Climate change threatens ancient Chinese heritage sites

(Reuters) – Ancient Buddhist murals in northwest China are “under direct threat” due to unprecedented levels of rainfall caused by climate change, researchers said on Monday.

Extreme rainfall in Dunhuang and Zhangye in China’s Gansu province has endangered UNESCO World Heritage sites, with cave monasteries dating back to the 4th century already damaged, environmental group Greenpeace said.

Rainwater leaks and increased humidity have damaged ancient cave paintings, including those in the famous Mogao Caves, he said, and some caves have even collapsed.

“Humidity spikes, flash floods and collapses are already happening,” said Li Zhao, senior researcher at Greenpeace East Asia’s office in Beijing.

Greenpeace said that while total rainfall has increased in Gansu since 2000, the number of rainy days has actually decreased, meaning individual rainfall events have become more intense. Temperatures in the province have also risen faster than the global average.

China is conducting a nationwide cultural heritage survey, but Li warned that some of the country’s treasures may already be gone by the time it is completed.

“The sites we reviewed include some of the best-funded and best-staffed cultural heritage sites in China,” Li said. at the same risks.

Gansu is not the only region at risk.

Higher rainfall levels in the normally arid northern province of Shanxi have also taken their toll on ancient buildings, some of which are more than 1,000 years old, Friends of Nature, a Beijing environmental group, said last month.

Jinci Temple and Tianlongshan Grottoes, two national heritage sites in Shanxi, collapsed, and ancient towers and walls in the province were damaged due to unusually heavy rains, he added.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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