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Home News Desk China Earthquake: World Heritage in Danger

China Earthquake: World Heritage in Danger PDF Print E-mail
260px-dujiangyan_irrigation_system.jpgThe deathtoll from the earthquake which hit southwestern China on Monday 12 May continues to rise alarmingly, and it may be that more than 20 000 people have died.  For the moment efforts are of course focused on rescuing people who are trapped in fallen buildings, or cut off from relief supplies.  When circumstances permit an evaluation of the damage caused by the tremor, it seems likely that serious damage will have been sustained by one of China's most recent World heritage sites.

The epicentre of the quake was very close to Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, which were entered onto UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites in 2000.  The irrigation system was begun in 256BCE and involved digging a channel through a mountain to prevent meltwaters from flooding the Dujiangyan area.  Not only was the region spared regular floods thereafter, but  the runoff was used to irrigate much of the Sichuan basin, helping make it one of the most agriculturally productive areas in China.   One of the temples erected near the irrigation system contains the oldest known stone statue of a human in China.

300px-leshan_buddha_statue_view.jpgOther UNESCO World Heirtage sites near the epicentre of the earthquake are the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, Mount Emei and the Giant Buddha of Leshan, with the larget stone-carved Buddha in the world, the Dazu Rock carvings, and it is also not yet clear whether any damaged has been done to them.

As reports come in of aftershocks and termors being felt many hundreds of kilometers away from the epicentre in provinces right across China, is seems likely that many historic temples and other builings may be damaged, even if they are not particularly close to Dujianyan.


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