Lonely Planet Writer

10 postcards from at-risk UNESCO sites around the world

There are currently over 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites deemed in danger of disappearing forever, according to UNESCOGoCompare Travel have created illustrated interpretations of 10 of these sites to highlight their beauty, cultural value and historical significance.

“The intention behind the project was to pay tribute to these locations, while also potentially revealing the transient nature about the sites that people visiting them wouldn’t necessarily think about,” according to Alex Cassidy who helped put the project together. And with recent news that the U.S and Israel (two locations featured in these illustrations) are dropping out of UNESCO, these illustrations are all the more poignant.

Belize Barrier Reef – Belize

In Belize the barrier reef system is facing the destruction of its mangrove and marine ecosystems. Image by GoCompare Travel

The Belize Barrier Reef is the largest in the northern hemisphere and comprises seven protected sites. The different areas consist of numerous sandbanks, mangrove forests, and coastal lagoons. As well as being home to many threatened marine creatures such as the West Indian manatee and loggerhead turtle, bird colonies such as the red-footed booby are also present on the atolls outside the reef. Due to selling and leasing public lands within the property, the barrier reef system is facing the destruction of its mangrove and marine ecosystems. 

Heritage of Sumatra – Indonesia

The park is at risk due to road development. Image by Go Compare Travel

Comprising three national parks, (Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park), the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra is recognised for its beauty and biodiversity. It is currently at risk due to several factors, including road development plans and agricultural encroachment.

Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works – Chile

The site is vulnerable to damage from earthquake and weather. Image by Go Compare Travel

Situated in the region of Tarapacá in northern Chile, The Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works date back to the 1800s. Due to the infrastructure’s fragility and tough weather conditions, the site is vulnerable to damage from earthquakes and heavy wind. The site has also been subject to looting and as a result, significant material and memorabilia have been lost. 

Everglades National Park – USA

The aquatic ecosystem of the Everglades could be under threat. Image by Go Compare Travel

The Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in North America. It consists of shallow bays and deeper coastal waters as well as fresh water, making it a phenomenal habitat for different types of flora and fauna. The Everglades is deemed to be in danger largely due to changing quantity, timing and distribution of the currents in the Shark River lowering water levels due to urban and agricultural growth, and pollution from upstream agricultural activities. 

Church of the Nativity – Palestinian Territories

Basilica under threat due to urbanisation. Image by: Go Compare Travel

The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories, has been recognised by Christian tradition as the biblical birthplace of Jesus since around the second century. The basilica is built above the location considered the spot of Christ’s birth and parts of the original church’s remains – which survive below ground – were arranged in a way which gave people a view of the cave where Jesus was born. Today, the basilica is under threat due to urbanisation in the surrounding area, as well as suffering from degradation. 

Rainforests of the Atsinanana – Madagascar

Hunting and gem mining are common in the rainforest. Image by Go Compare Travel

Situated on the island of Madagascar, the Rainforests of the Atsinanana represent six national parks spread across the eastern region of the country. The forests are known for their unique biodiversity as well as being the home to various rare and threatened species such as its famous lemurs. Despite the series of properties being formally protected, there are still threats of agricultural encroachment and resource exploitation from logging, hunting, and gem mining. 

Chan Chan Archaeological Zone – Peru

The site is under threat from illegal farming.  Image by: Go Compare Travel

Before the Chimu Kingdom fell to the Incas, Chan Chan was its thriving capital. The Chan Chan Archaeological Zone consists of nine large, rectangular complexes which are split by tall, thick, earthen walls. These units consist of various buildings such as storehouses, temples and homes. Due to its fragile, earthen infrastructure and the extreme environmental conditions of the area, Chan Chan is highly vulnerable to deterioration and decay. The site is also under threat due to illegal farming practices. 

Selous Game Reserve – Tanzania

Selous is one of the biggest wilderness areas in Africa. Image by Go Compare Travel

The Selous Game Reserve in the South of Tanzania is known as one of the biggest wilderness areas in Africa. The reserve is recognised for being a tropical sanctuary where predator and prey dwell together, including elephants, cheetahs, giraffes and crocodiles. The reserve is considered to be in danger due to lack of financial resources and sustainable management. Moreover, illegal activities such as poaching have caused a massive decline in wildlife populations across the reserve, posing a further risk.

Historic Centre of Shakhrisabz – Uzbekistan 

The 2000-year-old site does not have an active conservation plan. Image by Go Compare Travel

Situated on the Silk Roads in southern Uzbekistan, The Historic Centre of Shakhrisabz was established during the rule of Amir Temur and the Timurids, in the 15th-16th centuries. The centre is recognised for its historic monuments and constructions, which are of cultural and political significance. The site is currently at risk due to the lack of a comprehensive conservation and management plan; plus the area has also seen a surge in commercial development which has resulted in demolition and re-building.

Albert Dock & Maritime Mercantile City – England

Liverpool’s Albert Dock was the first non-combustible complex in the world. Image by Go Compare Travel

The Maritime Mercantile City in Liverpool, England, is comprised of six areas that are recognised for displaying the city’s pioneering role in developing modern dock technology, transport systems, port management, and warehouse construction. The site includes the Albert Dock which was the first non-combustible complex in the world and remains a major tourist attraction today. The site is considered in danger due to urban development projects and a lack of management.