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Pyramid plan is suspended

Mexico accepts U.N. recommendations but is not dropping the idea of

August 09, 2009|Mark Stevenson | Stevenson writes for the Associated Press.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico said Friday that it accepted the recommendations of a U.N. committee that criticized a now-suspended plan to install lights on the ancient Teotihuacan pyramids to make it accessible for nighttime visits.

Julio Castrejon, a spokesman for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, added that although the institute "totally accepts" the U.N. findings, officials are not dropping the idea of lighting ruins to encourage more tourism and boost local economies.

He was responding to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which monitors historical and natural heritage sites around the globe.

At its most recent meeting in Seville, Spain, the committee expressed concern that "the lack of a management plan appears to have allowed developments to take place, which have had a negative impact on" the Teotihuacan site near Mexico City.

The committee requested that it be allowed to evaluate such plans in the future, presumably with the power to suggest changes. It also asked Mexico to draw up a management plan and form a working group of local, state and federal officials to increase coordination for protecting the site.

Castrejon noted that the project had been suspended and the lighting system removed, after it drew criticism from preservationists, union activists, legislators and some academics.

The U.N. committee also said the project caused damage to the pyramids' surface.

Castrejon said none of the pyramids' original material was damaged. The pyramids had eroded over time, and much of the stone facing that was drilled into for the project is restoration material, he said.

He said the small holes for light boxes and wiring also were patched with cement the color of the pyramids' stone.

Castrejon cited other ruin sites in Mexico as proof that nonintrusive lighting systems can be used to increase tourism and benefit local communities. He said something similar could be considered as part of a new proposal for Teotihuacan.

Preservationists said the small disguised light boxes and metal cable conduits damaged the pyramids' surfaces and the aesthetics of the nearly 2,000-year-old site.

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