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British piers, Alabama buildings named among 25 at-risk monuments
NEW YORK, Oct 17: From a Syrian bazaar and the last active synagogue in Alexandria, to England’s Blackpool Piers and Alabama civil rights buildings, historical gems around the globe are threatened by war, disasters and urbanization, a monument conservation group said on Monday.
Days after the United States and Israel said that they were quitting UN cultural agency UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced 25 of the world’s at-risk places on its biennial watch list.
The sites selected include ancient rock art at Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape in Zimbabwe, which has been settled for over 100,000 years; post-independence architecture in Delhi, India; and the 1980 Sirius public housing building in Sydney, Australia.
“It is a list and a group of places that tell the story of how we, as human beings and societies, interact with the places that are most important to us and give meaning and definition and identity to our lives,” Joshua David, the president and CEO of the WMF, said in an interview before the release of the list.
The WMF is a New York-based non-profit organization that works with governments and communities to preserve heritage sites. Its past work has included post-earthquake restoration in Italy, Japan and Mexico and conservation of Cambodia’s Angkor temples. It has raised some $100 million for site preservation.
Despite the US departure from UNESCO, David said the group remained “deeply committed to pursuing our mission of heritage conservation through collaborative international partnerships.”
Also named on the watch list are the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a war-damaged souk in Aleppo, the Old City of Ta‘izz in Yemen, Mosul’s Al-Hadba’ Minaret and the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Nigeria.
“There is no doubt that in recent years we have seen an extraordinary array of devastating attacks on sites of culture due to conflict,” said David.
Natural disasters also played a part, with hurricanes damaging sites in the Caribbean and earthquakes destroying areas of Mexico and the Italian town of Amatrice, also included on the list. Rising sea levels are endangering the Blackpool Piers.
The WMF list also highlights 12 buildings in Alabama that played a role in the US civil rights movement.
Experts in archaeology, architecture and art whittled down the 2018 list from over 170 nominations by governments and other groups. Since its launch in 1996, the World Monuments Watch has identified 814 sites in 136 countries and territories.
“What we really want to do is empower communities to protect and conserve and steward the sites that are meaningful to them and we want to help them do that,” said David.