The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared it a World Heritage Site because of its mud-brick construction. And that has created problems for the people who live there, because their mud-brick houses are difficult and expensive to maintain. We look at the tensions created between the desire to preserve important heritage sites and the needs of the people who live in them.


UNESCO Sites - Pamela Jerome

We started this segment with a clip from Saleheena Sufuntera. He's a travel agent in Djenne, Mali. Djenne is a World Heritage Site. Most of the city is composed of mud brick buildings including the imposing Grand Mosque. It was first built in the 13th century.

The current incarnation is more than 100 years old. It has dozens of towers and turrets. It's the largest mud building in the world. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization -- UNESCO -- designated Djenne a World Heritage Site as a way of trying to protect the city's unique architecture.

But Saleheena Sufuntera complains that the work of maintaining the buildings falls to regular citizens and he says he feels burdened with the task of preserving a town that is increasingly difficult to live in. Saleheena Sufuntera also says the regulations that come with being a World Heritage Site make it difficult for him to make other kinds of changes to his house.

There are benefits that come with the World Heritage Site designation. Millions of dollars have been poured into Djenne to maintain the Grand Mosque. And other towns and cities have used their heritage designations to boost tourism. But Djenne isn't the only place where the designation is ruffling feathers.

Pamela Jerome sits on the board of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a body that advises UNESCO about conservation at World Heritage Sites. She was in New York City.

UNESCO Sites - Kishore Rao

A World Heritage site can be anything from a mountain to a forest...a building to a city. UNESCO has designated more than 900 sites in 151 countries. In the almost forty years since the world heritage convention was adopted, only two sites have been de listed -- one in Oman and one in Germany.

Last year 21 new sites were added including a 15th century citadel in Saudi Arabia and the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site in the Marshall Islands. Kishore Rao is the Deputy Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Center. He was in Paris.

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