Amazing places saved from destruction



Slide 1 of 33: Overtourism, climate change, human development and nature threaten the existence of some of the world’s most amazing sights, but it's not all doom and gloom. Many incredible places and monuments have been saved from destruction and preserved for future generations thanks to heritage bodies, government intervention, crowdfunding or community activism. Here are some special places that are still standing, despite it all.
Slide 2 of 33: Built in 1900, this historic lighthouse perched on a sand dune on the northern Danish coast was looking set to topple into the North Sea. After decades of being battered by the wind, waves and sand, the cliff on which the lighthouse stood had been eaten away. Originally, the lighthouse stood 660 feet (200m) from the sea but erosion has reduced that by seven foot (2m) a year until it stood a few strides away from the edge.
Slide 3 of 33: Usually a popular tourist attraction on North Jutland island's striking coastline, the local authority decided to move the historic structure inland to save it from its briny doom. The amazing feat took place in October 2019 when a huge team of experts and community volunteers helped put the lighthouse on wheels and rails to haul it some 260 foot (80m) away from the North Sea.
Slide 4 of 33: Stumbled upon by a teenager and his dog in the 1940s, the Lascaux cave in southwest France’s Vézère valley region is filled with remarkable prehistoric paintings and engravings that are over 17,000 years-old. It was opened to the public but closed in 1963 in order to preserve the ancient art. Hordes of tourists had began to take their toll on the priceless walls, with the heat, humidity and carbon dioxide they brought with them threatening to damage the paintings. Mold and lichen had begun forming on the artwork in alarming levels.

Slide 5 of 33: The paintings were restored and a monitoring program is in place, but the UNESCO World Heritage Site remains closed to preserve its integrity. While visitors are not permitted into the original cave complex, various replicas allow people to experience the incredible prehistoric artwork of horses, deer and mammoths. A spectacular full-scale replica at Le Centre International de l'Art Pariétal, complete with recreated cave atmosphere, was opened in Montignac in 2016.
Slide 6 of 33: Tasmania is celebrated for its tangle of temperate rainforests and wild rivers but in the 1970s they were under serious threat. Government plans to flood part of the Franklin River to create a dam would have drowned some of its native forest and reduced critical wildlife habitats. The plan divided public opinion leading to mass protests and years of wrangling. In 1983 incoming prime minister Bob Hawke pledged to stop the dam. In 1982, the World Heritage Committee included the Western Tasmanian Wilderness National Parks into the World Heritage List – the area covered was later extended.
Slide 7 of 33: Another controversial dam project raged in Egypt in the 1960s. A dam on the Nile, just south of the city of Aswan, threatened to drown many priceless antiquities of the Nubian Valley including the rock-hewn twin temples of Abu Simbel. UNESCO launched its first-ever collaborative international rescue effort to save the monuments of ancient Nubia. A plan was made to move entire sites piece by monumental piece to higher ground – pictured here is the cavity in the original rock face after the temples had been dismantled and moved to a new site.
Slide 8 of 33: The creation of the Aswan High Dam and the Lake Nasser reservoir, aimed to prevent destructive flooding, generate power and improve irrigation, put many treasures at risk and displaced tens of thousands of people. In a huge collective effort between the Egyptian government and other countries, Abu Simbel was moved and meticulously reassembled above the lake. The collective feat was the catalyst for the creation of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Slide 9 of 33: A Sydney landmark narrowly escaped demolition after a successful campaign to preserve it. The Sirius building, a 1970s public housing complex in Millers Point, was at danger due to redevelopment. The Brutalist icon was placed on the World Monuments Watch list in 2018 and a strong public campaign launched to save it and see it receive heritage status. While the status was not granted, in 2019 the state government announced that Sirius would be refurbished rather than demolished. These incredible landmarks are in danger of disappearing.

Slide 10 of 33: A bitterly fought battle to save one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world, Hasankefy, from being flooded by a controversial new dam has been unsuccessful. But in a glimmer of hope, several of the city’s ancient relics have been saved by the Turkish government. This includes the 800-year-old Artuklu Hamam. In a strenuous operation, the bathhouse was wheeled out of the ill-fated city, which is carved into a plateau of the Tigris River in southeastern Anatolia.
Slide 11 of 33: Another one of the eight historical monuments to be saved from the Ilısu Dam project was the town’s 15th-century Zeynel Bey Mausoleum. It was relocated to an open-air museum near New Hasankeyf, where some of the displaced residents are being reluctantly relocated as the rising river submerges their home. Sadly the colossal dam project will drown numerous Neolithic caves in the area and the ruins of a 900-year-old bridge, which are among other significant historical sites of the ancient Silk Road settlement.
Slide 12 of 33: Lying off Belize’s Caribbean coastline, the Belize Barrier Reef is the world’s second largest barrier reef system. With hundreds of mangrove cays and sandy islands around the reef and its atolls, it's home to endangered species such as marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile, and stunning corals. However, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was inscribed on the In Danger list for almost 10 years due to the irreversible damage caused by harmful coastal construction and oil exploration.
Slide 13 of 33: In a remarkable turnaround, the extraordinarily diverse ecosystem was removed from the list in 2018 after a series of landmark conservation measures were enacted by Belize’s government. These included becoming the first country in the world to put a moratorium on all offshore oil exploration and drilling in their waters. It extended its no-fishing zones and announced a ban on single-use plastic and styrofoam products in 2019. While climate change remains a constant threat, the reef is enjoying the benefits of better protection.
Slide 14 of 33: A striking ancient extinct volcano, Mount Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa. With its forested middle slopes, lower lying foothills and surrounding savannahs, the national park has a high biodiversity. It also lies along the migrating route of the African elephant population. UNESCO inscribed the park in 1997 after serious concerns around illegal logging and marijuana cultivation were addressed by local authorities. Increased patrols, community awareness projects and training of forest guards improved the management and integrity of the site.

Slide 15 of 33: A refuge for the greater one-horned rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger, among other endangered species, Nepal’s Royal Chitwan National Park faced a worrisome threat in the early 1990s. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee questioned the environmental impact of the Rapti River Diversion Project, which looked to threaten critical habitats for the rhinos. The Nepalese government revised their assessment and abandoned the project.
Slide 16 of 33: Human activity once again threatened the sanctity of a critical marine habitat. The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Mexico, the last pristine reproduction lagoon for the Pacific gray whale, was put at risk in the late 1990s by plans to enlarge an existing salt factory to a commercial scale inside the sanctuary. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee alerted the Mexican government to the threats posed, which ultimately led them to refuse permission for the saltworks in 2000.
Slide 17 of 33: The ancient and beautiful Kedarnath Temple in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand has faced down numerous challenges over the centuries. Pictured here is the remote Hindu temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, after catastrophic monsoonal floods inundated the region and washed away hundreds of homes and roads, and killed thousands in 2013.
Slide 18 of 33: Remarkably, the beautiful mountain shrine escaped damage after a huge boulder got stuck behind it and diverted most of the water from hitting the building. It’s not the first time the temple has faced extreme weather – according to a study by geologists, it survived being buried under the snow for almost 400 years. They point to several yellow lines which were formed by glaciers. It’s thought the temple and neighboring area was entirely covered in snow from the 1400s to 1700s, a period known as the Little Ice Age.
Slide 19 of 33: In a landmark decision, the Thai government closed one of its most celebrated beaches in 2018. Idyllic Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands went from a tranquil and pristine beach to world-famous landmark after it appeared in The Beach, Danny Boyle’s 2000 movie adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel. At its peak 5,000 to 6,000 people flocked to the sands daily and an estimated 80% of the bay’s coral was destroyed due to pollution from tourism. Discover other natural wonders facing a perilous future.
Slide 20 of 33: The beach was scheduled to be closed for a few months but this was later adjusted to an indefinite closure to allow time for its ecosystem to recover. According to recent speculation, Maya Bay could reopen in November 2020. Marine biologists have worked to restore the coral and various steps have been taken to help preserve the environment. These include capping future visitor numbers and the construction of an elevated boardwalk from Loh Samah Bay where there will be a pier to stop boats from mooring on the beach. It’s a far cry from the untouched beach that Maya once was but a step in the right direction to protect the fragile beauty spot.
Slide 21 of 33: The world’s oldest bridge, found in Tello in southern Iran, is to be preserved for future generations, thanks to an emergency heritage management project led by the British Museum. The so-called bridge at Tello, which was rediscovered in 1929, was built in the third millennium BC at the entrance of the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu (pictured here). It was more than 130 feet (40m) long, up to 32 feet (10m) wide and built of mud-fired bricks. Now a team of British Museum archaeologists and Iraqi heritage professionals are being trained to protect the bridge and other ancient sites in the region that have been damaged by the Islamic State.
Slide 22 of 33: The extraordinary rock-hewn churches of Lalibela sit at an altitude of 8,200 feet (2,500m) in Ethiopia’s highlands and are highly vulnerable to the climate. In 2007 the World Monuments Fund and UNESCO partnered to erect giant protective screens above several of them, including one on the Church of Saint Emmanuel (pictured). The shelters, which protect them from the erosive effects of rain and sunshine, are controversial but have helped maintain the integrity of the precarious holy sites.
Slide 23 of 33: However, according to the WMF, an ongoing goal of the project is to create a sustainable framework for preservation at Lalibela that will make the construction of more shelters unnecessary and render the current ones redundant. “Skilled craftspeople and appropriate preservation techniques will ensure the site is preserved into the future,” it states.
Slide 24 of 33: Significant buildings associated with the historic civil rights movement in the US were granted official protection by the National Park Service in 2017. Five sites in Birmingham, Alabama, were officially dedicated as National Historic Monuments by President Obama, ensuring their integrity. They were the Kelly Ingram Park, the A.G. Gaston Motel, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Bethel Baptist Church, and 16th Street Baptist Church (pictured). Discover more of America's most important National Monuments.
Slide 25 of 33: It’s hard to believe that one of the world’s grandest stations, St Pancras in north London, was mothballed and bound for demolition. The station, with its towering neo-Gothic façade, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1868, had its heyday in the advent of rail travel and the early 19th century. But in post-war London, St Pancras and the grand West Midlands Hotel fell into decline. In the 1950s and 1960s, British Railways tried to close and demolish the Victorian building a number of times.
Slide 26 of 33: But after a successful campaign, fronted by the poet Sir John Betjeman, St Pancras was given Grade I-listed status in 1967 just days before its demolition date. The station continued to be neglected until it was redeveloped in 1996 as the home of the new high-speed Eurostar service. The restored station was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, complete with a bronze statue of its savior Betjeman sitting on the upper level. Take a look at more famous landmarks that were almost destroyed.
Slide 27 of 33: Another inadvertent poster child for the effects of overtourism and unregulated development is the little outcrop of Boracay. The Philippines authorities dramatically closed the once-idyllic resort in 2018 after its president Rodrigo Duterte declared the island a “cesspool” due to sewage problems. Here green algae can be seen on one of the island's bays, which drew hordes of visitors with visions of its unspoiled beaches and party atmosphere.
Slide 28 of 33: Boracay was closed for a six-month rehabilitation period which included a major garbage clear up and upgrades to sewerage. It reopened with some strict measures in place to help safeguard the resort. While the process is ongoing, it's hoped restrictions on numbers and various other sustainability measures, including the ban of single-use plastic items and no-smoking or drinking policies on its beaches, will limit environmental damage and preserve Boracay’s undeniable beauty.
Slide 29 of 33: As ferocious bushfires raged across parts of Australia in early 2020, a covert mission was undertaken to save a secret grove of Wollemi pines. According to reports, firefighters in New South Wales were enlisted by the local government to save the rare species which are protected in a remote grove somewhere within the Wollemi National Park. The precious prehistoric pines were thought to be extinct until they were discovered here in 1994. The mission, which involved water-bombing aircraft and winching a team down to set up an irrigation system, was successful.
Slide 30 of 33: With its colorful, ornate façades and thatched fishing cottages, Barrio del Cabanyal-Canyamelar is full of character. But the old fisherman’s quarter, near Valencia’s port, was put in jeopardy when a new road project linking the city's center with the port threatened to a demolish a large part of it. The neighborhood was added to the World Monuments Watch list in 2012 and thankfully a decision was taken to stop the project. The local council has since announced that $26 million will go to rehabilitate the neglected area.
Slide 31 of 33: People power came to the rescue of a swath of wilderness in British Colombia set to be deforested in 2019. The sterling community effort, spearheaded by the B.C. Parks Foundation, saw $2.2 million crowdfunded which allowed the charity to buy the land in Princess Louisa Inlet, northwest of Vancouver, from a private owner. The long-term plan for the site, which covers over 1,000 hectares of rugged wilderness, is to transfer the land to BC Parks so it can join surrounding parks to become a vast provincial park around the entire inlet.
Slide 32 of 33: UNESCO launched an international safeguarding campaign in 1972 to restore Indonesia’s remarkable Buddhist temple Borobudur. Constructed in the 8th and 9th centuries, during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty in central Java, the vast mound-like structure was abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle. Hidden by vegetation and volcanic ash, it was brought to the attention of the British ruler of Java, Sir Thomas Raffles, in 1814. A successful restoration of the dilapidated temple was completed in 1983 followed by another in 2010 after the eruption of Mount Merapi did further damage.
Slide 33 of 33: One of Greece’s most significant classical sites, the sanctuary of Delphi in Mount Parnassus, central Greece, was under threat in the 1980s. When the site was nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1987, plans were afoot for an aluminum plant to be built near the scenic site. UNESCO asked the Greek government to find another location for the plant, which it did, and the ancient sanctuary of Delphi joined the list to be protected for future generations to marvel at.

Incredible places that have survived

Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, North Jutland, Denmark

Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, North Jutland, Denmark

Lascaux Cave, France

Stumbled upon by a teenager and his dog in the 1940s, the Lascaux cave in southwest France’s Vézère valley region is filled with remarkable prehistoric paintings and engravings that are over 17,000 years-old. It was opened to the public but closed in 1963 in order to preserve the ancient art. Hordes of tourists had began to take their toll on the priceless walls, with the heat, humidity and carbon dioxide they brought with them threatening to damage the paintings. Mold and lichen had begun forming on the artwork in alarming levels.

Lascaux Cave, France

The paintings were restored and a monitoring program is in place, but the UNESCO World Heritage Site remains closed to preserve its integrity. While visitors are not permitted into the original cave complex, various replicas allow people to experience the incredible prehistoric artwork of horses, deer and mammoths. A spectacular full-scale replica at Le Centre International de l’Art Pariétal, complete with recreated cave atmosphere, was opened in Montignac in 2016.

Franklin River, Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania is celebrated for its tangle of temperate rainforests and wild rivers but in the 1970s they were under serious threat. Government plans to flood part of the Franklin River to create a dam would have drowned some of its native forest and reduced critical wildlife habitats. The plan divided public opinion leading to mass protests and years of wrangling. In 1983 incoming prime minister Bob Hawke pledged to stop the dam. In 1982, the World Heritage Committee included the Western Tasmanian Wilderness National Parks into the World Heritage List – the area covered was later extended.

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Another controversial dam project raged in Egypt in the 1960s. A dam on the Nile, just south of the city of Aswan, threatened to drown many priceless antiquities of the Nubian Valley including the rock-hewn twin temples of Abu Simbel. UNESCO launched its first-ever collaborative international rescue effort to save the monuments of ancient Nubia. A plan was made to move entire sites piece by monumental piece to higher ground – pictured here is the cavity in the original rock face after the temples had been dismantled and moved to a new site.

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Sirius Building, Sydney

A Sydney landmark narrowly escaped demolition after a successful campaign to preserve it. The Sirius building, a 1970s public housing complex in Millers Point, was at danger due to redevelopment. The Brutalist icon was placed on the World Monuments Watch list in 2018 and a strong public campaign launched to save it and see it receive heritage status. While the status was not granted, in 2019 the state government announced that Sirius would be refurbished rather than demolished. These incredible landmarks are in danger of disappearing.

Artuklu Hamam, Hasankeyf, Turkey

A bitterly fought battle to save one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world, Hasankefy, from being flooded by a controversial new dam has been unsuccessful. But in a glimmer of hope, several of the city’s ancient relics have been saved by the Turkish government. This includes the 800-year-old Artuklu Hamam. In a strenuous operation, the bathhouse was wheeled out of the ill-fated city, which is carved into a plateau of the Tigris River in southeastern Anatolia.

Zeynel Bey Mausoleum, Hasankeyf, Turkey

Another one of the eight historical monuments to be saved from the Ilısu Dam project was the town’s 15th-century Zeynel Bey Mausoleum. It was relocated to an open-air museum near New Hasankeyf, where some of the displaced residents are being reluctantly relocated as the rising river submerges their home. Sadly the colossal dam project will drown numerous Neolithic caves in the area and the ruins of a 900-year-old bridge, which are among other significant historical sites of the ancient Silk Road settlement.

Belize Barrier Reef, Belize

Lying off Belize’s Caribbean coastline, the Belize Barrier Reef is the world’s second largest barrier reef system. With hundreds of mangrove cays and sandy islands around the reef and its atolls, it’s home to endangered species such as marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile, and stunning corals. However, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was inscribed on the In Danger list for almost 10 years due to the irreversible damage caused by harmful coastal construction and oil exploration.

Belize Barrier Reef, Belize

In a remarkable turnaround, the extraordinarily diverse ecosystem was removed from the list in 2018 after a series of landmark conservation measures were enacted by Belize’s government. These included becoming the first country in the world to put a moratorium on all offshore oil exploration and drilling in their waters. It extended its no-fishing zones and announced a ban on single-use plastic and styrofoam products in 2019. While climate change remains a constant threat, the reef is enjoying the benefits of better protection.

Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest, Kenya

A striking ancient extinct volcano, Mount Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa. With its forested middle slopes, lower lying foothills and surrounding savannahs, the national park has a high biodiversity. It also lies along the migrating route of the African elephant population. UNESCO inscribed the park in 1997 after serious concerns around illegal logging and marijuana cultivation were addressed by local authorities. Increased patrols, community awareness projects and training of forest guards improved the management and integrity of the site.

Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino, Mexico

Kedarnath Temple, India

Kedarnath Temple, India

Remarkably, the beautiful mountain shrine escaped damage after a huge boulder got stuck behind it and diverted most of the water from hitting the building. It’s not the first time the temple has faced extreme weather – according to a study by geologists, it survived being buried under the snow for almost 400 years. They point to several yellow lines which were formed by glaciers. It’s thought the temple and neighboring area was entirely covered in snow from the 1400s to 1700s, a period known as the Little Ice Age.

Maya Bay, Thailand

In a landmark decision, the Thai government closed one of its most celebrated beaches in 2018. Idyllic Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands went from a tranquil and pristine beach to world-famous landmark after it appeared in The Beach, Danny Boyle’s 2000 movie adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel. At its peak 5,000 to 6,000 people flocked to the sands daily and an estimated 80% of the bay’s coral was destroyed due to pollution from tourism. Discover other natural wonders facing a perilous future.

Maya Bay, Thailand

The beach was scheduled to be closed for a few months but this was later adjusted to an indefinite closure to allow time for its ecosystem to recover. According to recent speculation, Maya Bay could reopen in November 2020. Marine biologists have worked to restore the coral and various steps have been taken to help preserve the environment. These include capping future visitor numbers and the construction of an elevated boardwalk from Loh Samah Bay where there will be a pier to stop boats from mooring on the beach. It’s a far cry from the untouched beach that Maya once was but a step in the right direction to protect the fragile beauty spot.

The bridge at Tello, Iraq

The world’s oldest bridge, found in Tello in southern Iran, is to be preserved for future generations, thanks to an emergency heritage management project led by the British Museum. The so-called bridge at Tello, which was rediscovered in 1929, was built in the third millennium BC at the entrance of the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu (pictured here). It was more than 130 feet (40m) long, up to 32 feet (10m) wide and built of mud-fired bricks. Now a team of British Museum archaeologists and Iraqi heritage professionals are being trained to protect the bridge and other ancient sites in the region that have been damaged by the Islamic State.

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Civil rights landmarks, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Significant buildings associated with the historic civil rights movement in the US were granted official protection by the National Park Service in 2017. Five sites in Birmingham, Alabama, were officially dedicated as National Historic Monuments by President Obama, ensuring their integrity. They were the Kelly Ingram Park, the A.G. Gaston Motel, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Bethel Baptist Church, and 16th Street Baptist Church (pictured). Discover more of America’s most important National Monuments.

St Pancras Station, London, UK

St Pancras Station, London, UK

But after a successful campaign, fronted by the poet Sir John Betjeman, St Pancras was given Grade I-listed status in 1967 just days before its demolition date. The station continued to be neglected until it was redeveloped in 1996 as the home of the new high-speed Eurostar service. The restored station was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, complete with a bronze statue of its savior Betjeman sitting on the upper level. Take a look at more famous landmarks that were almost destroyed.

Boracay, Philippines

Boracay, Philippines

Boracay was closed for a six-month rehabilitation period which included a major garbage clear up and upgrades to sewerage. It reopened with some strict measures in place to help safeguard the resort. While the process is ongoing, it’s hoped restrictions on numbers and various other sustainability measures, including the ban of single-use plastic items and no-smoking or drinking policies on its beaches, will limit environmental damage and preserve Boracay’s undeniable beauty.

Wollemi pines, New South Wales, Australia

As ferocious bushfires raged across parts of Australia in early 2020, a covert mission was undertaken to save a secret grove of Wollemi pines. According to reports, firefighters in New South Wales were enlisted by the local government to save the rare species which are protected in a remote grove somewhere within the Wollemi National Park. The precious prehistoric pines were thought to be extinct until they were discovered here in 1994. The mission, which involved water-bombing aircraft and winching a team down to set up an irrigation system, was successful.

Barrio del Cabanyal-Canyamelar, Valencia, Spain

With its colorful, ornate façades and thatched fishing cottages, Barrio del Cabanyal-Canyamelar is full of character. But the old fisherman’s quarter, near Valencia’s port, was put in jeopardy when a new road project linking the city’s center with the port threatened to a demolish a large part of it. The neighborhood was added to the World Monuments Watch list in 2012 and thankfully a decision was taken to stop the project. The local council has since announced that $26 million will go to rehabilitate the neglected area.

Princess Louisa Inlet, Canada

People power came to the rescue of a swath of wilderness in British Colombia set to be deforested in 2019. The sterling community effort, spearheaded by the B.C. Parks Foundation, saw $2.2 million crowdfunded which allowed the charity to buy the land in Princess Louisa Inlet, northwest of Vancouver, from a private owner. The long-term plan for the site, which covers over 1,000 hectares of rugged wilderness, is to transfer the land to BC Parks so it can join surrounding parks to become a vast provincial park around the entire inlet.

Borobudur temple, Indonesia

UNESCO launched an international safeguarding campaign in 1972 to restore Indonesia’s remarkable Buddhist temple Borobudur. Constructed in the 8th and 9th centuries, during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty in central Java, the vast mound-like structure was abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle. Hidden by vegetation and volcanic ash, it was brought to the attention of the British ruler of Java, Sir Thomas Raffles, in 1814. A successful restoration of the dilapidated temple was completed in 1983 followed by another in 2010 after the eruption of Mount Merapi did further damage.

Delphi, Greece

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