Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Heritage recognition draining local coffers -

Heritage recognition draining local coffers -

The famous Diaolou Towers site in Kaiping, Guangzhou Province, is struggling to make ends meet in order to preserve and live up to its UNESCO World Heritage status bestowed upon it by the UN organ.

The site is renowned architecturally for its well-preserved, fortified, multi-story towers built by overseas Chinese in the 1920s and 1930s.

The towers, added to the World Heritage List in 2007, are in need of 230 million yuan ($34.5 million) to prevent them from further deterioration, the Guangzhou Daily reported, citing Feng Lijian, local Party chief of Kaiping.

Zhang Guoxiong, a preservation specialist of the Diaolou site at Wuyi University in Guangdong, told the Global Times that among 1,833 such towers still standing Wednesday, a total of 501 need special preservation, but the maintenance has either proceeded slowly or come to a halt due to the shortage of funds.

The 230 million yuan is what the site needs to spend to fulfill the commitment it made six years ago when it was bidding for the UNESCO title, and the need for money is becoming increasingly urgent because the site is due to be reviewed by UNESCO in 2013 to make sure the property has been properly protected and not become over-developed, Zhang said.

Zhang also noted that fixing up each building could cost upwards of 100,000 yuan each. The repairs include waterproofing, guarding against lightning, fixing up roads, reinforcing concrete structures and general appearance improvements.

Tan Jinhua, another expert on the site's preservation, from the Guangdong Qiaoxiang Culture Studies Center, said only routine maintenance can be guaranteed, as special maintenance measures, including those protecting against acid rain and geological settlement, fall short of funding.

"Ticket income can hardly pay for the routine maintenance costs. The preservation of these towers has become a heavy burden on us," Tan said.

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