"Experts say tourists harming Machu Picchu"
July 1st, 2008
July 1st, 2008
An influx of tourists to Peru's famed Inca citadel of Machu Picchu may prompt UNESCO to add the jungle-shrouded ruins to its list of endangered World Heritage sites.
Yearly visits to Machu Picchu, Peru's top tourist destination, have more than doubled since 1998 to 800,000 people, and conservationists advising UNESCO's World Heritage Committee warn that landslides, fires and creeping development threaten the site.
UNESCO officials will discuss those findings this week at a World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec City that was called to determine which of the world's cultural treasures should be added to its list - and which of those already included there are now threatened.
UNESCO committee spokesman Roni Amelan declined to confirm that Machu Picchu, which was named a World Heritage Site in 1983, would be classified as endangered, but said "it's a possibility."
Unregulated growth, including a boom in hotel and restaurant construction in the nearby mountain town of Aguas Calientes, is putting pressure on erosion-prone riverbanks and could undermine the site, the report said.
The village lacks adequate sanitation and Peru's government has done little to address landslide concerns on the winding, mud thoroughfare that leads to the citadel, according to the report. Officials also have no way to detect fires in the stone citadel or its heavily wooded environs, the report said.
Residents in the nearby city of Cuzco, an ancient Inca capital, burned tires and blocked roads to protest state plans to extend private development near the site earlier this year.
But park officials note that while there may be room for improvement in Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu itself is intact. Archaeologist Piedad Champi, who oversees conservation efforts, noted that UNESCO praised the monuments' preservation just last year.
Still, uncontrolled tourism could still degrade the ruins, said Luis Lumbreras, an independent, Lima-based archaeologist who has studied Machu Picchu for more than 40 years.
"Machu Picchu was never made for lots of people," he said, noting the original citadel was designed for sandals and bare feet. "If we put tourists with boots that are jumping, running, climbing the walls, etcetera, that's the danger."
A spokeswoman for the state-run National Culture Institute, which manages the park, declined to respond to UNESCO's advisory report. Peru's government has promoted the site as one of Latin America's top tourist destinations.
The Italian government declared a state of emergency at the Pompeii archaeological site on Friday to try to rescue one of the world's most important cultural treasures from decades of neglect.
A cabinet statement said it would appoint a special commissioner for Pompeii, the Roman city buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Archaeologists and art historians have long complained about the poor upkeep of the Pompeii treasures, plagued by lack of investment, weeds, litter, graffiti and looting. Bogus tour guides and illegal parking attendants also plague visitors.
Some 2.5 million tourists visit Pompeii each year and many have expressed shock at the poor conditions at the site.
A report in daily Corriere della Sera said many of the 1,500 houses, including some of the most famous ones, at the site are closed to the public, its frescoes are fading and restoration work that began in 1978 has yet to be completed.
The "state of emergency", which the government said would last for a year, allows for extra funds and special measures to be taken to protect the site.
"Every year at least 150 square meters of fresco and plaster work are lost for lack of maintenance," Antonio Irlando, a regional councilor responsible for artistic heritage, told the newspaper.
"The same goes for stones: at least 3,000 pieces every year end up disintegrating," he said.
Two-thirds of the 66 hectare (165 acre) town, home to some 13,000 people in the Roman era, have been uncovered since serious excavations began 260 years ago.
The remaining third is still buried, but Corriere said the ground above it is being used as an illegal rubbish dump scattered with tires, fridges and mattresses.
The nearby city of Naples and its surroundings have been the scene of a long-running garbage crisis as tons of trash has piled up on streets because of a lack of sufficient dumps.
Efforts to open new dumps have met fierce resistance from locals and sparked clashes with police.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to clean up the Naples area, whose image and tourist industry has suffered greatly because of the garbage crisis.
2OO8 world monuments watch list of 1OO most endangered sites:
Buddhist Remains of Bamiyan
Murad Khane, Kabul
Tepe Narenj, Kabul
Medracen and el-Khroub
Numidian Royal Mausolea, Constantine
Scott’s Hut and the Explorers’
Heritage of Antarctica, Cape Evans
Brener Synagogue, Moises Ville
Kumayri District, Alexandrapol
Dampier Rock Art Complex,
Khinalyg Village, Guba Region
BOSNIA and HERZEGOVINA
Sarajevo City Hall
Porangatu Historic District
Novae Archaeological Site, Svishtov
Herschel Island, Yukon Territory
Montemar Institute of Marine Biology,
Viña del Mar
Xumishan Grottoes, Guyuan County
Famagusta Walled City
Aqsunqur Mosque (Blue Mosque), Cairo
Shunet el-Zebib, Abydos
West Bank of the Nile, Luxor
Derbush Tomb, Massawa
Mohammadali House, Addis Ababa
Epailly Chapel of the
Order of the Temple, Courban
Gelati Monastery and Academy, Kutaisi
Wa Naa’s Palace, Wa
Lesvos Historic Churches
Pella Macedonian Tombs [See video below.]
Capitanes Generales Palace,
Ceibal Archaeological Site, Sayaxche
Amber Town, Rajasthan
Chettinad, Tamil Nadu
Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Leh Old Town, Ladakh
Srinigar Heritage Zone
Kotagede Heritage District
Cultural Heritage Sites of Iraq
Tara Hill, Meath
Vernon Mount, Cork
Transhumance Cultural Landscape,
Farnese Nymphaeum, Rome
Fenestrelle Fortress, Turin
Valleggio sul Mincio
Falmouth Historic Town
Khirbet et-Tannur, Tafilah
Qusayr ‘Amra, al-’Azraq
Jordan River Cultural Landscape
Wadi Mathendous Rock Art, Fezzan
Mother of God Peribleptos Church, Ohrid
Fianarantsoa Old City
Fort St. Elmo, Valletta
Huaca Historic Neighborhood, Veracruz
Monte Alban Archaeological Site, Oaxaca
Al-Azhar Mosque, Fez
Ikom Monoliths of Cross River State
Shikarpoor Historic City Center
Church of the Holy Nativity, Bethlehem
Lima Historic City Center
Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary,
Macusani-Corani Rock Art
San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas Church
Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa
Icon of the Mother of God of the
Sign Church, Teplovo
Mendeleev Tower, St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Historic Skyline
Freetown Historic Monuments
Banská Štiavnica Calvary Complex
Las Geel Rock Art
Joan Miró Foundation, Barcelona
Kandy Sacred City
Ljungberg Hall, Borlange City
Cyrrhus (Nebi Houri), Azaz
Kilwa Historic Sites
Çukur Han, Ankara
Istanbul Historic Walls
Meryem Ana (Mother of God) Church,
Red Church, Güzelyurt, Sivrihisar,
Mavisbank House, Midlothian, Scotland
Richhill House, Armagh City,
St. Peter’s College, Cardross, Scotland
Wilton’s Music Hall, London
Florida Southern Historic Campus,
Historic Neighborhoods of
New Orleans, LA
Historic Route 66, Chicago to Los Angeles
Main Street Modern, Various Locations
New York State Pavilion, Queens, NY
Salk Institute, San Diego, CA
Tutuveni Petroglyph Site,
Hopi Tribal Land, AZ
Ayaz Kala, Ellikala
Madrasa Rashid, Bukhara
Bumbusi National Monument,
Pella Macedonian Tombs