Last chance to see

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - ROBERT BE­VAN

NEVER mind 100 things to do be­fore you die, how about thou­sands of things to see be­fore they van­ish? The world’s her­itage is un­der threat like never be­fore. A com­bi­na­tion of ur­ban­i­sa­tion, dis­as­ters, war and cli­mate change mean it’s not just Venice in peril from the sea or the colours of the Bar­rier Reef fad­ing in the sun. Un­sus­tain­able tourism and ne­glect also take their toll.

The Global Her­itage Fund has a list of hun­dreds of en­dan­gered sites and UNESCO its com­pen­dium of des­ig­nated World Her­itage sites un­der threat. The In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil on Mon­u­ments and Sites, mean­while, has just re­leased its sixth Her­itage at Risk re­port on places in peril.

The World Mon­u­ments Fund has its own watch list and is run­ning spe­cial­ist tours of frag­ile places in Tur­key and Ethiopia. Stolen fu­tures: Loot­ing is a prob­lem from Angkor Wat to the Apen­nines. In Peru, the re­mains of the blood­thirsty Moche civil­i­sa­tion are be­ing ran­sacked by trea­sure hun­ters who have dug about 1000 trenches and tun­nels in places such as Galindo. More vis­i­tors could mean a le­git­i­mate liv­ing for the lo­cals and, at the same time, take pres­sure off sites such as Machu Pic­chu. Ge­ol­o­gists fear land­slides. Arche­o­log­i­cal travel spe­cial­ist An­dante of­fers trips ex­plor­ing Moche. More: an­dan­te­trav­els.com. The tide is high: Strad­dling the In­dia-Bangladesh bor­der are the Sun­dar­bans, the world’s largest man­grove for­est. Its wa­ter­ways are home to en­dan­gered Ben­gal tigers and the Ganges river dol­phin. Ris­ing sea lev­els and the nat­u­ral sub­si­dence of the Ben­gal Basin are in­un­dat­ing its 26,000sq kms. Poach­ing has seen tiger num­bers halved and the Ja­van rhino van­ish. More: bangladesh­trav­eller.com. Di­vide and mis­rule: In the early 1970s, Fa­m­a­gusta in north­ern Cyprus was burst­ing with lob­sterred Brits chas­ing cheap pack­aged sun. Mostly they ig­nored the ru­ins of what was once the rich­est city in the world; the corona­tions of the Cru­sader kings of Jerusalem were held in its cathe­dral. Con­crete ho­tels en­croached be­fore the Turk­ish in­va­sion of 1974 led to the divi­sion of Cyprus and the aban­don­ment of much of the ghost town.

Ne­glect means its tombs and man­sions are on the verge of dis­ap­pear­ing for­ever, ac­cord­ing to the Global Her­itage Fund. More: glob­al­her­itage­fund.org. Flower power: The Cape Floris­tic Re­gion of South Africa holds al­most 20 per cent of the en­tire African con­ti­nent’s plant di­ver­sity. Many fyn­bos species have fire as part of their eco-sys­tem but non-na­tive gums, pines and aca­cias are chang­ing fire pat­terns in the 5530sq km pro­tected area. A quar­ter of this eco­log­i­cal trea­sure house has al­ready been lost to farm­ing and forestry. More: southafrica.net. Stone dead: Athens’s in­fa­mous pol­lu­tion may no longer be a rea­son for not re­turn­ing the El­gin Mar­bles to the Parthenon now the Greeks have built a shiny new mu­seum to hold them, but plenty of places across the planet are suf­fer­ing from traf­fic ter­ror. The Taj Ma­hal’s white mar­ble is still turn­ing black. At the walled city of Se­govia, half an hour by train from Madrid, the 813m-long Ro­man aqueduct has sur­vived 2000 years but traf­fic fumes are eat­ing away its stones dan­ger­ously. A word for it: Mod­ern life and com­mu­ni­ca­tions may be cre­at­ing a global vil­lage but they are also erod­ing dif­fer­ence. Al­though in re­al­ity Eski­mos have no more words for snow than we have for rain, cul­tures can only ever be fully ex­plained in their own lan­guage. UNESCO holds a reg­is­ter of the in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage of songs and cer­e­monies of the world’s peo­ples. Hear the un­ac­com­pa­nied cantu in pagh­jella chant of north­ern Cor­si­can male trios be­fore it dis­ap­pears for­ever. More: unesco.org; vis­it­cor­sica.com. Last ser­vice: Com­mu­nal vi­o­lence in re­cent decades has seen an­cient churches, mosques and tem­ples razed from In­done­sia to Nige­ria. On­go­ing ten­sions in Kosovo mean that more than 120 churches and mosques have been badly dam­aged since the of­fi­cial end of hos­til­i­ties with Ser­bia in 1999. But Visoki De­cani Monastery, the largest and best­p­re­served medieval church in the Balkans, sur­vives. glob­al­her­itage­fund.org icomos.org wmf.org.uk

AFP

The Ro­man aqueduct at Se­govia, near Madrid, is un­der threat

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