Monday, March 21, 2011

Heavily Touristed Major Sites Do Not Translate Into Protection for Other Sites

120,000 tourists visit Gamarra annually, yet only 5 of the 250 sites in the region are protected.

Despite its status as a major site, Mirador is being devastated, with hundreds of archaeological sites being destroyed annually.

2 million tourists travel to or within Peru to see Machu Picchu, yet there are only three antiquities police officers in the Moche region of northern Peru where over a million people live.

The Global Heritage Fund calls upon Peru and other governments to divert visitors and revenues to local communities and lesser-visited sites. That is undoubtedly a good idea, but unlikely to be implemented. Even if it does get implemented, however, it is far from clear that local buy-in is sufficient in the absence of police. As we see in Egypt, even where the populace has a sense of the importance of archaeological heritage, there are always going to be criminals and hungry people who will have an incentive to loot. Governments need to spend more money for antiquities police.

The problem, of course, is that even countries as rich as the US don't spend the money they should to properly police their sites. For poorer countries the temptation to use tourist dollars for other more pressing social purposes is going to be even stronger. The solution is funding from overseas sources that is earmarked for building site policing capacity. What sources? The US State Department is unlikely to have any such funding available going forward (the Ambassador's Fund is under attack now by Republicans), so foundations, wealthy collectors, and museums are the only ones with the wherewithal.

No comments: