This World Heritage Week, we look back at world heritage sites that are proof that timely action to address a situation leads to success stories of restoration. By Ritika Dixit
From illicit excavations to natural or man-made circumstances and situations, these world heritage sites have been to the List of World Heritage in Danger, and have come out of it. With assistance from experts, solutions for deteriorating situations of damage have brought these world heritage sites back to life.
1. The Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia
One of the finest medieval cities in the world, the Old City of Dubrovnik provides a panoramic view of the Pearl of the Adriatic and the surrounding lush greenery. The stunning Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings have stood the test of time and multiple earthquakes as well. The city was gravely damaged by the artillery fires of November and December 1991, following which it was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger. With technical and financial assistance from UNESCO, the Government of Croatia rebuilt damaged palaces, restored the facades of the Franciscan and Dominican cloisters and repaired the roofs. The restoration took 7 years and in December 1998, the Old City of Dubrovnik was restored to its old-world charms and removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
2. The Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
The site is home to 300 km of galleries which contain popular artworks with altars and statues sculpted in salt. The mine holds great value as it is a monument of materials and spiritual culture in Poland. At the end of the 19th century, the introduction of artificial ventilation seriously threatened the site because of increased humidity levels. It took 9 years of joint efforts by both, Poland and the international community, to install an efficient dehumidifying system which restored the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
3. Angkor, Cambodia
This important archaeological site in South-East Asia has preserved magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer empire. Illicit excavation, pillaging of archaeological sites and landmines were some of the main problems that plagued this site of historic importance. In 1993, UNESCO, in coordination with the archaeological directorate of the Cambodian government, embarked upon ambitious plans to safeguard and restore the historic site through numerous conservation and restoration plans and activities. Thus, in 2004 Angkor was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger and returned to its former glory.
4. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
This conservation area is home to the vast volcanic Ngorongoro and the ‘Big 5’ game — that is, elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos. Huge herds of wildebeests and zebras are a regular sight in the area too. Due to overall deterioration of the site because of the lack of management, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was listed in the endangered category in 1984. After continuous monitoring, planning and technical cooperation projects, the site was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger five years later in 1989. Thus, the site became a story of successful restorations in the history of UNESCO World Heritage.