2012, Yangzhou, China

2012, Yangzhou, China

‘Grand Canal, Living Heritage’ is the theme of this year’s World Canals Conference, the first to be held in Asia, on September 24-27. The venue is Yangzhou, a city rich in history and culture, situated at the junction of the Yangtze River and China’s Grand Canal.

The letter of invitation to delegates describes the venue as the confluence of ‘two golden waterways running from west to east and from north to south’. It was 2500 years ago that the Hangou Canal, the earliest section of the Grand Canal, was excavated in Yangzhou. Since then, the Grand Canal has become the ‘mother river’ of Yangzhou.

To capitalise on this strategic position, and to support the process of bidding for the China Grand Canal to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city established in 2007 the China Yangzhou World Canal Cities Expo & Mayors’/Experts’ Forum. Representatives of canal cities from all continents have since then met in Yangzhou every year to participate in this influential world forum, the ‘Davos’ of world canals. The themes were successively:

2007 – Promoting Sustainable Economic Development of Canal Cities
2008 – Strengthening Canal Conservation and Cultural Inheritance
2009 – Tourism Development of Canal Cities against the Financial Crisis
2010 – Canal Cities and Low-Carbon Economy, and
2011 – Design Upgrades Canal Cities

Following selection by IWI’s WCC committee at Novi Sad (Serbia) in 2009, this year’s Expo & Forum are combined with the 25th World Canals Conference. For the organisers and canal specialists worldwide, this makes it an even better opportunity for ideas to be exchanged and experience shared.

IWI has been directly supporting the organisation of the annual World Canals Conference since 2008, and since then the World Canal Cities Expo, Yangzhou and IWI have sent delegates to attend each other’s conference every year. Historian Mike Clarke attended the 3rd Forum, when the foundation stone was laid for the sumptuous new congress centre, the Permanent Site of the Forum, while Yangzhou delegates attended the WCC in Serbia. In 2010 a strong delegation came from Yangzhou to Rochester, NY, while IWI’s secretary Dave MacDougall attended the 4th Forum. Then last year a 5-strong team from IWI went to Yangzhou, after the Yangzhou 2012 working group attended the WCC 2012 in Groningen, Netherlands.

We invite all waterway managers, professional and private users and advocates to visit China and Yangzhou in September, to meet experts and scholars from world canal cities waterway managers, IWI members and canal enthusiasts. All will be given a very warm welcome in Yangzhou.

The central theme will be the preservation of our canal and waterway heritage on all continents, while the host organisation will record and take into account the debate on the bidding process, whether for national or for world heritage status and recognition. The canal’s present-day functions as a transport artery will also be a strong theme during the conference, which has four strands:
1 Canal economy,
2 Canal tourism,
3 Canal cities planning,
4 Canal culture & heritage protection and bidding.