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Dresden to lose world heritage status

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Dresden to lose world heritage status
Photo: DPA
13:29 CEST+02:00
Dresden will almost certainly lose its UNESCO world heritage site status due to plans to build a bridge over the Elbe River, according to a news report Saturday.

The decision will formally be made at a meeting of the world heritage committee in the Spanish city of Seville in late June, but news agency DPA reports the delisting of Dresden is a done deal.

A 20-kilometre stretch of the Elbe Valley, which includes Dresden's famed Baroque-style complex of palaces, churches and theatres in the city centre received the UNESCO world heritage status in 2004.

Dresden, which was heavily damaged during World War II, has been a focal point of post-reunification rebuilding efforts and made the city one of Germany's top tourist destinations. But city plans to build a bridge over the river have been controversial.

In 2006 UNESCO put the site on its endangered list after the city started to move forward with plans to build a new bridge near Dresden's Baroque core.

City officials say the bridge is needed to reduce traffic congestion in the city and that plans for the bridge have existed in one form or another for a hundred years. Dresden's old city and new city are already connected by four bridges.

UNESCO says a new bridge will irreversibly tear apart the “historic cultural landscape” of the Elbe valley.

Though the decision is not yet final, it's already having financial consequences for Dresden.

The city has not been given any money from a €150 million government fund for German UNESCO world heritage sites and an expert commission created by Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee has cited the city's building plans as a reason, the daily Sächsische Zeitung reported Saturday.

Dresden city officials had hoped to receive about €6 million from the fund to help renovate the Ligner palace along the Elbe, rebuild the Busmann Chapel and reproduce a destroyed viaduct.

“We had been counting on the money,” said Peter Lenk, the chairman of the Ligner palace booster association, which has been raising money for the project.

Tiefensee, who comes from Saxony, has criticised the state's attitude toward the bridge controversy.

“I very much regret that the state of Saxony has not yet managed to avert the threatened delisting of the UNESCO title. It seriously damages the cultural image of Germany and Saxony,” Tiefensee told the newspaper.

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