Underwater Cultural Heritage; need to ensure effective protection
By Kanthi Wijetunge - Sri Lanka Daily News
Over the last century, archaeological sites on land all over the world have received much attention as source of information on history of human civilizations.
However, the oceans, which cover the large part of our planet, still retain many of their secrets without getting exposed to the world.
Hence the richness of the world’s underwater cultural heritage is often underestimated. It is well known that there are cities which have been entirely swallowed by the sea and there are thousands of ships which have perished at sea.
These ruins lie on the sea bed safely without the notice of anybody. They provide testimony to the various periods and aspects of human civilization and history.
There is also undiscovered knowledge under water, proving travel routes, exchanges, prehistoric life and also heritage lies outside of the territorial waters of the country of origin.
During the recent past it has been revealed that there are threats to Underwater Cultural Heritage in many ways such as; pillage, commercial exploitation, industrial work, tourist promenades, oil drilling, metro and auto route crossing in channels or with bridges, recovery of soil or building of artificial islands, trawling and also due to climate change and pollution.
As per the UNESCO reports it is estimated that over three million undiscovered shipwrecks are spread across the ocean.
However, people are aware of the famous vessels which have perished in the ocean such as armada of Phillip II of Spain, the Titanic, the fleet of Kublai Khan etc through books and films.
Similarly, there are remains of countless ancient buildings submerged underwater.
All these are considered as underwater cultural heritage. They provide testimony to the various periods and aspects of our history.
Shipwrecks or remains of ancient buildings and cities submerged underwater retail many stories about the cruelty of the slave trade, the ferocity of wars, the impact of natural disasters or the peaceful exchange and inter-cultural dialogue between far away regions.
Hence recognizing underwater cultural heritage is very vital in the efforts of gathering historical information on human civilization.