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Masuleh to Act as Model for Development of Iranian Mountainous Eco-tourism, UNESCO Aid

UNESCO Counselor Ms Wendy Brewer Lama said the northern Iranian mountainside city of Masuleh, located in Gilan province, could serve as a model for development of mountainous eco-tourism in Iran, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported.

Participating in the sixth workshop on the Development of Cultural Heritage and Mountainous Eco-tourism, she said, "The workshop is an opportunity to exchange consultations among Iranian experts as well as their counterparts from seven other countries of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan on how to develop eco-tourism, particularly in mountainous areas." She added foreign experts would possibly express their ideas on best ways to expand mountainous eco-tourism in Masuleh at end of this counseling gathering."

The American expert, who had already paid a visit to Masuleh in January, called the area 'an enchanting region', further adding, "The focus of our project is on Masuleh, since the city, due to its unique and untouched attractions, could serve as a role model for development and expansion of mountainous eco-tourism in Iran."

Ms Lama ensured that development of mountainous eco-tourism in Masuleh and other Iranian areas would help trickle down the number of immigrants from rural to urban areas, since job opportunities in the areas would witness an upsurge.

Mentioning that the eco-tourism project in mountainous area of Masuleh started in 2002 and would last till2005, she said the workshop would set no particular objective, "yet we can say the final objective is to promote public awareness of the advantages of the mountainous eco-tourism."

Ms Lama finally struck a cautionary note and concluded, "We must make people aware of the disadvantages of excessively exploiting eco-tourism to ensure they know how to protect their environment for sustainable tourism."

Located in a scenic valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains in north-eastern Iran, the village of Masuleh is notable for its traditional wooden buildings, clustered on the northern slopes of the valley, Masuleh is registered as National Cultural and Natural Heritage in Iran, and the village is rich in tangible and intangible heritage. The surrounding mountains provide many opportunities for trekking, climbing and other activities.

The aim of UNESCO's project in Masuleh is to promote community participation in the area's tourism development, helping to generate employment opportunities and income-generating activities for local people. Training is being given in development of a local handicraft industry, as well as in the management of home-stays and in the skills needed for local people to become cultural and nature guides. A visitor centre is being developed in the village, and a system of walking trails in the surrounding mountains drawn up. Main emphases of the project include encouraging the full participation of the local community and developing public-private sector partnerships.

... Payvand News - 9//26/04 ... --

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