Some things in life are worth preserving. In our personal lives, it’s up to us to decide what we wish to keep and what we want to get rid of. When it comes to planet Earth and our general legacy, however, things get a little more complicated. No individual can decide on the fate of something that concerns the world’s entire population. Therefore, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) invoked the World Heritage Sites list, consisting of places having special cultural or physical significance and administered by the World Heritage Committee.
Yet when a site is particularly threatened – by tourism, climate change or whatever other reason – the World Heritage Committee can decide to put it on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They are sites that require major operations and for which “assistance has been requested”. At the moment, the World Heritage in Danger-lists contains, amongst others, the Everglades National Park in the United States, the Ancient City of Aleppo in Syria, and Timbuktu in Mali. Now that the next meeting of the World Heritage Committee is scheduled to take place in Fuzhou, China, from July 16 to July 31, there could be some changes coming up though.
The Unesco advisory bodies have suggested namely to put both Venice and Budapest on the list. And they have quite good reasons to do so. In Venice, tourism is threatening the conservation of the city. The mass tourism and the cruise ships transporting all those people to Venice, in particular, make the City of the Doges a worthy candidate to join the World Heritage in Danger list. Even though the city has made efforts to adopt a tourism management strategy, those efforts are being tempered by the national legislation and have had little to no effect so far.
Budapest’s construction sites
And we already said so but Venice is not the only contestant to join the list. The Hungarian capital Budapest is also being threatened, yet by a very different kind of danger. Especially the banks of the Danube and the Buda castle district would be targeted if the city would be put on the list. Indeed, those parts are affected by “untimely” demolitions and large-scale reconstructions. The construction of high-rise buildings could change the look of the historical city forever. The World Heritage Committee previously made requests to stop any upcoming constructions in the Buda castle district in 2019, yet those requests haven’t led to anything so far. If the district would be put on the World Heritage in Danger list, this should change.