World Heritage Sites: Protecting Cultural Treasures


Visitors at the Abu Simbel Temples
Photo by schmaeche via Flickr

Liz Waid and Luke Haley look at places around the world that are protected by UNESCO. They are special World Heritage Sites.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Luke Haley. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

What do the following three places have in common: the Serengeti Desert, Edinburgh’s Old Town and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve?

Voice 2 

The Serengeti Desert is in Tanzania and Kenya, Africa. It contains thousands of kilometers of dry grasslands. It also has many rare kinds of animals.

Voice 1 

Edinburgh’s Old Town is in the capital city of Scotland. It has many old buildings and streets. There are very few new buildings in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Voice 2 

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is near Mexico City in Mexico. It has beautiful flowers and forests. It is also the home of millions of butterflies in the winter.

Voice 1 

These three places are very different. But they are all under special protection by UNESCO: the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. They are World Heritage Sites. Today’s Spotlight is on UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Voice 2 

The story of World Heritage Sites begins more than 3,000 years ago. At that time, the great king of Egypt built many temples. These holy places were extremely large structures. But after thousands of years, people forgot about the temples. Sand covered them.

Voice 1 

Stories tell of a young boy named Abu Simbel who found the temples. Abu Simbel lived in Egypt 200 years ago. He liked to explore the desert. Sometimes, when the wind blew, Abu Simbel would see something under the sand. He saw mysterious shapes made of rock. One day, he took an expert in Egyptian history to see the place. The expert knew that the structure was a hidden temple. Soon after this, a team of scientists dug the temples out of the sand.

Voice 2 

The ancient temples of Ramsis were officially re-discovered. But they were not safe. More than 100 years later, the government of Egypt planned to build a dam on the Nile River. The dam would make electricity for Egypt. But it would also create a large lake. And the lake would cover the temples in water.

Voice 1 

Many people around the world did not want the temples destroyed. They felt that the place was an important part of world history. UNESCO agreed. The organization raised 40 million dollars from around the world to save the temples. From 1964 to 1968, engineers took the temples apart in many pieces. They rebuilt them. The temples were now 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the Nile River. Today, they are called the Abu Simbel Temples, in memory of the young boy who first found them.

Voice 2 

The effort to save the Abu Simbel Temples was a success. UNESCO saw that this was valuable work. In 1972, they formed the World Heritage Committee. Every four years, member nations elect the World Heritage Committee. 21 nations form the Committee. This group protects places on the earth that are of great cultural or natural value in the history of humanity. These places could include a forest, mountain, lake, island, desert, building, or city.

Voice 1 

For example, Los Glaciares National Park is in Argentina. This protected natural area is an official World Heritage Site. The park is part of the ice fields of the Andes Mountains. It has amazing blue lakes and icy glaciers. Other World Heritage Sites in Argentina include Christian churches and an ancient system of mountain roads. Many countries have a large number of natural and cultural treasures like these. They want to protect these special spaces.

Voice 2 

Any country in the world can ask for protection from UNESCO. The countries send a list of places to the World Heritage Committee. Once a year, the World Heritage Committee meets. They look at the choices from around the world. They ask questions like: Does this place demonstrate great human creative achievement? Is it important in human history, values, or cultural tradition? Does it have amazing and wonderful natural beauty? Is it important for the environment or the earth’s ecological history? Then the committee votes on which places to protect. When they choose a place, it officially becomes a World Heritage Site.

Voice 1 

As of 2014, there were 1,007 World Heritage Sites. 779 are cultural. 197 are natural. And 31 are both. World Heritage Sites receive a lot of attention and interest from around the world. This helps governments raise money to protect them. The sites can also receive money from UNESCO. This money helps to maintain them and keep them safe.

Voice 2 

One place that needed this protection was the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan. Today, Afghanistan is an Islamic country. But hundreds of years ago, much of it was Buddhist. In the 6th century, Buddhist monks built large statues of Buddha. They were the tallest standing statues of Buddha in the world. Many people thought these statues were a great global treasure. People came from all over the world to see them. They represented an important part of cultural history, when East and West began to meet. They also represented a huge engineering achievement.

Voice 1 

But in 2001, the Taliban government in Afghanistan destroyed the statues. Worshiping any statues or images other than God is against the values of Islam. The Taliban declared that the statues were a violation of Islam. Many governments, even Islamic governments, tried to stop the Taliban. But the Taliban still destroyed the statues.

Voice 2 

However, in 2003, the Taliban lost control of the Afghan government. After this, UNESCO declared the Bamiyan Valley a World Heritage Site. UNESCO paid to protect the remains of the historical places in the Bamiyan Valley. But there is still conflict and unrest in the Bamiyan Valley. The cultural remains there are still in danger. Watch for another Spotlight story on World Heritage Sites that are in danger of destruction, like the Bamiyan Valley.

Voice 1 

What places have cultural, natural, or historical value to you? Why do you think they are worth protecting? Tell us about your experiences. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can even share your photos on our Facebook page! You can find us on Facebook by searching for Spotlight Radio.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘World Heritage Sites: Protecting Cultural Treasures’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What are some natural or cultural treasures where you live? What does your community or government do to protect these places?

Comments


JoaoVBR's avatar
JoaoVBR
said on April 08, 2015

It is very important protect historical places of the humanity. These sites represent a symbol of the culture of the age when it was built. So, I’m sure that UNESCO is doing a valuable work.

However, it is a pity that groups like Taliban are destroying these incredible places, just based on a religious reason. I hope that they figure out what is really important to do, instead of damage it.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 10, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight
Subject: answer to the question above
Date Sunday 10, April 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Luke haley, and Jen Hawkins:

Once more I want to thank you to develop more one important theme for us readers and learners of English so these themes have helped me to improve my English skill so much. Thanks!
Places have cultural, natural, or historical value to me are those original places where our grandparents and parents told us stories about them and have an important value for them to keep them protected. I think these places are Worth proctecting because they are important to the environment, people, animals, and world to see their beauties.
In Brazil there are a lot of natural or cultural treasures. For example: The Amazon forest. But one place in which I like so much is THE HISTORICAL CENTER OF OLINDA in RECIFE PERNAMBUCO where I was born. This important place was founded by the PORTUGUESES people in the sixteenth (xvi)century .  The city has a connection with the production of sugar. In this important and beautiful place there are several churches and trees around. Besides, the Atlantic ocean is around it.  Also, it receives a lot of tourists every years to enjoy it. This place was proctected by EDUARDO CAMPOS whom was the Governor of PERNAMBUCO and UNESCO. Now, this important place is being protected by the current Governor EDUARDO CAMARA and UNESCO. This is a safe place to visit. There are many Police Officers to protect the local people and tourists but it is always good to pay attention at everything around. Thanks!

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
São Paulo SP Brazil