When Egypt decided to construct the New Aswan High Dam on the Nile River in 1959, it faced a problem. The reservoir that would be created would inundate a vast stretch of the Nile Valley, which were dotted with numerous cultural treasures of prehistoric Egypt and ancient Nubia, now in Sudan. The governments of both countries requested UNESCO to rescue the endangered sites. In response, the Director-General of UNESCO initiated a global campaign to preserve the cultural heritage of the both countries.
Member states excavated and recorded hundreds of sites that were previously neglected. They uncovered thousands of objects and relocated a number of important monuments to higher ground, most notably the temples of Abu Simbel and Philae. The campaign lasted till 1980. As a token of gratitude, Egypt donated four of its temples to the countries which contributed the most to the success of the campaign. The temples were relocated to museums in New York City, Madrid, the Netherlands and Turin, Italy.
The success of the project led to other conservations programs. Venice and its lagoon were brought under protection along with the Borobodur Temple compounds in Indonesia and the
ruins of Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan. However, even while the campaign was active in Egypt and Sudan, the UNESCO had initiated the International Council on Monuments and Sites, , which came into effect on 17th December 1975. Its purpose was to protect the common cultural heritage of humanity
A site must meet various criteria before it comes under UNESCO protection and gets the status of a World Heritage Site. World Heritage Sites can be ancient structures, nature preserves, or have geological value. Where sites are in danger of further destruction or degeneration due to various reasons, they are designated as Endangered Sites and receive special attention. Many World Heritage Sites are not just protected but are also being restored. At present there are 1,092 World Heritage Sites in 167 countries.
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