Foundation highlights concern for Nepal heritage

15th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

Nepal's cultural heritage desperately needs reconstruction in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people, a foundation warned Thursday.

Unveiling its watch list for 2016, the World Monuments Fund warned that war, natural disasters and development threaten 50 sites dating from prehistory to the 20th century in 36 countries.

The April earthquake caused extensive damage in the Kathmandu Valley, which is home to hundreds of sacred Buddhist and Hindu sites, putting the cultural heritage sites of Nepal on the list.

"This time we're particularly highlighting the catastrophe in Nepal, with the hope that we can have a vigorous response to that," said Bonnie Burnham, WMF president.

WMF also singled out an ancient underwater city threatened by pollution and ships in Pavlopetri, Greece, the Iraqi hill town of Amedy in need of planning and the Kua Ruins in Tanzania, a medieval Swahili town at risk from the harsh climate and looters.

Also on the list were the Moseley Road Baths, a public swimming pool in England's Birmingham dating back to Edwardian times but at risk of closure due to cutbacks in government spending.

The coastal promenade, Dalieh of Raouche, in Beirut was also added to the list as a victim of frenzied development that has destroyed many open spaces in the Lebanese capital.

Since it was set up in 1996, WMF has put more than 790 sites on watch lists, resulting in $345 million being invested in their preservation.

Not on this year's list was Palmyra in Syria, which fell to the Islamic State extremist group in May, partly because the foundation admitted there was little they could do about it.

"There's a concern developing in the preservation world that by responding to these ISIS atrocities every time they occur we're playing into the hands of their propaganda," said Burnham using an alternative acronym from the extremist group.

"We did not necessarily want to call out Palmyra or a site for which we have no remedy. The purpose of the Watch is to find a remedy," she said.

Before the Syrian war broke out in 2011, more than 150,000 tourists visited Palmyra every year.

Also on this year's list were two sites in Britain, including Wentworth Woodhouse, the largest privately-owned house in Europe, and two in the United States, including San Xavier del Bac, an Arizona mission that dates back to the 17th century.

© 2015 AFP

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