Global Warming, Tourism Among Threats to Cultural Sites

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  06.07.07 | 10:43 AM ET

<imagePhoto of Damascus by zmyal via Flickr (Creative Commons).

The World Monument Fund has issued its 2008 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites. Threatened landmarks making the cut this time include Leh Old Town in Ladakh, India (increasing rainfall due to climate change is damaging medieval buildings); Machu Picchu (facing too many visitors and increasing ease of access); Old Damascus, Syria (pictured, where historic buildings are being “abandoned and demolished to make way for modern construction”); and Route 66 (as we recently noted, many sites are deteriorating).

“On this list, man is indeed the real enemy,” WMF president Bonnie Burnham said in a statement. “But, just as we caused the damage in the first place, we have the power to repair it, by taking our responsibility as caretakers of the world’s cultural heritage seriously.”

The WMF issues the list every two years. Since it began publishing the list in 1995, officials say, more than 75 percent of the threatened sites have been saved.

A number of sites this year are threatened by global warming, according to the WMF. They are, in the report’s own language:

Herschel Island, Canada, home to ancient Inuit sites and a historic whaling town at the edge of the Yukon that are being lost to the rising sea and melting permafrost in this fastest-warming part of the world.

Scott’s Hut, Antarctica, a time capsule of early 20th-century exploration. Ironically, it is being engulfed by vastly increased snowfall thought to be a result of changes in the weather—changes the station was built to monitor.

Chinguetti Mosque, Mauritania, located in one of Islam’s seven holy cities and one of many sites in West Africa endangered by the encroaching desert.

Sonargaon-Panam City, Bangladesh, a former medieval trading hub and crossroads of culture, whose long-neglected and deteriorating architecture is increasingly threatened by flooding in this low-lying country, one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.

Leh Old Town, Ladakh, India, a rare intact medieval city in the Himalayan region, now trying to balance development and modernization with sustainability as its traditional architecture faces changing weather patterns, including heavy rains, that it was not built to withstand.

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, whose historic neighborhoods, already pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, are now struggling to restore homes while also preparing for future challenges posed by rising sea levels and the likelihood of stronger storms.


Tags: Architecture, Eco Travel, Asia, India, Middle East, Syria, North America, Canada, South America, Peru, News and Briefs

Jim Benning

Jim Benning is the editor and co-founder of World Hum.

2 Comments for Global Warming, Tourism Among Threats to Cultural Sites

Global Warming 02.09.08 | 1:59 PM ET

More and more towns will be affected… read more at my blog about Global Warming

India Holidays 05.06.08 | 4:00 PM ET

we should do anything to save our earth.

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