Por­tu­gal work­ing to pro­tect world her­itage sites

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By MA­RINA WAT­SON PE­LAEZ in Lis­bon

Por­tu­gal has made con­sid­er­able ef­forts in the past decade to pro­tect its 15 UNESCO World Her­itage sites, in­clud­ing Sin­tra, which is lo­cated some 30 kilo­me­ters north­west of the cap­i­tal Lis­bon.

“Por­tu­gal was faced with a num­ber of prob­lems re­gard­ing man­age­ment and de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of struc­tures in the 1990s, but the sit­u­a­tion has im­proved,” says Mechtild Rossler, di­rec­tor of the Divi­sion for Her­itage and the UNESCO World Her­itage Cen­ter.

Fol­low­ing lo­cal com­plaints and aware­ness by the World Her­itage Cen­ter that all was not go­ing as planned af­ter Sin­tra’s in­scrip­tion in 1995, a re­ac­tive mon­i­tor­ing mis­sion was car­ried out in 2000.

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee re­quested a re­port on the restora­tion pro­gram, in­clud­ing mon­u­ments, gar­dens, parks, and forests and im­prove­ment of man­age­ment to be un­der­taken in the fol­low­ing six years.

The prac­ti­cal steps re­quested were the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent Cul­tural Land­scape Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, the cre­ation of an ad­vi­sory body or as­so­ci­a­tion of res­i­dents, es­tab­lish­ment of a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion and re­search ar­chives cen­ter, and an ad­just­ment of the high pro­tec­tion area of the nat­u­ral park to co­in­cide with the core area of the World Her­itage Site.

An­other mon­i­tor­ing mis­sion was car­ried out in 2006 by the World Her­itage Cen­ter to fol­low up on Sin­tra’s sit­u­a­tion and progress, and it was noted that “progress was slow and that the man­age­ment sys­tem has not been adapted to the re­quire­ments un­der the World Her­itage Cen­ter”.

The Par­ques de Sin­tra-Monte da Lua was founded in 2000, and was in charge of man­ag­ing the cul­tural land­scape’s most im­por­tant mon­u­ments and gar­dens.

Nowa­days, Sin­tra has a Sci­en­tific Coun­cil of spe­cial­ists in nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage that ad­vises on pro­tec­tion, con­ser­va­tion and restora­tion is­sues. It has formed part­ner­ships with uni­ver­si­ties and in­ves­ti­ga­tion cen­ters, en­abling the pro­cess of con­ser­va­tion and restora­tion to be sup­ported by mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary stud­ies.

Sin­tra de­pends mainly on tourism rev­enue and vis­i­tors, since it re­ceives no fund­ing from the state. There­fore, its man­age­ment model fo­cuses mainly on gen­er­at­ing rev­enue through in­flows of vis­i­tors, while try­ing to find ways to make tourism sus­tain­able.

It man­aged to at­tract around 2 mil­lion vis­i­tors last year, mean­ing the num­ber of vis­i­tors rose by over 15 per­cent in just a year. Its man­age­ment struc­ture has re­ceived in­ter­na­tional ac­claim, with Par­ques de Sin­tra pick­ing up the World Travel Award for the “World’s Lead­ing Con­ser­va­tion Com­pany” cat­e­gory for the third con­sec­u­tive time last year at an of­fi­cial cer­e­mony in Morocco.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port “Por­tu­gal and World Her­itage, 30 Years of Best Prac­tices,” the pro­grams car­ried out fol­low­ing a meet­ing be­tween site man­agers of World Her­itage sites in Por­tu­gal and the Por­tuguese Na­tional Com­mis­sion for UNESCO in 2014, sus­tain­able tourism has been achieved through “re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and en­hance­ment of the mon­u­ments and parks, the open­ing of new ar­eas to the pub­lic, the im­prove­ment of the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence and the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of ser­vices and ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able such as guided vis­its, the­matic walks, cour­ses and work­shops, cul­tural an­i­ma­tion, cafe­te­rias and shops.”

In ad­di­tion, “sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions have also been im­ple­mented, such as a net­work of foot­paths, elec­tri­cal bi­cy­cles and an eques­trian tourism pro­gram.”

The high flux of tourism in Sin­tra is bal­anced by di­ver­si­fy­ing the pro­mo­tion of points of in­ter­est and cre­at­ing al­ter­na­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, ac­cord­ing to its an­nual ac­counts re­port for 2015.

While con­struc­tion work can be un­pleas­ant for vis­i­tors, Par­ques de Sin­tra-Montes da Lua has en­dorsed the con­cept of “Open for Works”, which means vis­i­tors can wit­ness re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion work close up. Tech­ni­cians are also open to an­swer ques­tions re­gard­ing the works.

The re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the me­dieval kitchen of the Na­tional Palace of Sin­tra, for ex­am­ple, which is no­table for its two chim­neys of around 33 me­ters, was com­pleted in May this year.

The work lasted three months. The ob­jec­tive was to min­i­mize the anom­alies of the 19th cen­tury tiles that cover the walls, cook­ers and ovens among other el­e­ments.

Last year, the coun­cil of Sin­tra and Par­ques de Sin­tra-Monte da Lua signed a pro­to­col to cre­ate an of­fice to mon­i­tor the area clas­si­fied as world her­itage by UNESCO, with the mis­sion to pro­mote and bring to­gether in­ter­ested par­ties through a de­bate of ideas re­gard­ing the man­age­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the her­itage.

An­other ob­jec­tive was to pro­mote sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal stud­ies and to mon­i­tor in­ter­ven­tions by pub­lic and pri­vate en­ti­ties in the pro­tected ar­eas.


Tourists take pic­tures at Ros­sio square in down­town Lis­bon.

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