NEW YORK: Asia’s architectural treasures, from a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, to the ancient city of Taxila and other Asian architectural treasures are in danger of vanishing under a tide of economic expansion, war and tourism, experts said on Thursday.
The Global Heritage Fund named 10 sites as the most in danger of “irreparable loss and destruction.”
“These 10 sites represent merely a fragment of the endangered treasures across Asia and the rest of the developing world,” the fund’s executive director Jeff Morgan said in presenting a report.
The architectural gems from across Asia’s ancient and sophisticated cultures are struggling in the face of economic expansion, sudden floods of tourists and areas of lawlessness and war.
“We’re looking at these millennial civilizations leapfrogging into the 21st century at a kind of pace that is unheard of, unprecedented,” said Vishakha Desai, president of the Asia Society, which hosted a conference based on the report.
Experts said that architectural preservation has nowhere near the financial and political backing that nature conservancy enjoys.
“Heritage is being dramatically undervalued. Thus, the reinvestment and the focus on heritage is lacking today,” Morgan said, warning that the endangered sites were doomed without quick help.
“We’re going to lose them on our watch in the next 10 years.”
Shirley Young, head of the US-China Cultural Institute, stressed that it was “not really just about beautiful buildings, beautiful sites.”
“I think we’d agree,” she said, “that a world without history is a world without soul.”
The top 10 endangered sites, according to the Global Heritage Fund, are:
1. Ayutthaya in Thailand, a former Siamese capital known as the “Venice of the East.”
2. Fort Santiago in the Philippines.
3. Kashgar, one of the last preserved Silk Road cities in China.
4. Mahasthangarh, one of South Asia’s earliest archeological sites in Bangladesh.
5. Mes Aynak, an Afghan Buddhist monastery complex on the Silk Road.
6. Myauk-U, capital of the first Arakanese kingdom in Myanmar.
7. Plain of Jars, a mysterious megalithic site in Laos.
8. Preah Vihear, a Khmer architectural masterpiece in Cambodia.
9. Rakhigarhi, one of the biggest, ancient Indus civilization sites in India.
10. Taxila, an ancient economic crossroads in Pakistan.