Socotra ranks low in ‘seven wonders’ competition [Archives:2008/1163/Local News]

May 12 2008

By: Alia Ishaq
SANA'A, June 9 ) The island of Socotra may not make it to the final round of “The New Seven Wonders of Nature” on the website

Socotra was nominated last July and announced in March as one of 77 short-listed sites competing to be included in the new seven natural wonders, which will be determined and announced by January 2009. However, its ranking has since slumped to 97 out of more than 200 nominees on the list. Because it is no longer one of the 77 top locations, Socotra is in danger of failing to make the next round of the competition, where the top 21 locales will compete for international renown. However, nominees can still be voted on until December 31, 2008. The “New Seven Wonders of the World” competition began in 2006, with millions of people worldwide sending in votes online and through text messages. The winners, including the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, were announced last July. Because of the success of the initiative, which aimed to increase conservation efforts worldwide, the New7Wonders organization decided to create a new competition featuring the best and most important Mother Nature-built sites in the world.

Abdulrahman Al-Eryani, Minister of Water and Environment, mentioned that the reason behind Socotra's low ranking was that few Yemenis use the website to vote for Yemen. He added that the current rank has nothing to do with Socotra's true position as a natural world wonder. He called the competition and the website itself “silly,” and said he thinks it has nothing to do with reality. “The owner of the website aims to make money from the advertisements,” said Al-Eryani. “It is nothing but a good advertisement website and a project to get more money.” However, there were few advertisements on the website and the organization is not-for-profit.

Al-Eryani added that he thinks there are more qualified international organizations that could better conduct a competition like this, citing the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites an example, the result of which will be announced this July. “I have high hopes for Socotra to rank high in this one,” he said.

The New Seven Wonders Foundation, also written as “New7Wonders,” is a non-profit organization established in 2001 by a Swiss-born Canadian filmmaker, author and adventurer named Bernard Weber to contribute to the protection of the world's man-made and natural heritage and to foster respect for cultural diversity. The Foundation is based at the Heidi-Weber-Museum in Zurich, Switzerland. According to the foundation's website, 50 percent of the net revenue raised by the New7Wonders Project is to be used to fund monument documentation and conservation efforts worldwide, and is supported by the UN. The group is also launching a competition to codify the “7 Virtues of Humankind.”

Socotra is one of 182 islands scattered along the Red and Arabian Seas, and is famous for its enchanting and rare plants, including the 'dragon's blood' tree, which is native only to Socotra. The Yemeni government announced in 2000 that Socotra would become a natural protectorate with support from government funds to help keep it pristine.