October 25, 2019 / 12:06 PM / 19 days ago

Factbox: Australia's Uluru joins other cultural sites in fight for survival

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Australia has banned climbers on Uluru, one of the country’s landmarks that is sacred to its indigenous custodians, becoming the latest cultural site around the world to close in order to protect its heritage and the environment.

The giant monolith, a UNESCO World Heritage Site formerly known as Ayers Rock, will become permanently off limits to climbers from Saturday after a decades-long fight by the Anangu people, the traditional owners of Uluru.

The Anangu people have called for a ban since 1985, when the park was returned to indigenous control.

Below is a list of cultural and other important sites that have closed or imposed new restrictions on tourists as authorities grapple with the challenge of how best to protect people, heritage, the environment and wildlife.

1. MAYA BAY, THAILAND: The island cove was made famous by the 2000 film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was closed to tourists last year until 2021 in a bid to salvage the area’s coral reefs, which have been damaged by warmer temperatures and a flood of tourists.

2. BORACAY ISLAND, THE PHILIPPINES: The resort was closed for a six-month cleanup from April to October 2018 after being described as a “cesspool” by President Rodrigo Duterte. The island attracted 2 million visitors the previous year but has now limited numbers to 19,000 per day and banned beach parties, smoking and drinking.

3. MOUNT EVEREST BASE CAMP, CHINA: The Chinese government closed its side of the Everest base camp this year to anyone without a climbing permit due to the huge amounts of rubbish piling up at the site, according to the Lonely Planet travel website. The Chinese base camp, located in Tibet, was accessible by car.

4. FJADRARGLJUFUR CANYON, ICELAND: The popular site, which featured in one of Justin Bieber’s music videos, was closed to tourists for about three months this year due to damage from wet weather and foot traffic. The number of visitors had nearly doubled after being featured in the pop singer’s “I’ll Show You” video.

5. THE FAROE ISLANDS, DENMARK: Ten popular tourists sites were closed temporarily this year for maintenance by an international team of volunteers after a 10% growth in visitor numbers in recent years.

6. SIPADAN ISLAND, MALAYSIA: One of the world’s most renowned scuba diving spots on Malaysia’s part of Borneo island will be shut for a month every December from 2020 to allow the coral and marine ecosystem to recuperate.

7. KOMODO ISLAND, INDONESIA: Authorities are due to limit visitor numbers and raise entry prices to the island in order to conserve the population of the Komodo dragons, the world’s largest living species of lizard. Officials initially planned to close the island for one year from 2020 but later scrapped the idea.

Tourists climb Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia, October 25, 2019. Friday is the last day people will be able to climb Uluru. AAP Image/Lukas Coch/via REUTERS

8. SPANISH STEPS, ITALY: Rome banned tourists from sitting on the famous monument in August, in a crackdown on overcrowding by tourists. Visitors can still walk up and down, but offenders of the sitting ban can be fined up to 400 euros ($444).

The site was largely shut between October 2015 and September 2016 for a private restoration after the 135 steps had become loose, stained and cracked under the strain of daily use by both residents and visitors.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation, Reuters, New Straits Times, Lonely Planet

Writing by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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