Macau government is duty-bound to protect Unesco world heritage centre

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 4:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 9:45pm

Widely known as the Las Vegas of the Orient, Macau was once exclusively renowned for gambling. But the notoriety of being a casino city has gradually been in eclipse since the Historic Centre of Macau was included in the Unesco World Heritage Sites list in 2005, a prestige that few cities around the world can garner.

To let the world see the glory of the historical centre, the government of Macau has an unavoidable duty to preserve its heritage value and observe the rules stipulated by the Unesco.

However, the policies implemented in the former Portuguese colony over the past decade seem inconsistent with this moral obligation, given that some precious Portuguese-style buildings have been pulled down and some structures of great antiquity have fallen into disrepair.

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Now, a two-month public consultation by the Cultural Affairs Bureau, which closed on March 20, is making people think that the government has been trying to use public opinion as a pretext for repealing the limitations on height and morphology for buildings in the areas close to the Guia Lighthouse and Penha Chapel.

We cannot find any clear or detailed information on the consultation document about restrictions on the height of the buildings surrounding the areas concerned.

Critics and NGOs who are worried about the views from Penha Hill being destroyed one day have berated the government for not fulfilling its role to protect the heritage site, which it should do by setting a visual corridor from Penha Hill to Nam Van Lake and to the new land reclamation area.

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There have even been proposals to give up the prestigious label in order to accelerate economic development, with scant regard to public interest, and even at the expense of the world heritage centre.

If Macau is stripped of its place on the Unesco World Heritage Sites list, it would be traumatic for those who do love the city, and the people of Macau would be subjected to ridicule for their lack of concern.

Barnaby Ieong, Macau