Launch Slideshow

World Monuments Fund’s 2012 Endangered Sites

World Monuments Fund’s 2012 Endangered Sites

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    Located on the Ganges, Varanasi is one of India’s major Hindu pilgrimage destinations. Among the oldest continuously populated cities in the world, the city contains many dilapidated structures, including the 18th-century Balaji Ghat, a decaying seven-story wooden temple with steps leading down to the holy river.

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    Out of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay (in English, “Descending Dragon Bay”) jut thousands of monolithic limestone islands, each blanketed with thick jungle fauna. Between them are four floating fishermen’s villages, home to 1,600 locals. The region is increasingly threatened by burgeoning numbers of tourists, who have introduced harmful levels of carbon dioxide to the bay’s caves and given rise to a game fishing industry that endangers the bay’s biodiversity.

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    Situated on the Bosporus Straight, Istanbul’s Haydarpasa Railway Station has serviced the Anatolian Express, the Baghdad Railway, and the Trans-Asia Express, which runs from the Turkish capital to Tehran, Iran. In 1978, the station was damaged by a fire aboard an oil tanker on the straight. Though the station was quickly restored, another fire in 2010 caused more serious structural damage.

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    A blitz by the German Luftwaffe in 1941 almost completely destroyed the Cathedral Church of St. Michael, a 15th-century Gothic landmark in Coventry, England. Only the spire, the outer walls, and a bronze statue and tomb of the church’s first bishop remain. More recently, the ruins have suffered severe water damage.

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    This bus station in Preston, England, is one of three British Brutalist landmarks on the 2012 World Monuments Watch list, along with the Birmingham Central Library and London’s South Bank Centre. Engineered by Ove Arup and Partners, the station features distinct curving balconies that are, according to Arup, gentler on cars’ bumpers. Twice denied a listing by the Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England, the bus station now faces demolition. In 2005, the Preston City Council and a development group owned by the Duke of Westminster signed an agreement calling for the leveling of the structure.

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    Founded in 1698, the city of Jacmel, in southern Haiti, is the capital of the country’s Sud-East Department. In the late 19th century, wealthy coffee merchants adorned their mansions with wrought-iron balconies and pillars from France, an aesthetic that later influenced the architecture of New Orleans. In January 2010, the city was devastated by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck the country.

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    Located in Spain’s Extremadura region, the town of Trujillo was colonized by Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Berbers before Christians incorporated it into the kingdom of Castilla in 1232. It is perhaps best known as the birthplace of conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Today, fields outside the town’s ramparts are threatened by the expansion of a solar farm.

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    Sharks, hummingbirds, and the monkey above are among the hundreds of animals found in the cryptic ancient geoglyphs etched into the dry, 60-mile-wide plateau between the Peruvian towns of Nasca and Palpa. Drawn between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D., the beguiling lines may have been irrigation schemes, astrological calendars, or giant graphic attempts to communicate with the gods. Increasing numbers of tourists have necessitated a master plan for the site’s preservation.

The World Monuments Fund has announced its 2012 Watch List, the organization’s biennial roster of historic sites endangered by natural disasters, inadequate funding, tourism, and development. Since its launch in 1996, the list has featured 688 sites in 132 countries. This year, the fund flagged 67 flailing structures, districts, and cities, including a ruined cathedral in Coventry, England, a Turkish train station, and a colony of floating fishermen’s villages in Vietnam. Open the slide show on the left for a look at eight of the most stunning—and imperiled—spots on the list.