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Spain's El Hierro island named Unesco Geopark

IANS  |  Madrid 

The island of El Hierro, one of the Spanish owned Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa, has been named as a Geopark by Unesco.

El Hierro will be the 60th Unesco Geopark, an area which Unesco describes on its website as a territory that includes a particular geological heritage and a sustainable territorial development strategy supported by a European program to promote development, Xinhua reported.

Geoparks must also contain geological sites of "particular importance in terms of their scientific quality, rarity, aesthetic appeal or educational value."

El Hierro had been considered a Biosphere reserve since the year 2000 and contains 6 Natural Protected Areas which comprise 60 percent of its territory, while the island recently became the first in the world able to sustain its energy needs through sustainable methods.

El Hierro President Alpidio Armas said on Tuesday that the decision was an "enormous satisfaction," saying the island had become an "international reference point," for good practice in terms of sustainability.

El Hierro has seen almost continued seismic activity over the past two years with sporadic eruptions of an undersea volcano just off its coast. Armas explained the increased attention this had brought to the island had been the catalyst which had united efforts for the island to function as a geopark.

This means El Hierro will now work to develop its offer to tourists within the principals covered by UNESCO geoparks, which means playing an "active role in the economic development of its territory through enhancement of a general image linked to the geological heritage and the development of Geotourism."

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First Published: Tue, September 23 2014. 23:54 IST