World Heritage Inscription:
A Challenge for Guyana
In late February 2004 a regional meeting on World Heritage was held in St Lucia. The objective of the meeting was to prepare a Caribbean Action Plan in World Heritage, in an effort to have more natural and cultural sites in the Caribbean granted World Heritage status.
The Caribbean states are now to submit World Heritage nominations and Guyana is no exception.
In December 2004, Guyana submitted a portion of historic Georgetown, from Young Street, Kingston, southwards along High Street, Main Street, and the Avenue of the Republic, up to Brickdam, on its Tentative List for World Heritage status.
The full Nomination Dossier must now be completed.
UNESCO experts indicate that there are potential World Heritage sites in our country:
Natural site: Kaieteur Falls and surrounding areas, possibly including Iwokrama and the Kanuku Mountains
Cultural site: Historic Georgetown, with its plantation structure layout and 19th century timber architecture.
Four years ago the Kaieteur Falls and surrounding Park was submitted for World Heritage listing, but failed because of deficiencies in the submission as a result of, a lack of national commitment.
If Historic Georgetown is to succeed, a national commitment to the effort is paramount.
However, the road to World Heritage inscription is paved with many difficulties. There must be involvement of both the public and private sectors, not only after Inscription (if we do succeed) but also to prepare a first class Nomination Dossier to be submitted to UNESCO. As said before, a national commitment is the key – WE ALL HAVE TO BE INVOLVED.
One requirement of the Nomination Dossier – the Site Management Plan – is critical as its three aims testify, and input from both the public and private sectors are necessary. The Plan has to:
1. demonstrate how the management required to protect and properly conserve the site in the long-term will be implemented,
2. set out what are the local implications expected after gaining World Heritage Site status,
3. identify all appropriate policies and actions which will achieve social and economic benefits from the designation.
There are also risks to the World Heritage Site. In Georgetown we lose our historic buildings through destruction by fire a prominent example being the Sacred Heart Church once sited on Main Street and one of the historic structures on the Tentative List Guyana submitted to UNESCO in 2004. Destruction of our historic buildings through willful demolition is another risk; for example, the Poonai building on Charlotte Street was recently demolished and the Bedford Methodist Church (1869) on Camp Street, one of the oldest religious buildings in Georgetown, is now under threat of demolition.
Meanwhile, the historic urban landscape of Georgetown suffers degradation by, for example, loss of trees and other vegetation, chaotic traffic and vehicle parking, neglect of drainage, and disregard for building regulations. (Ctd on page 4)
The National Trust of Guyana continues to work to restore the ruins of Fort Zeelandia and improve visitor infrastructure at Fort Island.
At Fort Zeelandia, the Trust constructed a brick walkway leading to the ruins of the fort as well as a section of the existing ramparts to allow visitors to comfortably access all parts of this national monument and to prevent the erosions of the foundation of the structure .
In the compound of the Court of Policy Hall, the oldest non military structure in Guyana a benab was erected to allow visitors to relax whilst visiting the site.
Fort Kyk Over Al
In 2005 the National Trust of Guyana continued to execute its mandate to preserve the nation’s patrimony with the restoration of the ruin of Fort Klk Over Al with the construction of a brick walkway around the existing brick foundations.
Additionally a benab has been constructed to allow visitors to relax whilst visiting this national monument.
Georgetown’s Heritage Trail
Georgetown’s Heritage Trail, has been republished and copies are available at The Trust, Austin’s Bookstore and the National Museum of Guyana for $1,500.
Brochures on the Indian Arrival Monument, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, Brickdam Independence Arch and Monument Watch II were produced by the Trust.
Copies are available at the Trust for only $100.
The Trust has recently added a mini exhibition to showcase the nation’s philatelic history. Many of the stamps on display were donated by the Guyana Post Office Corporationas well as Mr. Lennnox Hernandez.
. (from page 1) Should these trends continue Guyana would soon have nothing to protect. Thus,
– Guyana needs to define the risks with respect to the conservation of this urban heritage: risks such as flooding, fire, and demolition
-Guyana needs to look at possible ways to reduce these risks, and
– Guyana needs to enhance the historic and aesthetic qualities of Georgetown.
MARKETING AND OPERATION OF THE SITE
Our marketing and operation of Historic Georgetown as a World Heritage Site must be of internationally acceptable standards. For example:
– The quality of management of the conservation area must be ensured
– The quality of the experience gained by visitors must be ensured
– Capacity issues of the site must be carefully judged for proper conservation of the site
– Sensitive exploration of the site must be encouraged to increase awareness and understanding of the special character of the site appreciation and enjoyment by all must be promoted for owners and occupants of historic buildings, there must be incentives to encourage them in the act of heritage conservation.
In conclusion, the road to World Heritage inscription is a long and difficult one. The Ministries of Education and Culture, and the Georgetown Municipality need to be in the fore (and together) in the promotion, of Historic Georgetown as a World Heritage Site.
All necessary laws and policies required for HERITAGE CONSERVATION need to be urgently passed and rigidly implemented. Lennox Hernandez