UNESCO wants to place Stonehenge on the list of endangered heritage

UNESCO wants to place Stonehenge on the list of endangered heritage
UNESCO wants to place Stonehenge on the list of endangered heritage

UNESCO wants to place Stonehenge, in the southwest of England, on its list of world heritage in danger, we learned on Monday from the UN organization. The decision is linked to a contested road tunnel project passing near the prehistoric site.

The World Heritage Committee, in a written decision seen by AFP, recommends the inclusion of Stonehenge on this list ‘with a view to mobilizing international support’.

The inscription must, however, still be voted on by the member states of the World Heritage Committee, which will meet in New Delhi from July 21. According to a diplomat interviewed by AFP, the chances are very high that they will validate this decision.

Built in stages between approximately 3000 and 2300 BC, Stonehenge is one of the most important prehistoric megalithic monuments in the world in terms of its size, sophisticated plan and architectural precision.

The famous ensemble is aligned with the axis of the sun during the summer and winter solstices. Its stones erected in mysterious circles attract thousands of people every year on June 21 – curious people, sun worshipers and neo-druids – at sunrise for the pagan solstice festivals.

Tunnel project near the site

Stonehenge is the ‘most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world’ according to UNESCO, which declared it a world heritage site in 1986.

However, the British government gave the green light last July to a road tunnel project near the site. The courts blocked a first version of the project in July 2021, expressing fears regarding its environmental impact.

The road network manager National Highways explains that this renovation project for the A303, a busy road, will make traffic flow more smoothly and that the approximately three kilometer long tunnel will reduce the inconvenience linked to road traffic near the site.

Project at risk, according to experts

But a panel of specialists estimated that this risked causing ‘permanent and irreversible harm’.

The tunnel would be dug within the perimeter of the site, the diplomat said. London decided to validate this project ‘despite repeated alerts from the World Heritage Committee since 2017 and repeated warnings from its experts,’ he continued.

Rarely, in 2021, UNESCO decided to remove the merchant port of Liverpool from its world heritage list after renovation work which had, according to the UN organization, ‘undermined the authenticity and integrity of the site’.

/ATS

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