Volunteers in Bagan Trained in Earthquake Recovery

By Zarni Mann 29 August 2016

MANDALAY — Bagan’s Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library will collaborate with Unesco experts to train volunteers to collect data and clean debris from pagodas damaged in a recent earthquake.

The department said experts from Unesco will be in Bagan on September 4 and training will begin the following day.

“Volunteer leaders will be trained on how to document damages, collect and clean debris without affecting the structures, and how to verify and handle broken pieces of the ancient temples,” said Aung Aung Kyaw, director of the department.

Volunteer leaders from local travel and tour groups, Buddhist monks, rescue teams from local fire brigades and soldiers will attend the training.

According to the department’s official figures on Monday, 397 pagodas and temples were affected by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Burma last week.

“There are five teams—led by the department and under Unesco’s guidance—currently working on the ground, recording and documenting the damages,” he said.

However, the department said they still need more volunteers to speed up the process of documenting, cleaning and collecting broken artifacts before rain worsens the situation.

At the same time, the department and Unesco are concerned about rushing the process and allowing too much access to the damaged pagodas.

“Since these pagodas are valuable to our country’s history and culture, we need to be extremely careful when collecting debris. If we rush, we won’t have another chance to conserve these precious broken pieces,” said Aung Aung Kyaw.

In the days following the earthquake, locals rushed to Bagan to see the damage and some were disappointed when local authorities prohibited visitors. At some of the more damaged pagodas—like Sulamani—some Buddhist monks and visitors were seen arguing with security.

“We would like to apologize for the inconvenience but the restriction is for safety reasons. We also don’t yet know the extent of the damage and want to ensure that artifacts aren’t taken by opportunists,” said Aung Aung Kyaw.

“We would like to request that visitors understand the cultural and historical significance of the area while we do our best to restore public access as soon as possible,” he added.