Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sites at High Risk from the Hazards Associated with Acid Rain

Acid rain only causes indirect damage to living human beings, primarily through its reactions with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to form ground-level Ozone (smog), it causes tremendous damage to soil fertility, aquatic life, and durable inorganic materials such as stone and metals. Some of the greatest measurable effects of acid rain can be observed on human constructions, particularly old buildings with facades built of corrosion-prone metals such as copper and porous stone such as limestone. 

Endangered Heritage Sites due to acid rain:

The Leshan Buddha has fallen victim to pollution emanating from unbridled development in the region. In this case, the culprit has been determined to be the growing number of coal fired power plants located near the Giant Buddha, specifically, the toxic gases that their smokestacks spew into the air; these eventually return to the earth as acid rain. Over time, the Buddha's nose has turned black and the curls of his hair have begun to fall from his head. The local government has shut down several factories and power plants in close proximity to the Leshan Giant Buddha, which has stopped the blackening of his face from soot; however, acid rain continues to compromise the structural integrity of this masterpiece. The Leshan Giant Buddha, which was designed carefully to survive millennia of floods and earthquakes, is now at high risk of rapid deterioration from the unbridled pace of industrial development in western China.

2. ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS (Greece, Ancient Greek)
In recent decades, as Greece has experienced substantial economic expansion and development, pollutants and heavy vehicle emissions from the booming modern city of Athens have contributed to acid rain in the region. The monumental and sculptural stone of choice for the ancient Greeks, marble, is highly susceptible to heavy surface degradation from even low levels of acid rain. The Parthenon’s magnificent marble relief frieze panels, for instance, have been chemically transformed by acid rain into soft gypsum. As details are lost and the chemical transformation soaks deeper into the marble on these vital monuments, pieces of them have begun to crack and fall off, with structural collapse a possibility in the not-so-distant future. Further complicating the situation is the seismically-active nature of the region, as earthquakes would have a far greater effect on marble constructions that have slowly transformed into gypsum than with unaltered marble.

3. TAJ MAHAL (India, Mughal Islam)
The Taj Mahal is India’s preeminent tourist destination, attracting between two and four million visitors annually. In an effort to control the deleterious effects of pollution, tourist traffic is not allowed near the site, with most visitors riding in by electric bus from nearby carparks. This has not, however, slowed down the degradation of the Taj Mahal’s marble facades from acid rain generated from local foundries and an oil refinery. The once brilliant-white Taj has been losing its luster, dulling into a sickly pale shade.

4. DAMPIER ROCK ART COMPLEX (Australia, Australian Aboriginal)
The Burrup Peninsula’s rock art sites have been listed as endangered by the National Trust of Australia, but industrial expansion since 1963 across more than 25% of the rock art area has posed severe threats to the site. Much of the heaviest (mining and petrochemical) industry is located immediately adjacent to some of the most sensitive collections of artwork. Acid rain from this has begun to erase many of the carefully, but often shallowly, engraved rock surfaces, and studies by archaeologists and geologists have postulated that most of the rock art will disappear completely by the middle of the 21st century.

5. LONGMEN GROTTOES (China, Buddhist)
The Longmen Grottoes are arguably the most famous ancient sculptural site in China. Located in Henan Province and positioned on two opposing bluffs above the Yi River, most of the artwork is Buddhist in nature and dates to the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907 AD). 2345 niches were carved from the rock, densely worked over the space of approximately a kilometer to the north and south, and they house more than 100,000 statues (also carved from the rock). Accompanying inscriptions bear more than 300,000 Chinese characters and are a treasure trove of historical and linguistic data. The Longmen Grottoes are a masterpiece of Buddhist art and are considered one of the world`s most important sculptural sites.

No comments:

Post a Comment