Thursday, August 17, 2017

New UNESCO approach for Bagan

The government will try a different approach to get UNESCO’s World Heritage status for its historic Bagan Archaelogical Zone by attempting to register pagodas individually as opposed to as a singular site – a method that has thus far been met with failure, officials announced earlier this month.

A view of a few of Old Bagan’s many historic pagodas. Photo: Philip HeijmansA view of a few of Old Bagan’s many historic pagodas. Photo: Philip Heijmans

Authorities have wanted UNESCO to include the most important Bagan pagodas on its World Heritage List, a register of culturally significant sites from every continent, for a number of years.

In 1996, UNESCO denied Bagan’s application, however, claiming that recasting and restoration carried out by the military government had damaged the integrity of the site.

U Naing Win, director general of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, said that with little progress being made on its application, the Ministry of Culture would turn to registering pagodas within the historic site one at a time, starting with Arnandar, Damayangyi and Suularmani temples.

“We are also seeking recognition currently for three Pyu-era cities – Beikthano, Halin and Tharaykhittaya [Sriksetra]. Then we will try to register Bagan,” said U Naing Win.

UNESCO would also be requested to provide technical expertise in conservation, restoration and the nomination process, he said, adding that the ministry is working to resolve various management issues in Bagan as well as to elaborate a more systematic plan for the site’s preservation and conservation.

Next month, the ministry will also ask UNESCO to register a Bagan-era stone Myazaydi inscription, it was decided at a February 17 meeting in Nay Pyi Taw.

With more than 2200 temples, Bagan has become increasingly popular among foreign visitors, with nearly 200,000 people going to the site last year.

Tampawady U Win Maung, an independent archaeology expert, said that although it would be difficult to secure World Heritage listing for the entire area, it was within the government’s interests to try and win status for its most precious pagodas.

“The department of archaeology can’t observe the old temples and show the original figure of the temple, so the renovation process has been difficult. However, the decaying temples and pagodas need to be conserved,” he said.

“Pyu-era areas were proposed to UNESCO at the beginning of January and it’s a very good step

forward.”