Bagan seeks UNESCO heritage status

Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture says the ancient city of Bagan could be nominated for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List within three years.

Local media reported that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is considering the nomination of Bagan to its global heritage list.

In June, the Pyu cities of Sri Ksetra, Hanlin and Beikthano became the first sites in Myanmar to be included on the heritage list.

Last month, officials from the ministry and UNESCO met international experts in Bagan to discuss how the city could be protected from ill-considered development caused by a sharp rise in tourist arrivals.

UNESCO has threatened to discontinue recognition at some important sites in Southeast Asia, including Luang Prabang in Laos, if checks and balances are not introduced to manage tourism flows.

During the Bagan meetings it was decided that an improved inventory of all the historical pagodas and temples at the site, as well as stricter enforcement of heritage laws, would be required before the site could be nominated, according to the culture ministry.

The Myanmar Times quoted Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, deputy general director, U Thein Lwin, as saying experts from Japan and Italy were helping officials come up with a plan to maintain the site in line with international standards.

It could take up to three years for Bagan to achieve full recognition by UNESCO.

A 1998 law bans development inside cultural heritage sites, but some hotels  opened in prohibited areas before the law was enacted, while others were allowed later in direct contravention of the law.

Another task is cataloguing the large number of historical monuments in Bagan. In 1975, the number of identified structures stood at 2230, but rose to 3122 by 1997 and now stands at 3312.

One of the most important archaeological sites in Asia, Bagan is expected to attract large numbers of tourists in coming years, with arrivals forecast to increase to 5 million in 2015. UNESCO listing is likely to give visitors numbers a further boost.

The Bagan region attracted 200,000 tourists last year compared to 150,000 visits in 2013.

Source : TTR Weekly