Unesco to Offer Assistance With Bagan Conservation Work

By The Irrawaddy 27 June 2014

RANGOON — Unesco has announced that it will conduct an inventory of heritage assets at Burma’s ancient capital Bagan, asses the conditions of the temples and develop conservation guidelines for the site.

It will be the first time in two decades that international experts assist in conserving the Buddhist temple complex, after cooperation came to a halt during the former military regime.

“The project seeks to help Myanmar safeguard Bagan in line with international standards,” Unesco said in a statement released Friday, adding that the Japanese-funded project would offer technical assistance for the conservation of built heritage.

A first workshop to start the project was held on June 9-10 at Bagan, involving the Department of Archaeology and National Museum, Ministry of Culture and Unesco.

“Leading international experts and national counterparts developed recommendations on how to proceed with updating the inventory,” the statement said.

“In addition to recording the monuments, the experts stressed the importance of ensuring that the updated inventory also includes other important heritage features, such as archaeological assets, landscape elements, and the living heritage of Bagan.”

The announcement comes a few days after Unesco accepted the first inscription of a Burmese heritage site, the Pyu Ancient Cities, on the World Heritage List. It began offering technical assistance at the Pyu sites in 2012.

Bagan, which contains about 2,500 Buddhist monuments constructed from the 10th to 14th century, is on a tentative list of sites proposed for inclusion on the World Heritage List, but Friday’s statement made no mention of the progress towards enlisting Bagan.

In the 1990s, Burma’s military government allowed hotels and golf courses to be built among the temples, causing its 1996 bid to enlist the ancient city as a Unesco heritage site to fall flat. Renovations of about 1,000 temples under the regime have also been criticized by archeologists, who said little attention was paid to historical accuracy.

President Thein Sein has restarted the Bagan listing process and it is likely that Unesco will begin a review of the World Heritage listing soon.