Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

We’re aware of the Guia Hill lighthouse row, says UNESCO

Posted by Kimberly on July 11, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
July 11 2007, page 2 (847 words)

 

While the issue of height restrictions around Guia Hill and its lighthouse remain unresolved, Richard Engelhardt, Asia-Pacific’s Regional Advisor for UNESCO, agreed that the issue was something UNESCO was well aware of.
Speaking at a certificate presentation ceremony at the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) yesterday, Mr Engelhardt said, “ let’s hope that the fact that this centre core of Macau is on the world heritage list…will be able to direct development away from those historic areas.”
He added that “the world heritage committee has already signalled this as something the authorities need to have a look at.
“One of the problems that we have is that UNESCO doesn’t have any laws of our own or a police force of our own.”
Asked whether he had been contacted by any member of the local government in regards to this issue, he said “I have no been contacted but other UNESCO representatives may have but it was not discussed at our last meeting.
“Macau was not discussed at all, but that’s not to say it won’t be on the agenda at our next meeting [in October]” he said.
But he agreed that “you end up with almost no meaning to a lighthouse if you can’t see it from the sea.
Mr Engelhardt also spoke about development and its impact on heritage, saying “development is always a problem when we’re talking about heritage management.
“Many of the tools we develop, like training, is specifically there to address this issue about heritage and development.
“To get people to visit the site and ensure they are not coming here just for the wow factor and that there’s really something to learn.”
The ceremony at which Mr Engelhardt presided over welcomed the first batch of Macau’s UNESCO Cultural Heritage Specialist Guides.
Also present were Dr Chui Sai On, The Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture and Dr Fanny Vong, President of IFT.
Eight trainers and 20 guides were awarded their badges and certificates.
Speaking at the presentation, Dr Vong said, “the revision of legislation in terms of heritage protection is in progress.
“As many of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites have become prominent tourism destinations, the well-being of these landmarks depends upon a new breed of responsible and informed tourist; therefore, heritage guides play a crucial role in educating the visitors about the authentic values of the sites and codes of responsible conduct,” he said.
The Cultural Heritage Specialist Guide Programme was launched in 2005 by the Asian Academy for Heritage Management, which was established by UNESCO, and ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property).
IFT was selected as the regional training focal point for the project, with UNESCO providing “technical advisory services and overall direction.”
Dr Vong agreed that while Macau’s economy has never been better, as a result of the rapid development of the gaming and tourism industries, “the tourism industry has to diversify for sustainable development.”
She added that while protecting Macau’s cultural relics and world heritage was the responsibility of every Macau citizen, the duty of the guides was to “enable visitors to understand the authentic values of cultural heritage and raise their awareness in heritage protection.”
This understanding extends not only to Macau’s heritage, but also to other countries like “Bhutan, India, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. By next year, the growing number of participating countries will also include Cambodia, China and Myanmar,” said Mr Engelhardt, in reference to the training program.
He added that the World Heritage Committee commended the program as being “ a best-practice example of an initiative aiming at integrating the conservation of World Heritage within the wider sustainable development framework for the benefit of local communities.”
He believed that Macau’s role as an increasingly popular destination shows a ready need and market for the Cultural Heritage Specialist Guides.
In response to a question posed about Macau’s booming infrastructure and its impact on the heritage, he said, “we don’t want to say we shouldn’t develop infrastructure because that’s what creates heritage in the first place and people need to upgrade and they need more space.
“The question is how do you integrate heritage conservation into that?
“And one of the big questions in the development of a world heritage management plan for the Macau heritage sites was exactly that; looking at what kind of a quarter represented the heritage and then how that quarter could be protected through buffer zones.
“Buffer zones for development, buffer zones for site guidelines,” he said.
It is unclear whether these buffer zones have been put into place for Guia Hill and its lighthouse, but as Mr Engelhardt said, “we are dependent upon governments having laws and enforcing these laws to make things happen.
“We [UNESCO] have to work with the local administrative and the national legal systems.
“As you are perfectly well aware, there are lots of competing interests in the construction of these laws and the enforcement of them and I would be very naïve if I thought that heritage was the only or the most powerful of those instruments.”

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