Heritage at Risk 2014–2015
World Report 2011–2013 on Monuments and Sites in Danger
Edited by Christoph Machat and John Ziesemer
Through the generous support of the Federal Government of Germany and the insightful information made possible by our global networks, ICOMOS has been able to periodically publish Heritage at Risk, a compendium of monuments and cultural heritage sites that are facing destruction or serious alterations throughout the world. Intended to rescue these places from imminent threats by raising public and media awareness and fostering international cooperation and assistance, Heritage at Risk represents the unwavering commitment of ICOMOS to do all that is possible to ensure that humanity’s cultural heritage will be safely transmitted to the next generation.
In spite of the crucially important information contained in this publication, the gathering and reading of its contents, as well as in all past issues, is not a pleasant task, as it brings us face to face with the ruthless and raw destruction of the truly remarkable places that the thousands of members of ICOMOS dedicate their lives to save and protect.
This year, the table of contents for this particular issue of Heritage at Risk presents an alarming vision not only about the conditions affecting cultural heritage but about the state of the planet. On the natural side, catastrophic events such as the ones reported in Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Serbia seem to be occurring more often and with greater intensity. In cases attributable to climate change, the destructive power of these natural disasters are often magnified by myopic patterns of settlement, urbanization and land use, uncontrolled migration, extreme poverty or simple economic greed and political opportunism.
Looking at the human-induced threats to cultural heritage is far more vast and sobering, since these are driven by forces that could be reined in. The rising level of civil and ideological conflicts and outright wars, such as the ones reported in Egypt, Mali and Syria, have plunged the cultural heritage of these countries into a chaos of destruction as combatants from one side try to impose beliefs and erase from the landscape the ancestral architectural and landscape manifestations treasured by their opponents.
The bulk of all threats, however, is not due to natural disasters or armed conflicts, but to human-induced destruction driven by development pressures resulting from a variety of sources such as the unprecedented social imbalance in power and wealth, and misguided responses to the real estate and infrastructure needs of exploding cities. On the other end of the spectrum, the global economic crisis has also brought tragic budget and staff reductions in heritage agencies and cultural sites, such as those reported in Ireland and Greece. Also at work are the huge threats posed by open pit mining projects that have the potential to not only destroy cultural resources, but transform and poison the natural environment for centuries, as exemplified this year by the reports from Romania and Afghanistan.
None of this is new. There have always been earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, as well as wars, urbanization and industrial endeavors. Perhaps they seem to be occurring more frequently because of the immediacy with which news travel today. If that is the case, the news about the pain and outrage caused by these losses should travel the world with similar celerity and help us in stopping them, or at least mitigating them.
1. Auflage 2017, 168 Seiten englisch, zahlreiche Abbildungen und Dokumente, broschiert, 21.0 x 29.7 cm,