Edinburgh (Scotland), May 19 :
Efforts are on to make Loch Ness, the large and deep fresh waterway in the Scottish Highlands into a World Heritage Site.Extending for approximately 37 km southwest of the Inverness, the Loch's surface is 52 feet above sea level. It is the UK's largest body of fresh water and one of the deepest at 754ft, which makes it a vital site for scientists, as well as monster hunters and tourists. Its largely undisturbed mud-beds are a source of important historical, geological and environmental data, giving clues to such phenomena as the formation of the Great Glen.Loch Ness is best known for the alleged sightings of the legendary Loch Ness Monster ("Nessie"). Boat cruises operate from various locations along its shores giving tourists the chance to look for the monster.One organisation, Destination Loch Ness (DLN), is aiming to have it designated a World Heritage Site, reports Times Online. It is hoped an application can be made shortly to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. If approved, it would join 162 sites across the world on the World Heritage Committee's list of natural heritage sites because of their outstanding universal value. These include the Great Barrier Reef, the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, the Galapagos Islands and St Kilda. "The monster legend is a huge part of the area's history and appeal but as a short breaks destination we've got a bigger story to tell. DLN has already identified the area within several of VisitScotland's niche markets such as walking, cycling and wildlife, said Graham Ambrose, chairman of DLN."World heritage status would be a significant and exciting accolade for Loch Ness and the Great Glen. The idea has been discussed at length and Destination Loch Ness is currently investigating if the area meets the stringent criteria. As yet, no application has been made and further comment will be made at an appropriate juncture." A spokeswoman for UNESCO said when an application is made to have a site inscribed, the World Heritage Committee's consultative bodies, made up of experts in natural and cultural heritage, study the site and write a recommendation which is then accepted - or not. The Loch attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and is worth about 25 million pounds annually to the economy, although it is felt there is potential for this to rise to 120 million pounds.