I came across a worrying news while browsing the RSS feeds of the French daily le Figaro.
30 sites among the 851 that are part of the World Heritage are considered endangered by the UNESCO. Tourism, wars and natural phenomenons (climate change, earthquakes…) are among the causes.
This news was brought up as the UNESCO met yesterday in Paris to talk about the World Heritage.
According to the UNESCO page :
Armed conflict and war, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pollution, poaching, uncontrolled urbanization and unchecked tourist development pose major problems to World Heritage sites. Dangers can be ‘ascertained’, referring to specific and proven imminent threats, or ‘potential’, when a property is faced with threats which could have negative effects on its World Heritage values.
Under the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the World Heritage Committee can inscribe on the List of World Heritage in Danger properties whose protection requires ‘major operations (…) and for which assistance has been requested’.
Inscribing a site on the List of World Heritage in Danger allows the World Heritage Committee to allocate immediate assistance from the World Heritage Fund to the endangered property. It also alerts the international community to these situations in the hope that it can join efforts to save these endangered sites.
The listing of a site as World Heritage in Danger allows the conservation community to respond to specific preservation needs in an efficient manner. Indeed, the mere prospect of inscribing a site on this List often proves to be effective, and can incite rapid conservation action.
Inscription of a site on the List of World Heritage in Danger requires the World Heritage Committee to develop and adopt, in consultation with the State Party concerned, a programme for corrective measures, and subsequently to monitor the situation of the site. All efforts must be made to restore the site’s values in order to enable its removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger as soon as possible.
Inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger is not perceived in the same way by all parties concerned. Some countries apply for the inscription of a site to focus international attention on its problems and to obtain expert assistance in solving them. Others however, wish to avoid an inscription, which they perceive as a dishonour.
The listing of a site as World Heritage in Danger should in any case not be considered as a sanction, but as a system established to respond to specific conservation needs in an efficient manner.
If a site loses the characteristics which determined its inscription on the World Heritage List, the World Heritage Committee may decide to delete the property from both the List of World Heritage in Danger and the World Heritage List. To date, this provision of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention has never had to be applied.
If you read French, I strongly recommend you to read the article published today as it provides great insight of the situation at hand.
Saint Petersburg in Russia, the Galapagos Islands, Angkor in Cambodia and many others beautiful sites are at risk.