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Foundation says 67 world heritage sites threatened

Growing tourism, lack of resources, neglect and natural disasters pose a threat to the world's cultural heritage, a private foundation said Wednesday identifying 67 sites in need of preservation.

The sites and monuments are found in 41 countries from Peru to Vietnam and England to China, the World Monuments Fund said, unveiling a 2012 watch list that "reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the earth and of its human heritage."

Places in need of care include the palace and garden of China's Nanyue Kingdom, ancient Nasca lines and geoglyphs in Peru, England's Coventry Cathedral and the floating fishing villages along Vietnam's Halong Bay.

"The 67 sites vividly illustrate the ever-more pressing need to create a balance between heritage concerns and the social, economic, and environmental interests of communities around the world," the fund said in a statement.

"In addition to promoting community cohesion and pride, heritage preservation can have an especially positive impact on local populations in times of economic distress, for example through employment and the development of well-managed tourism."

WMF president Bonnie Burnham said the 2012 watch list "is a call to action on behalf of endangered cultural heritage sites across the globe."

"And while these sites are historic, they are also very much of the present -- integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day."

Nanyue Kingdom, which was uncovered in 1996 and dates from the 2nd century BC is "one of the most important archeological discoveries in modern China," and is located beneath the bustling metropolis of Guangzhou.

It "needs a sustainable plan for visitor access, interpretation, and enjoyment by local residents, many of whom live immediately adjacent to the archeological zone," the fund said.

The Nasca lines and geoglyphs in the desert of southern Peru, drawn between 500 BC and 500 AD, "represent one of the most important -- and enigmatic -- archaeological remains in a country that is rich in ancient sites," the group said.

Already named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the lines and geoglyphs have become an important tourist destination and this has "necessitated the development of a master plan to ensure long-term preservation and stewardship."

England's Coventry Cathedral, rebuilt after it was bombed in World War II, needs additional rehabilitation because "exposure to the elements has eroded the ruins over time," the organization said.

Vietnam's floating villages "have long been recognized as a site of spectacular natural as well as cultural significance," the WMF said, but added "they struggle to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to the pressures of increasing tourism."

Other sites on the list include the Cour Royale at Tiebele, Burkino Faso; the First Cemetery of Athens, Greece; Haydarpasa Railway Station, in Istanbul, Turkey; Manufacturers Trust Company Building in New York; the historic Moor-influenced town of Trujillo, Spain; Balaji Ghat worship sites along the Ganges in Varanasi, India; the Tell Umm el-Amr (Saint Hilarion) Monastery on the Gaza Strip; and the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina.

American Express has pledged $5 million to support preservation efforts over the next five years, the WMF said.