Heritage site residents want change

Jan. 9, 2011 at 8:36 PM
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DJENNE, Mali, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A U.N. cultural organization is trying to preserve the planet's cultural heritage while providing for people in Mali and elsewhere who want modern amenities.

Djenne, in the West African country of Mali, is almost entirely built of mud brick in a style unique to the southern Sahara Desert, The New York Times reported Saturday. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known as UNESCO, designated it as a World Heritage site in 1988.

Abba Maiga, a retired riverboat captain, is tired of living in a house with a mud floor.

"When a town is put on the heritage list, it means nothing should change," Maiga told the Times. "But we want development, more space, new appliances -- things that are much more modern. We are angry about all that."

Lazare Eloundou Assomo, head of the Africa unit of the World Heritage Center, acknowledges the problem. He said there are similar tensions at other African sites, as well as in some of the older cities in Europe and Asia.

"The issue in Djenne is about people getting comfort, using the right materials without compromising the architectural values," he said.

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