From the birthplace of Jesus to the docklands of Liverpool, these 11 UNESCO sites should be seen before they’re gone.
At risk from dangers like desert storms, deforestation, agricultural enrichment, and modern developments to name a few, the UNESCO has identified 54 sites to be put on the List of World Heritage in Danger. These places face the threat of irreparable damage resulting in the loss of natural or human history forever. Our list rounds up some of the best sites to visit before it’s too late.
Everglades National Park
WHERE: Florida, USA
A favorite with visitors to Florida, its “River of Grass”, the Everglades, is a precious water habitat for a large number of birds and reptiles but also mammals like the endangered manatee and the Florida panther. The vast, nearly flat sub-tropical wilderness has been considered in danger since 2010 due to the ongoing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem and the encroachment of foreign species like the Burmese python, which heavily impacts the wildlife and the food chain in South Florida.
Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City
WHERE: Liverpool, UK
It’s not always national parks or ancient buildings that are listed by UNESCO as world heritage in danger. In Liverpool, six areas in the historic docklands are reminders of the city’s important past as one of the world’s leading trade centers in the 18th and 19th century. The port was a strategic hub during the British Empire and thousands of people passed through while modern dock technology and transport systems were developed. Due to proposed construction activities, the future of Liverpool’s Maritime Mercantile City remains unclear.
Rainforests of the Atsinanana
Because of its separation from any other land masses more than 60 million years ago, Madagascar, similar to places like New Zealand or the Galapagos Islands, is famous for its unique flora and fauna. Many animals, especially primates and lemurs, can only be found on the island off the east coast of Africa and are rare and threatened. The six national parks that form the Rainforests of the Atsinanana are in danger from deforestation, hunting, and gemstone mining as well as agricultural infringement.
Birthplace of Jesus
At risk since 2012, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has been identified as the birthplace of Jesus since the 2nd century. The original church from 339 AD was replaced after a fire in the 6th century though floor mosaics of the original structure remain. Nowadays, the roof is in dire need of repair and maintenance, and polluted air brought on by increased traffic and small businesses in the historic town center of Bethlehem is also negatively affecting the façade.
In the former war-torn region of Kosovo, medieval monuments from the Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture are in danger due to the ongoing political instability in the region hampering successful management and conservation efforts. There are four protected sites: the Dečani Monastery (built for King Stefan Dečanski, and also his mausoleum), the Patriarchate of Peć Monastery (a group of four domed churches), the 13th-century frescoes of the Church of Holy Apostles, and the early 14th-century frescoes in the Church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa.
Selous Game Reserve
This immense sanctuary is one of the largest remaining and protected wilderness areas in Africa and is home to large numbers of elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, black rhinoceros, and crocodiles. A very dynamic ecosystem, the Selous Game Reserve remains relatively undisturbed by human impact, however, UNESCO would like to address key issues like poaching, sufficient benefits for local communities, better management of hunting and photographic tourism, and threats related to exploration and extraction of natural resources like minerals and oil.
While the mighty pyramids in Egypt are withstanding the test of time, the early Christian settlement of Abu Menu, which was built over of the tomb of the Egyptian saint Menas of Alexandria, is not. Buildings in the holy city like basilicas, houses, and workshops, as well as religious centers like the church and a baptistry, are unsupported when the clay soil becomes semi-liquid due to access water. The destruction of cisterns around Abu Menu has resulted in the collapse of several structures and the opening of underground cavities. Officials had to fill the bases of some endangered buildings with sand and were forced to close them to the public.
Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra
Maybe most famous as the home of the orangutan, the tropical rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia are under threat by road development plans and agricultural intrusion. The three national parks of Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park, and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park offer habitat to an estimated 10,000 species of which several are endemic and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Additional problems are caused by illegal wildlife trade and invasive flora and fauna spreading.
Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz
The Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz in southern Uzbekistan is more than 2,000 years old and comprises a collection of exceptional medieval monuments, mosques, mausoleums, and even entire quarters of ancient buildings. As the cultural and political centre of the Kesh region in the 14th and 15th century, Shakhrisyabz’s architecture style had a significant influence on the entire region. While the main monuments are in good condition, UNESCO criticizes the urban developments around the historical center and is asking for a comprehensive conservation and management plan.
WHERE: Federated States of Micronesia
Nan Madol is an archaeological site in Eastern Micronesia and constructed on a series of more than 100 artificial islets adjacent to Pohnpei Island. Constructed with stone and coral fill platforms, the city, the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur Dynasty, was linked by a network of canals (Nan Madol means “spaces between”). The ruins of stone palaces, temples, tombs and residential domains built between 1200 and 1500 CE, are threatened by the siltation of waterways, which causes the unhindered growth of mangroves and undermining existing edifices.
Old Town of Timbuktu
On the list since 2012, the Old Town of Timbuktu, capital of the African country of Mali, is slowly turning to dust. Especially in the 15th and 16th centuries, the ancient golden city was an important intellectual and spiritual center for the propagation of Islam, however, its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore, and Sidi Yahia, are all under threat from desertification, the disappearance of water supplies, and human neglect.