for world heritage status.

New deadline for Dresden

Dresden, Unesco Weltkulturerbe, Brückenstreit
Dresden will remain on the UNESCO watch list until at least OctoberImage: AP

"By October we have to present something that cannot be presented," Jan Mücke, one of Dresden's representatives in Germany's national parliament, told dpa news service. "Basically, we just have a new deadline."

The valley was designated as one of 830 sites currently on the World Heritage List in 2004, but plans for building a bridge across the Elbe River have threatened its listing for the past two years.

The committee decided Monday to leave it on the list of endangered places. It has never before struck a heritage site off its list, and the eastern German city's tourist officials are working to make sure the Elbe Valley isn't the first place to be de-listed.

City officials, however, have said the growing traffic has forced them to build a new bridge, estimated to cost 160 million euros ($215 million). Residents, in a 2005 referendum, voted in favor of the bridge, and the German Constitutional Court ruled earlier this month that the people's voice should have priority over retaining international honors.

Tunnel a possibility

Deutschland Dresden UNESCO Streit um Waldschlösschenbrücke Alternativvorschlag
In 2005, residents voted for an additional way to get across the ElbeImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

A tunnel connecting both sides of the Elbe could represent a compromise that would meet the UNESCO committee's demands as well as fulfill the public's will, according to Ralf Weber, a Dresden architecture professor who traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand, where the committee met.

"In their speeches, almost every delegate country identified a tunnel as the preferred solution," he told dpa.

According to UNESCO, the bridge design is too "heavy" and would degrade the landscape.

The committee meetings, which run until July 2 and are closed to the public, will consider new site nominations, sites in danger, site management and protection. They will also draw up lists for possible future World Heritage sites.

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