Myanmar to Repair Earthquake-Hit Bagan by 2020

By Tin Htet Paing 22 August 2017

YANGON — Myanmar aims to finish renovation work for quake-affected Bagan temples in the country’s central region by 2020, according to an official from the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library.

Thursday will mark one year since the powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Myanmar on Aug. 24, centered about 15 miles west of Chauk in Magwe Region.

Out of the 3,252 temples and pagodas across Bagan—located to the north of the epicenter—389 were affected by the tremors and needed renovation, according to the department’s inventory.

Operating under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, the Department of Archaeology works together with the construction ministry and a team of local and international technical experts from organizations such as Unesco, the Association of Myanmar Architects, the Myanmar Engineering Society and Myanmar Earthquake Committee, in renovating damaged temples.

Affected temples and pagodas are categorized into three levels of priority depending on the severity of damage and the heritage value.

Repairs of 224 least-prioritized structures with minor damage were completed by April this year, said U Aung Aung Kyaw, the director of Archaeological Department’s Bagan branch.

Emergency restoration and detailed assessment for all the damaged temples was finished last year, he said, adding that the team hopes to renovate another 50 temples by the end of 2017.

“It doesn’t mean that renovation for these 50 temples will be fully completed by the end of this year. We might need to carry on the work for some temples in coming years as well if necessary,” U Aung Aung Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.

“We are doing repairs in line with the recommendations of both local and international technical experts and not rushing the work,” he said.

For the renovation and restoration work, Myanmar has received a total of more than 5.7 billion kyats (nearly US$4.2 million) in local donations and US$1.1 million in international donations to restore damaged temples, the ministry’s department of administration and finance told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

U Maw Lin, the vice president of the Association of Myanmar Architects and a member of the technical expert team said that 2020 could be the target to renovate the affected monuments that are vulnerable to further damage and need urgent restoration work.

“We need to do so much delicate and detailed work in terms of preservation and conservation for the temples,” U Maw Lin said, adding that there are many different factors that could cause further deterioration to the temples apart from natural disasters.

Conservation is something that needs to be done throughout Bagan’s existence, he emphasized.

He also stressed the importance of completing a zoning plan for the ancient heritage region, which involves setting up administrative boundaries for inhabitants, monuments, infrastructure and development.

The temples of Bagan, dating from between the 9th and 13th centuries—when the Kingdom of Pagan ruled over much of lowland Burma—are considered Burma’s biggest tourist draw.

The ancient capital has yet to be granted Unesco World Heritage Site status, allegedly on account of sub-standard, inauthentic restoration efforts under previous governments.