Private Donors Invited to Contribute to Bagan Temple Restoration

By Nyein Nyein 12 December 2016

Starting on Friday, the government will allow individual donors and private organizations to directly contribute to the renovation of more than 200 ancient Bagan temples that suffered minor damage in an August earthquake.

With the help of UNESCO—the United Nations’ cultural agency—the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture will continue to take responsibility for restoring the 36 hardest-hit temples in the ancient city, including Thetbaynyu, Htilominlo, Sulamani and Ananda. Re-construction will commence in 2017.

After the 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit central Burma, 389 temples in Bagan required repairs. In total, 790 temples were damaged throughout the country, including in the townships of Kyaukpadaung, Chauk, Yaynanchaung and Magwe Division in central Burma, and in Mrauk-U in Arakan State, said U Aung Ko, the minister of Religious Affairs and Culture at the Lower House parliamentary session on Monday.

The minister responded to a question from U Min Thein, a lawmaker representing Taungtwingyi Constituency, on the progress of renovation work.

U Aung Ko said that the government has been paying close attention to the renovation of the ancient temples.

“We will renovate the most-hit temples with the help of UNESCO starting in January 2017, but the individual donors and the private organizations will be given a chance to restore some of the temples which suffered minor damage, starting from Friday, December 16,” he told the lawmakers.

“We have selected 224 temples [out of 300] with minor damage, for individuals who want to contribute to their renovation,” added U Thein Lwin, the deputy director of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library.

U Thein Lwin, also the chairman of the Bagan renovation committee, told The Irrawaddy that archaeology experts would continue their assessment of the ancient temples for which restoration has been prioritized, and will begin such efforts on ten temples in January. The department ranked 36 famous temples as a top priority and another 53 temples as a second priority.

“The assessment will be done thoroughly, as we have to assess it through the debris as well as prepare for unexpected damage during the time of renovation,” he said. The endeavour could take at least five years to complete.

Bagan has been one of Burma’s primary tourist attractions for years, but it is not yet protected under UNESCO’s World Heritage site list, due to unsatisfactory renovation schemes carried out under the country’s previous military regime.

The religious affairs and culture ministry has so far received funds totalling more than 4.6 billion kyats and US$90,000 to restore damaged temples, added the minister. China also pledged US$1 million to the cause.

With these donations, U Aung Ko said that all 700-plus quake-damaged temples could be restored in Bagan, the surrounding townships, Magwe Division and Mrauk-U in Arakan State.