The European Union’s Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) are seeking options to open geoparks in their countries. Whilst the countries do not currently have any areas designated as geoparks, there seems to be growing interest to change this.
During a recent international conference in Czechia, experts discussed the potential of creating the Partnership’s inaugural geoparks and the business and tourism opportunities such an initiative may present.
“Exceptional areas that could become geoparks in the future are, for example, the volcanic Carpathian Mountains, the Beskydy Rocks, where we can find a unique rock church or the Dniester Canyon. In total, we have proposed 28 potential geoparks,” said Yuriy Zinko, a professor at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv in Ukraine. “Some of them are located in the now occupied territory or in the frontline area, which of course poses a danger. Once the war is over, it is necessary to bring these areas to the desired state and apply for national geopark status.”
Representatives of the Eastern Partnership countries presented a range of geologically attractive areas that can aspire to obtain geopark status, sharing their experiences and future plans. The representatives had a chance to draw inspiration from countries that have a wealth of experience in using geoparks for tourism and education. In addition to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, representatives of UNESCO Global Geoparks from Peru, Tanzania, the Philippines and Nicaragua took the floor.
“Geological heritage is an important part of the environment and geoparks are an ideal way to take care of it,” said Eva Volfová, Deputy Minister of the Environment speaking at a conference in Příbram, Czech Republic, between 4-7 September. “In addition to their contribution to nature conservation, we could also hear through concrete examples how geoparks are useful for popularising the topics of inanimate nature, as they allow for practical and fun learning, or how they help regions in the field of tourism.”
Minister Volfová’s advisor, Ladislav Miko, added that “inanimate nature is an important source of information about the geological but also biological and human past of the country.”
“I consider geoparks to be a good way to learn about, protect and use this part of the environment in science and education,” he said. “I am glad that the Czech Republic is not lagging behind in this area and is playing an important role internationally, as this conference demonstrates.”
In addition, geoparks can also be a unique place to learn about the evolution of the Earth by tasting food and drinks that come from geologically attractive locations. The mineralogical composition of the soil and the underlying geology influence the specific taste, aroma or appearance of regional foods. One such place in the Czech Republic is the lavender valley in Chodouň.