Along with Bagan, Unesco has so far awarded World Heritage status to more than 20 cultural sites at the meeting of the UN’s cultural body in Baku, Azerbaijan, which continues until July 10, reports TTR Weekly. (See story here.)
It ended a long wait for Myanmar, which first applied for World Heritage status back in 1997. Bagan is now the fourth World Heritage site in the country, but by far the most important addition to the list as far as the country’s tourism industry is concerned. The other three are the Pyu city-states of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra.
Reuters was the first to report the addition of the 11th to 13th century Bagan to the Unesco list.
It noted that the “decision recognizes the importance of the central Myanmar site – which includes more than 3,500 stupas, temples, monasteries and other structures and will likely be a boon to Myanmar’s tourist industry.”
The International Council on Monuments and Sites recommended the listing to Unesco during its annual general meeting.
“Myanmar had adopted a new heritage law and had formed plans to reduce the impact of hotels and tourism developments around the temple,” the council noted.
“Myanmar had reversed some “inappropriate conservation interventions,” the body said, noting that Bagan was important for its historical significance and as a place of continuing Buddhist worship.
Bagan was officially “referred” to Unesco for a listing in 1997, but military junta rule responsible for human right violations and accusations that officials responsible for Bagan’s conservation ignored experts’ advice on restoration efforts halted that application.
Earthquakes also damaged the ancient structures, most recently in 2016 when nearly 200 temples were damaged by a 6.8 magnitude quake.
Myanmar officially renewed efforts to list the site since a transition from military rule began in 2011, according to the Reuters report.
Since then, Bagan embarked on a complicated and time-consuming application process that had to deal with various restoration concerns presented by Unesco experts. They included the need to establish an adequate buffer zone between the ancient pagodas and the town as well as the removal of a golf course.
“Bagan is living heritage, having endured all forms of challenges for more than a thousand years,” said Myanmar diplomat Kyaw Zeya, speaking on behalf of the Myanmar delegation at the Baku meeting.
“Today we are celebrating the joyous moment of the successful inscription of Bagan in the World Heritage List. Afterwards, we will continue our efforts on the conservation and management of Bagan so that this treasured heritage will remain for another thousand years.”
– Don Ross
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