Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Unfettered economic growth and unchecked mass tourism are endangering Asia's architectural treasures, which could vanish in a few years, a report by the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) warns. To illustrate the situation, the latter has released a list of ten sites that are threatened; they range from a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, where a powerless international community witnessed the Taliban wantonly destroy the Buddhas of Bamiyan in March 2001, to an ancient city in China. Established in 2002 in California, the GHF chose the sites that are most in danger of "irreparable loss and destruction."
"These 10 sites represent merely a fragment of the endangered treasures across Asia and the rest of the developing world," GHF executive director Jeff Morgan said in presenting the report.
The main danger comes from economic growth, which has brought hordes of tourists, but also lawlessness and warfare.
"Heritage is being dramatically undervalued. Thus, the reinvestment and the focus on heritage is lacking today," Morgan said, warning that the endangered sites were doomed without quick help.
"We're going to lose them on our watch in the next 10 years."
The ruins of Ayutthaya (pictured), the ancient capital of Siam (today's Thailand), is one of the sites most at risk.
Declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a world heritage in 1991, it suffered greatly in last year's great flood, which damaged 158 historic monuments.
The Thai government does not have the means or the will to invest the resources experts deem necessary for the site's restoration. At the same time, the historic city has come under threat from vendors and urban development. This had raised concerns that the site might be removed from the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The top 10 endangered sites, according to the Global Heritage Fund, are:
1. Ayutthaya in Thailand, a former Siamese capital known as the 'Venice of the East'.
2. Fort Santiago in the Philippines.
3. Kashgar, one of the last preserved Silk Road cities in China.
4. Mahasthangarh, one of South Asia's earliest archaeological sites in Bangladesh.
5. Mes Aynak, an Afghan Buddhist monastery complex on the Silk Road.
6. Myauk-U, capital of the first Arakanese kingdom in Myanmar.
7. Plain of Jars, a mysterious megalithic site in Laos.
8. Preah Vihear, a Khmer architectural masterpiece in Cambodia.
9. Rakhigarhi, one of the biggest, ancient Indus civilization sites in India.
10. Taxila, an ancient economic crossroads in Pakistan.