We’ve discussed UNESCO World Heritage Sites in some detail before, showing off the many great natural and man-made wonders of the world that have been recognised as iconic and important parts of culture. But these sites aren’t all guaranteed to exist for eternity, and many of them are in serious danger. There’s actually a list of World Heritage in Danger, an official note of sites that may soon be removed from the list.
There are numerous reasons why a landmark could be added to the danger list. For example Liverpool’s docklands are on the list because there are plans to renovate and rebuild the area, removing the historical significance, while the birthplace of Jesus in Palestine has suffered from water damage. Numerous sites are under threat from armed conflict, such as Timbuktu, while the Everglades National Park is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Andrew.
Some locations in the world have been on the danger list for a number of years before being taken off due to a change in circumstance. Many major attractions around the world have been on the list at one stage, including Iguazu National Park, Angkor Wat and the Galapagos Islands.
Only two World Heritage Sites have ever lost their status, despite the number that are ranked in danger. The first of these was the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, which first suffered from dwindling numbers of oryx due to poaching before oil was discovered and the sanctuary was greatly reduced in size.
The second was the Dresden Elbe Valley, which you can visit on a river cruise. It was granted status as a World Heritage Site due to its cultural significance and beauty, but it was placed on the danger list in 2006 when plans were finalised to build the Waldschlösschen Bridge and following construction the site was delisted in 2009.
The majority of the sites in danger are in Africa and the Middle East although there are some in the Far East, Europe and North America. That’s mainly due to political and ecological conditions, with some of these countries being the ones that struggle to maintain and protect their heritage financially, or the more likely to suffer from conflict times.
Don’t take heritage for granted in the world because nothing will last forever, and some sights are destined to disappear or fall into states of disrepair at a much faster rate than others. Make sure you don’t miss out on the places you want to see by waiting.
By Ian Lewis