October 5, 2011 / 4:54 PM / in 6 years

Around the world, 67 cultural sites deemed at-risk

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Greek cemetery, a British bus station, stone drawings in Peru and a New York box-shaped building are among the world’s most at-risk cultural heritage sites, a monuments fund said on Wednesday.

<p>The geoglyph of a monkey is seen on the plains of the Nazca desert in southern Peru in this handout from June 2009. REUTERS/Carolina Castellanos/World Monuments Fund/Handout</p>

This year there are 67 at-risk sites in 41 countries and territories on the biennial World Monuments Watch, compiled by the nonprofit New York-based World Monuments Fund, which helps support the preservation of such “treasured places.”

The sites on the 2012 list illustrate a need to balance heritage concerns and the social, economic, and environmental interests of communities around the world, said World Monuments Fund President Bonnie Burnham.

“While these sites are historic, they are also very much of the present -- integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day. Indeed, the Watch reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the earth and of its human heritage,” Burnham said.

Among the sites listed is the First Cemetery of Athens, Greece, which is the oldest cemetery in the city and contains the graves of key Greek figures from the past two centuries. The fund said it is in need of preservation due to neglect.

The Preston Bus Station in Britain was once the world’s largest bus station, but the fund said is now slated for demolition as part of a redevelopment scheme. It is listed by the fund with other modernist British sites -- Birmingham Central Library and London’s South Bank Center.

“These and other buildings like them date from an era in which government had the resources and the will to create major civic buildings,” the fund said. “They are too often seen as impediments to private-sector redevelopment.”

TOOL TO LEVERAGE FUNDING

<p>The monumental tomb of the Georgoula family is seen at the First Cemetery of Athens December 4, 2003. REUTERS/V. Kessari/World Monuments Fund/Handout</p>

Poorly managed tourism is threatening the ancient Nasca lines and geoglyphs in the desert of southern Peru. The giant figures, which were drawn between 500 BC and 500 AD, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the fund said.

In New York City the fund raised questions about the legality of recent alterations to the former Manufacturers Trust Company Building at 510 Fifth Avenue, a small box-shaped building which sits amid the Midtown Manhattan skyscrapers.

“Local advocates filed a lawsuit, and a temporary restraining order on further alterations has been issued,” the fund said.

“While the case seeks to preserve an icon of American modernism, it also serves as an important touchstone for the effectiveness of preservation legislation and policies in the United States, and of the government agencies charged with their enforcement.”

Several sites damaged by earthquakes in Japan, New Zealand and Haiti also made the list.

Since the fund started the watch list in 1996, there has been 688 sites in 132 countries and territories listed.

“The international attention given to watch sites provides a vital tool with which local entities may leverage funding from a variety of sources,” the fund said. “While (the fund) has contributed to date $2.7 million to projects at 2010 watch sites, nearly $27 million has been allocated to the 2010 group by other entities.”

The complete 2012 World Monuments Watch list can be seen at: www.wmf.org/watch

Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Patricia Reaney

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