British piers, Alabama buildings named among 25 at-risk monuments

A man uses a metal detector on the beach in front of Central Pier in Blackpool, Britain on May 15, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Historical gems around the globe, ranging from a Syrian bazaar and the last active synagogue in Alexandria to England's Blackpool Piers and Alabama civil rights buildings, are threatened by war, disasters and urbanization, a monument conservation group said on Monday (Oct 16).

Days after the United States and Israel said they were quitting UN cultural agency Unesco, the World Monuments Fund announced 25 of the world's at-risk sites on its biennial watch list.

They include rock art at Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape in Zimbabwe, which has been settled for over 100,000 years; post-independence architecture in Delhi, India; and the 1980 Sirius public housing building in Sydney, Australia.

"It is a list and a group of places that tell the story of how we, as human beings and societies, interact with the places that are most important to us and give meaning and definition and identity to our lives," Joshua David, the president and CEO of the WMF, said in an interview before the release of the list.

The New York-based non-profit organization works with governments and communities to preserve heritage sites.

David said the group remained "deeply committed to pursuing our mission of heritage conservation through collaborative international partnerships."

The Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a war-damaged souk in Aleppo, the Old City of Ta'izz in Yemen, Mosul's Al-Hadba' Minaret and the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Nigeria are on the list.

Hurricanes have damaged sites in the Caribbean and earthquakes have destroyed areas of Mexico and the Italian town of Amatrice. Rising sea levels are endangering the Blackpool Piers.

The WMF list also highlights more than a dozen buildings in Alabama that played a role in the US civil rights movement.

"Taken together, these sites provide a historical, social and cultural context that is much greater than the single decade of the 1955 to 1965 period that is commonly referred to in popular culture as the Civil Rights Movement," Priscilla Cooper, of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, told a news conference.

Experts in archaeology, architecture and art whittled down the 2018 list from over 170 nominations by citizens, activists and governments. Since its launch in 1996, the World Monuments Watch has identified 814 sites in 136 countries and territories and contributed some US$100 million (S$135 million) for site preservation.

"What we really want to do is empower communities to protect and conserve and steward the sites that are meaningful to them and we want to help them do that," said David.

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