The Tourist Paradox

World Heritage Sites across the globe are being destroyed by:

The Tourist Paradox.
Dramatic Natural Disasters.
Poor Management

This site is dediated to promote the sites in serious danger in an effort to save them from being lost in time.

I do not own these images and I have sourced the quotes from other material.

If you own anything on this site and want it removed please message me.

The Sandy Observatory

In the scorching plains of Peru rests a small temple and observatory that has sat in the sand for thousands of years.


It has a strange name but the structures visually represent symmetry: beautiful with architectural accuracy. From the academic side Chankillo is a, “ceremonial centre with ritual, administrative and defensive attributes located in the coastal desert just outside the flood-plain of the Casma-Sechín river basin.” For those who aren’t familiar with hardened geography, Chankillo is located in a costal desert in Peru, in South America, one of the world’s driest areas.

As a result of its location, it has fared badly against the elements. Strong winds, humidity, temperature fluctuations, and earthquakes have caused erosion, loss of mortar, and weakening of stone masonry to the historic elements of the site. As a result, stones have cracked and fallen out, causing structural instability and the gradual collapse of walls.

The site has a history of wading off threats. William Harris Isabell in his book titled Andean Archaeology III: North and South states, “Chankillo had significant defences, reflecting the great threats that must have existed at the time. What kind of warfare environment may have characterized the late Early-Horizon period of the north-central coast area to warrant the fortification of temples?”


The solar observatory is ingenious. And it was only revealed as a solar observatory in 2007. Before then, archaeologists and scientists were puzzled. It has a central observatory and above that, thirteen small towers that illustrates the full pattern of the rising of the sun throughout the year. The World Monuments Fund have this site on their Watch List and state, “excavations at Chankillo have indicated that the site was occupied sometime between the mid-fourth century B.C. and the early first century A.D. for a relatively short period of time and was subsequently abandoned, most likely due to violent conflict.”

When the site was inscribed onto their list, there was an instant reaction. In addition to including Chankillo on the 2010 Watch, WMF is participating in the Chankillo Revalorization and Sustainable Development Project.

The first mission for restoration and preservation was laser scanning the entire site. Next the WMF completed a survey that addressed some recommendations from organisations about preservations. The next phases to be carried out between 2011 and 2014 will consist of conservation work, development of a Management Plan, archaeological research and the potential nomination of Chankillo to the UNESCO World Heritage list.


Why does it matter?

The beauty of Chankillo is that its history and origin is complex and mysterious. Currently, no archaeologist can identify a known culture with astrological and engineering knowledge capable of pulling off this site. Radiocarbon studies indicate that Chankillo is over 2,500 years old, making it the oldest astronomical observatory in the Americas.

"Archaeological research in Peru is constantly pushing back the origins of civilization in the Americas," said Ivan Ghezzi, a graduate student in the department of Anthropology at Yale University. "In this case, the 2,300 year old solar observatory at Chankillo is the earliest such structure identified and unlike all other sites contains alignments that cover the entire solar year. It predates the European conquests by 1,800 years and even precedes, by about 500 years, the monuments of similar purpose constructed by the Mayans in Central America."

“Archaeological heritage is a non-renewable source, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”


The Crumbling Ladder to Heaven

As the morning fog evaporates from Peruvian Andes, the magnificent Lost City of Machu Picchu emerges.


The Incan city was built roughly in the 15th century and is one of Peru’s major revenue generators. Approximately 2,500 happy-go-lucky tourists visit the mountain top per day with nearly a million annually.

It was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, who was exploring the neighbouring mountains. However, after surviving half a century of weather and war, Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail are beginning to show signs of decay due to rampaging tourists and inconsiderate pollution.

The Peruvian Government has reviewed the Inca Trail, which is a long goat’s trail that winds up around the mountain. The government has placed a limit on the amount of daily visitors to 400, as well as the installation of a climbing fee of $50 with a guide being obligatory.


This initiative to preserve the site is still not proving effective as pollution along the trail is increasingly visible. This is a very simple issue to rectify. There needs to be a concerted effort between visitors and the government to boost the awareness of Macchu Picchu’s fragility. Pollution not only affects the wildlife and can potentially significantly damage ecosystems along the trail, but it distorts the magic and beauty of the site. Visitors of Macchu Picchu claim it is like exiting this world and being transported to a place between heaven and earth. The fog, the carved architecture and the atmosphere of the environment all add to the experience. However when you see people’s food from the night before or some plastic, it detracts from that experience and bring the site back to earth.

Unfortunately, Macchu Picchu is also suffering from factors that are very difficult to control. The mountain that it rests upon has a very delicate mixture of soil and rock. Under a long period of rain, it is predicted that a huge amount of sediment could be washed away, causing a catastrophic landslide. In January 2010, heavy rain caused flooding which buried or washed away roads and railways leading to Machu Picchu, trapping more than 2,000 local people and more than 2,000 tourists, who were taken out by airlift. Machu Picchu was closed temporarily, but it reopened on 1 April 2010.


Scientists have conducted tests that reveal the soil is moving roughly a centimetre a month. The Inca’s were master craftsmen and legendary stone masons who were able to build walls where it was impossible to slip a piece of paper between the cracks.

However the cracks are showing.  

Machu Picchu is also under threat from consumerism. Several entrepreneurs are seeking to install cable cars and hotels near or on the site. These efforts to gain wealth are being blocked by preservationists as it would ruin its majestic vista, forever destroying the cultural landscape that Machu Picchu looks out to.


The proposed cable car establishment would also be installed on the most landslide prone area in the Andes. Chidakash, a man who created a webpage opposing the installation of the cable car argued that, “There is no question that those interests behind the cable car intend for it to go ahead. It is a major piece in the money-earning potential for the people that have the hotel and railway.” Chidakash is referring to Orient Express, a large corporation owning the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, who is adding to the degradation of Machu Picchu as it denigrates the culture and ambience of the area by establishing a consumerist atmosphere. Jose Canziani, Professor at Lima’s Catholic University warns that the site, “in 10 years’ time, the valley will be like a giant amusement park, like Disneyland.”

Overall, more awareness needs to be shed on the threats that are constantly posing to the site. Last year was the 100th anniversary of its discovery and instead of identifying these threats or educating audiences about things you can do to help; it was a grand celebration of a century. I am not saying celebrations don’t help, but I think there was a perfect opportunity to start repairing and ensuring its survival.

“Archaeological heritage is a non-renewable source, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

A Touch of the Old

The baroque interior, the peeling walls, the faded seats and the rusted metals all preserve India’s only surviving Opera House. The Royal Opera House of Mumbai sits on a busy intersection seemingly invisible. Passersby can marvel at the ornate outer walls and beautiful facade, but the true beauty rests within the walls.


Architecturally, the Opera House is baroque in design and blends both European and Indian styles. it features an array of Italian marble, Minton tile flooring, statues, crystal chandeliers, and a gold ceiling. The entrance archway pays tribute to poets, dramatists, novelists and artists.

When the Opera House was inscribed in the World Monuments Fund’s 2012 Watch List, President Bonnie Burnham said, "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.” Thankfully, the inscription of the building has increased the awareness of its fragility and owner, His Highness the Maharaja of Gondal desperately wants to continue preservation.

In 2008, the Opera House was approved for restoration by the Indian Government as well as the Mumbai Urban Heritage Conservation Committee. However, it’s been a rocky road since 08 and restoration is taking longer than expected.  The approval was received only days before the onset of the monsoon season. This prevented the workers from getting started for many months.


The MUHCC and the Indian government wanted to redevelop sections of the building as a self-sustaining building, which would dramatically alter its beautiful artistry as a whole building. Luckily, the Opera House is listed as a heritage site and therefore it can only be restored. The restoration priorities include the roof and the balconies, with all round touch ups expected.

The Royal Opera House of Mumbai has a proud history.

The ‘royal’ part of the house originates from 1909 when the foundation stones were laid during the British Raj, which was the period that the British Empire exercised control over the nation between 1858 and 1947.


King George was present when the building was inaugurated in 1912 and it served as the jewel of Bombay - mainly because it was the only opera house in the country. It has hosted a variety of performances including the American magician Raymond, several premiers of revered Bollywood movies, as well as live theatre performances by international production companies.

The opera house continued to operate its cinema technology and present the people of Mumbai with Bollywood films til January 1991. The last public event for the building was in 1993 when fashion designer Sangita Kathiwada hosted a show that exhibited most of his works.

In July 2011, three bombs were set off in Mumbai killing 10 people. One of the three bombs were set off at the Opera House. The building sustained superficial damage, however over 50 diamonds were found in the blast site by restoration workers.


While the building looks decrepit, dilapidated and reflects badly on the MUHCC, the Maharaja has said, “The Royal Opera House has played a major role in the context of the city’s fascinating history of theatre and cinema, the list puts the building on the international map and will help get the attention of corporate houses that may want to help the restoration.”

“Archaeological heritage is a non-renewable source, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

Emerald Rice

In the misty, emerald hills of the Philippines rests a culture that has lasted for 2,000 years and still continues today. The Iugao Rice Terraces were inscribed in UNESCO’s famous list of world heritage sites in 1995. However, it is now facing serious management and preservation issues that could jeopardize a two thousand year connection between man and nature.  


The rice terraces are a part of the Ifugao’s culture. It forms an integral part in their religious, socio-cultural, economic and political lives. As you can see from the pictures, the terraces follow the natural landscape of the mountains. The original builders of the rice fields used stone and mud walls to seemingly carve these majestic pools of culture. The builders also intelligently accounted for the Philippines high rainfall, and sometimes floods, and hence built the terraces to hold enough water and let the rest fall down the hillside.

The terraces are such an integral part of the nation that the money generated from tourism is greater than the amount made from making the rice.

In the 1950s, some villages were visited by Christian missionaries and the practicing of traditional Ifugao tribal ceremonies were interrupted. Since the terraces are a huge part of their religious practices, rice production slowed dramatically during that period. Now, luckily the Christianity and Ifguao cultures have found a balance that ensures the continuation of human commitment to the terraces.


Some of the neighbouring terraces have suffered badly as a result of changing climate patterns and hence, large portions of rice have been uncultivated. UNESCO says that the area has received some terrible environmental events such as, “streams drying out, while massive earthquakes have altered locations of water sources and caused terrace dams to move and water distribution systems re-routed.”If that wasn’t enough – last year the area was devastated by Typhoon Nesat in September. The whole area, including the terraces experienced a large amount of mud and landslides that ruined homes and agricultural farms.  A second typhoon crossed over the area the next month and cause much more devastation than the last. The Philippine Authorities had to apply for Emergency Assistance to respond to the situation. UNESCO announced that, “the conservation of the Rice Terraces required substantial and concerted efforts and the World Heritage Centre explored all possible means to respond to the situation as quickly as possible.”


                                                  The deteriorating rice hills 

As the world continues to turn, we are becoming faster, stronger, better and smarter – and more technological.

One of the main issues surrounding the breakdown of the Rice Terraces is globalisation. The farmers used to live without a heavy influence of the outside world. They could farm in peace. However, with the advent of television, fast cars and the idea of a thriving career, the idealistic life of a rice farmer is becoming less and less prevalent in today’s Philippine youth. With the old getting older, the ability to cultivate and maintain the fields that took so long to cement is losing its grip. 25 to 30% of the terraces have already been abandoned and are showing signs of deterioration. UNESCO says, “Rural-to-urban migration processes limit the necessary agricultural workforce to maintain the extensive area of terraces.”

This trend of youngsters leaving the quite little village to take on the big wide world has been happening for at least 20 years. In 1994, a Presidential Commission was instigated to preserve the terraces. A 10 year master plan was devised that would try and cover management, conservation and socio-economic issues. Some of the villages are classified as poverty-stricken and this plan tried to address that which had an encouraging impact.


Seemingly inconsequential. Rice has bound and upheld a community tradition for two thousand years. 

In 2001, the Terraces were placed on UNESCO’s Danger List and consequently, Philippine authorities amped up their attempts at conserving the site. UNESCO, in conjunction with the Philippine government, has begun documenting the damages that have already occurred and started to rehabilitate the site. Laws and policies have been enacted to stem the further decline of the area and UNESCO seem confident that, “Pride of place and culture, including the long term commitment of its indigenous Ifugao stakeholders shall ensure the sustainability and conservation of this living cultural landscape over time.”

I wanted to leave you with a comment that would implore you to understand the fragility of the rice terraces, however I think I’ll leave you with a quote from UNESCO.

“The rice terraces are the only monuments in the Philippines that show no evidence of having been influenced by colonial cultures. Owing to the difficult terrain, the Ifugao tribes are among the few peoples of the Philippines who have successfully resisted any foreign domination and have preserved their authentic tribal culture. The history of the terraces is intertwined with that of its people, their culture, and their traditional practices.

“Archaeological heritage is a non-renewable source, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”