From Machu Picchu to Notre Dame: 25 of the world's at-risk cultural places

World Monuments Fund (WMF) this week announced a watch list of 25 places that are at risk from threats like urbanisation, political turmoil or natural disasters.

Machu Picchu is one of the at-risk cultural site added to the World Monuments Watch 2020 ©sunsinger/Shutterstock

From prehistoric ruins to social justice monuments, many sites around the world are at risk of disappearing. In Peru, a new airport in Cusco threatens the preservation of Machu Picchu. In Texas, a redevelopment plan threatens to destroy the San Antonio Woolworth Building, a landmark of the African-Civil Rights movement. In Spain, mass tourism threatens Córdoba's characteristic courtyard homes. And in Paris, the destructive fire at Notre Dame earlier this year threatens the future of the landmark cathedral.

The loss of these treasures won't happen overnight. It's happening slowly. It's happening now. And you might not realise until it's too late. That's why WMF added them to the 2020 World Monuments Watch, along with 21 other places of great historical, social and cultural significance.

Córdoba is internationally known for its courtyard houses but they're suffering from depopulation as residents seek a life away from mass tourism ©Balate Dorin/Shutterstock

Published every two years, the World Monuments Watch highlights how such places are at-risk from threats like encroaching urbanisation, political turmoil, natural disaster and violent conflicts. This year's list was selected from among 250 nominations by an independent panel of preservation experts to be awarded grants from donors like American Express and the Stavros Niarchos Fund.

"The 2020 World Monuments Watch includes iconic treasures like Easter Island [Rapa Nui National Park] and socially-significant sites like the San Antonio Woolworth Building, reminding us that cherished places are determined not just by their architectural value, but also by their impact on communities around the world," said Bénédicte de Montlaur, CEO of the WMF. 

The US government has reduced Bears Ears by 85% ©Getty Images

In the US , as well as fighting to save the San Antonio Woolworth Building, the Watch is calling for the government to reconsider its plan for Bears Ears National Monument, which was added to this year's Watch. The sacred land and sites of North American indigenous people have been reduced by 85% under Trump, and there are fears that the plan to manage what’s left of the reduced monument will harm rather than protect it.

The Watch serves as a call-to-action and, reminds people that each site represents an opportunity for conservation and community-led social change. Since its inception in 1996, the Watch has recognised more than 836 sites in need of conservation efforts and has invested over $110 million to Watch sites, while almost $300 million has been allocated by other entities.

2020 World Monuments Watch

- Koutammakou, Land of the Batammariba, Benin and Togo

- Ontario Place, Canada

- Rapa Nui National Park (Easter Island), Chile

- Alexan Palace, Egypt

- Notre-Dame de Paris, France

- Tusheti National Park, Georgia

- Gingerbread Neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti

- Historic Water Systems of the Deccan Plateau, India

- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium, India

- Mam Rashan Shrine, Iraq

- Inari-yu Bathhouse, Japan

- Iwamatsu District, Japan

- Canal Nacional, Mexico

- Choijin Lama Temple, Mongolia

- Traditional Burmese Teak Farmhouses, Myanmar

- Chivas and Chaityas of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

- Anarkali Bazaar, Pakistan

- Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru

- Kindler Chapel, Pabianice Evangelical Cemetery, Poland

- Courtyard Houses of Axerquía, Spain

- Bennerley Viaduct, United Kingdom

- Bears Ears National Monument, USA

- Central Aguirre Historic District, USA

- San Antonio Woolworth Building, USA

- Traditional Houses in the Old Jewish Mahalla of Bukhara, Uzbekistan