MANDALAY — The initial application to have the Bagan Archaeological Zone listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site will be submitted by Sept. this year, according to the religion and culture ministry.
“The draft report and draft management plan are now 60 percent complete and we will submit the dossier in September,” said U Thein Lwin, the deputy director of the Department of Archeology, National Museum and Library under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture.
If the draft is submitted to UNESCO on time, World Heritage Site Committee representatives could visit Bagan in 2018 and the site would be brought up for deliberation at UNESCO’s 2019 World Heritage Site convention, according to the director.
“We are doing our best and, thanks to local help, we can assure citizens the draft will be ready in no time,” U Thein Lwin said.
The department said buffer zones around the Bagan site were already expanded since July last year, to Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda, west of Bagan across the Irrawaddy River, and to Yone Lut Kyung area, located east of Bagan.
Bagan archaeological site was enlarged from 42 square miles to 62 square miles with these new buffer zones, according to the department.
Burma’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site application was submitted in 1996 but rejected because of poor management plans and legal framework. In June 2014, the religion and culture ministry committed to restarting the process.
UNESCO guidelines for selection include deciding whether the site exhibits outstanding universal value, international significance and the ability to “transcend national boundaries and be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”
Economic development and a growing tourism infrastructure in Bagan’s vicinity have been the biggest challenges facing the site in its bid to become a World Heritage Site, threatening preservation of the cultural areas.
Bagan houses stupas, temples and other Buddhist religious buildings constructed from the 9th to 11th centuries—a period in which some 50 Buddhist kings ruled the Bagan Dynasty. There are more than 3,000 stupas and temples in the area. Of these, 120 temples have stucco paintings and 460 have mural paintings that are found to be in need of preservation.
A 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit central Burma in August last year, damaging some 200 of Bagan’s historic pagodas and temples.
However, the department said the earthquake did not hamper the UNESCO submission process and works to restore earthquake-hit pagodas and temples with UNESCO consultants and archaeology experts are in progress.
U Thein Lwin said of the damaged structures, 124 small pagodas and temples with limited damage had already been restored and those with serious damage would be repaired by the end of 2017.