We ourselves are a threat to the world’s cultural heritage and we are not aware of it. This was what UNESCO was telling us, and reminded us again this past year. The Ohrid region, which is the only area in the country protected as a world cultural heritage, is under threat yet again. In a period when the Albanian side of Ohrid Lake is waiting to be added to the list of protection under UNESCO, we, on this side of the lake, are obviously working on getting deleted.
In the latest draft report to be considered at the July conference in Baku, UNESCO proposes that the Ohrid region be added to the list of endangered, or cultural heritage sites under threat of destruction. And just for comparison, I will mention some of the other world’s cultural heritage sites that are already added to the list of endangered sites and why they are there. Five national parks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are listed on the list of endangered world cultural heritage sites. Such a decision was made because of the war and civil conflicts in that region. Due to military action the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan also suffered damage, this cultural landscape was placed on the World Heritage List in 2003, and at the same time it was placed on the list of endangered.
Furthermore, the remarkable archaeological and historical heritage of the Zabid town in Yemen has seriously deteriorated in recent years and ended up on the list among other endangered sites. Even 40 percent of its original and authentic construction of houses were replaced by concrete buildings (hmm sounds familiar, although perhaps not specifically for Ohrid).
The old citadel and the surrounding cultural landscape of the Iranian city of Bam, where 26,000 people lost their lives in the December 2003 earthquake, were also listed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO and the World Heritage List at risk. The list also contains the seven world cultural heritage sites of Syria that were destroyed in the ongoing war. The list contains a total of 54 endangered world cultural heritage and among them are poor countries that are underdeveloped, countries that face military conflicts and countries that lack the capacity to properly care for their cultural heritage.
But two countries draw special attention, namely Austria and the United Kingdom. Austria “managed” to win a spot on this list two years ago, with the center of the capital city of Vienna, which is protected as a historical world cultural heritage site.
However, due to the overcrowding of the city center with skyscrapers, Vienna was placed among the endangered cultural heritage sites. Seven years ago, Liverpool was also added to the list of cultural heritage sites at risk, as the government decided to implement the Liverpool Waters Project, for which the World Heritage Committee considered will severely compromise the protected area. The list of UNESCO-protected cultural heritage in danger also has examples that have been removed from this list. Such were the cases with Pakistan and the Philippines when they accepted the implementation of effective measures, so they saved the Shalamar Gardens in Pakistan and the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.
It is getting more and more certain that the Ohrid region will be added to the list og sites in danger, and the activists from Ohrid have already pointed their fingers to the businessmen, the powerful and the politicians. At one point we heard rumors about how they plan to build a banister around Ohrid Lake, and now we are waiting for a hotel to be built near Lagadin.
Fortunately, Macedonia is neither in war, nor any kind of a natural disaster has occurred. But one thing is for sure – we are our own natural disaster.