As Islamist rebels rampaged through Timbuktu’s historic 15th-century mosques and shrines, the world remembered with terror the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. This month Unesco added sites from across the world to its Heritage list. We focus on some that are being destroyed by neglect and man’s disregard for history.
Everglades National Park, USA
Everglades National Park is a national park in the US state of Florida that protects the southern 20 per cent of the original Everglades. It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists. The park was established in 1934 to protect the quickly vanishing Everglades, and dedicated in 1947 as massive canal building projects were initiated across South Florida. The ecosystems in Everglades National Park have suffered significantly from human activity, and restoration of the Everglades is a politically charged issue in South Florida.
Chan Chan, Peru
The largest Pre-Columbian city in South America, Chan Chan is an archaeological site located in the Peruvian region of La Libertad. The vast adobe city of Chan Chan was built by the Chimu around AD 850 and lasted until its conquest by the Inca Empire in AD 1470. Chan Chan was added as a World Heritage Site in 1986. The city is severely threatened by storms from El Niño, which cause heavy rains and flooding on the Peruvian coast. It is in a fertile, well-watered section of the coastal plain. The city’s ruins are additionally threatened by earthquakes and looters.
Kasubi Tombs, Uganda
The Kasubi Tombs in Kampala, Uganda, is the site of the burial grounds for four kabakas (kings of Buganda), and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On 16 March 2010, some of the major buildings there were almost completely destroyed by a fire, the cause of which is under investigation. The Buganda Kingdom has vowed to rebuild the tombs of their kings and President Museveni said the national government of Uganda would assist in the restoration of the site.
Gelati Monastery, Georgia
Gelati is a monastic complex near Kutaisi, Imereti, western Georgia. It contains the Church of the Virgin founded by the King of Georgia David the Builder in 1106, and the 13th-century churches of St George and St Nicholas. The Gelati Monastery has preserved a great number of murals and manuscripts dating back to the 12th-17th centuries. The Khakhuli triptych had also been enshrined at Gelati until being stolen in 1859. In 1994, Gelati Monastery was recognized as a World Heritage Site. The site was included in the 2008 World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund to draw attention to deterioration caused by prolonged neglect.
Zabid is a town on Yemen’s western coastal plain. It was the capital of Yemen from the 13th to the 15th century and a centre of the Arab and Muslim world due in large part to its famed University of Zabid and being a centre of Islamic education. In 2000, Zabid was listed on the List of World Heritage in Danger; the listing was made on the behest of the Yemeni government due to a state of poor upkeep and conservation. According to a UNESCO report, roughly “40% of the city’s houses have been replaced by concrete buildings, and other houses and the ancient souk are in a deteriorating state”. If the city has not begun preservation of its cultural heritage within two years of its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it faces possible loss of this vaunted status.
Abu Mena, Egypt
Abu Mena was a town, monastery complex and Christian pilgrimage centre in Late Antique Egypt, about 45 km southwest of Alexandria. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1979. Recent agricultural efforts in the area have led to a significant rise in the water table, which has caused a number of the site’s buildings to collapse or become unstable. The site was added to the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2001. Authorities were forced to place sand in the bases of buildings that are most endangered in the site.
The 2012 picks
- Pearling, testimony of an island economy (Bahrain)
- Major Mining Sites of Wallonia (Belgium)
- Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (Brazil)
- Landscape of Grand Pré (Canada)
- Lakes of Ounianga (Chad)
- Site of Xanadu (China-PRoC)
- Chengjiang Fossil Site, (China-PRoC)
- Historic town of Grand-Bassam (Côte d’Ivoire)
- Sangha Trinational (Cameroon, Central African Republic and Congo) (N)(F)
- Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin (France)
- Margravial Opera House Bayreuth (Germany)
- The Western Ghats: This range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain along the Arabian Sea (India)
- The Cultural Landscape of Bali: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (Indonesia)
- Gonbad-e Qābus (Iran)
- Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan (Iran)
- Site of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Israel)
- Birthplace of Jesus: the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine)
- Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley (Malaysia)
- Rabat, modern capital and historic City: a shared heritage (Morocco)
- Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau)
- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications, (Portugal)
- Lena Pillars Nature Park, (Russian Federation)
- Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes (Senegal)
- n Heritage of Mercury. Almadén and Idrija, (Slovenia and Spain)
- Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland (Sweden)
- Çatalhöyük: Neolithic site in Central Anatolia Region, near Konya (Turkey)
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