What world treasures and irreplaceable sites should you try to see – before they disappear?
Only one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" is still around today. Of the noted ancient architectural feats undertaken from about 2700 B.C. to 270 B.C., only the Egyptian Pyramids at Giza have survived the ravages of time, fires, earthquakes and conquests.
The ancient Greeks and Romans are said to have initiated the original "Seven Wonders" list, as an early travel guide of sorts. Keeping this in mind, what world treasures and irreplaceable sites should you try to see – before they disappear?
Newsweek lists the following "7 Most Endangered World Treasures":
• Luxor, Egypt. Dating back to the 14th century, B.C., the Luxor temple complex includes the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and more than 40 temples. These temples, built on the west bank of the Nile, are threatened by not only the ravages of tourism and theft, but by the Nile itself. The Aswan Dam, constructed 40 years ago, has caused salt to build up in the newly fertile soil around the complex, eroding ancient foundations and filling many tombs with water. The World Monuments Fund is working on a management plan for the site and hopes to introduce the biggest renovation since Alexander the Great.
• Babylon, Irag. This ancient settlement of "hanging gardens" fame was built by King Nebuchadnezzar. Since the ruins were uncovered at the turn of the 20th century, valuable artifacts have been removed, damaged and contaminated. Saddam Hussein installed a giant self-portrait on the site, and the recent US military incursion crushed many of the ancient roads. A British Museum report urges an international effort to restore the site.
• Coral Triangle, Indonesia. The Coral Triangle hosts one of the most diverse collections of marine life in the world, with more than 3,000 species of fish and 600 varieties of coral, a full 75 per cent of those known to science. This eco-system, extending from the waters of eastern Indonesia to Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and parts of Malaysia and the Solomon islands, is threatened by overfishing as well as destructive fishing, whereby explosives or poisons are used to kill the fish -- and at the same time, permanently destroy the habitat. Species such as grouper and Napoleon wrasse have already been fished to near extinction. Rising sea temperatures have also led to increased periods of coral bleaching, which kills the reefs.
• Machu Picchu, Peru. Built around 1460 and discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, this ancient Inca city has become Peru's most popular tourist attraction, drawing half a million visitors a year. Constant foot traffic has destabilized the ancient stone foundations of the mountain ruins. Further, development near the site is exacerbating the problem of landslides. Peru has recently limited the number of visitors to 500 per day and closes the site for one month every year to make repairs.
• Maldives. This nation of 12,000 islands contains some of the richest marine life in the world. But with 80 per cent of its land less than a meter above sea level, the entire country is at risk of sinking. The Maldives are particularly endangered by rising sea levels caused by global warning. The 2004 tsunami has already erased some small atolls, and the country's maps have been redrawn. Conservationists are regrowing damaged coral reefs in an attempt to prevent further erosion.
• Venice, Italy. This famed city is yet another potential victim to rising water levels. Since it was settled in 452, the city has been sinking at a rate of more than one centimeter a century. The plate on which Italy sits is slipping, causing the Adriatic Sea to rise. Contributing to the problem are heavy-industry workers pumping groundwater from below the city and huge tidal waves left by freighters and cruise ships.
• Great Wall, China. Built in the fifth century B.C., and strengthened by the 14th century Ming dynasty, two thirds of China's most famous landmark has been destroyed by erosion, commercialism and overdevelopment.