Ba­gan on way to UNESCO list­ing

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page - EI EI THU eiei­thu@mm­times.com SEPTEM­BER 29, 2017

After 22 years, Myan­mar sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion for Ba­gan – the heart of Myan­mar – to join UNESCO’S world her­itage list in Septem­ber. It first started the pro­ce­dure in 1994-5.

FI­NALLY, after 22 years, Myan­mar sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion for Ba­gan – the heart of Myan­mar – to join UNESCO’S world her­itage list in Septem­ber.

Since it first started the pro­ce­dure in 1994-5, Myan­mar is ap­ply­ing to in­clude Ba­gan on UNESCO’S list for the first time.

Un­for­tu­nately, at first, Ba­gan was not el­i­gi­ble be­cause of the many cri­te­ria re­quired by UNESCO.

There are 10 pos­si­ble cat­e­gories to join UNESCO’S list, out of which six con­cern the world her­itage-cul­tural site sec­tion, to which Ba­gan has been sub­mit­ted.

Myan­mar ap­pli­ca­tion tar­gets 3 cat­e­gories to which Ba­gan site is el­i­gi­ble. Th­ese three cat­e­gories – num­bers 3,4, 6 – con­cern legacy “dis­play­ing a unique or at least ex­cep­tional tes­ti­mony to a cul­tural tra­di­tion or to a civ­i­liza­tion which is liv­ing or dis­ap­peared, out­stand­ing build­ing, ar­chi­tec­tural or tech­no­log­i­cal en­sem­ble or land­scape with il­lus­trates, a sig­nif­i­cant stage in hu­man his­tory di­rectly or tan­gi­bly as­so­ci­ated with events or liv­ing tra­di­tions with ideas or with be­liefs with artis­tic and lit­er­ary works of out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal sig­nif­i­cance,” ac­cord­ing to UNESCO.

“We ex­pressed the tra­di­tional cul­ture, civ­i­liza­tion, arts, ar­chi­tec­ture in Bud­dhism, be­lief in Bud­dhism and tra­di­tional re­li­gious fes­ti­vals [which are still tak­ing place to­day] dat­ing back to the 11th cen­tury to 13th cen­tury, with out­stand­ing ev­i­dence for the nom­i­na­tion of Ba­gan,” U Than Zaw Oo, di­rec­tor of the di­vi­sion of world her­itage sites un­der the Min­istry of Re­li­gious Af­fair and Cul­ture told The Myan­mar Times.

In terms of world her­itage pro­ce­dures, the coun­try must be a mem­ber of the United Na­tions and a sig­na­tory to UNESCO’S con­ven­tion to be al­lowed to ap­ply, which Myan­mar al­ready is.

Fur­ther­more, ap­pli­cants have to sub­mit the list of sites to be recog­nised as world her­itage one year ahead of the sub­mis­sion of the dossier. In 1995, Myan­mar had not fin­ished de­lim­it­ing the Ba­gan site and no leg­is­la­tion for her­itage con­ser­va­tion ex­isted at the time.

“They [the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment] im­ple­mented a two-lane road and golf course within the her­itage area, which is against world her­itage con­ser­va­tion pro­ce­dure. In 1996, ex­perts from UNESCO’S her­itage com­mit­tee sug­gested to re-ap­ply, with a de­tailed map of the cul­tural site as well as leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect the her­itage” said U Aung Aung Kyaw, di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Ar­chae­ol­ogy, Na­tional Mu­seum and Li­brary.

Ac­cord­ingly, the gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced a new leg­is­la­tion on her­itage con­ser­va­tion in 1997 and en­acted the cul­tural her­itage con­ser­va­tion law in 1998. In 1990, they of­fi­cially set up a perime­ter de­lim­it­ing the an­cient her­itage site of Ba­gan. The up­dated Ba­gan her­itage area stretches on 4987.88 hectares of “Her­itage zone” sur­rounded by 17,821.97 hectares of buf­fer zone. There are 3822 ed­i­fices in the her­itage zone.

The world her­itage-cul­tural site ap­pli­ca­tion is split in two sec­tions: the first one fo­cuses on the her­itage area, data on the mon­u­ment and the map­ping of land and ci­ties within the zone. The sec­ond part re­quires a com­plete man­age­ment plan.

“We al­ready sub­mit­ted part one. UNESCO will get back to us in Novem­ber with sug­ges­tions. We will re-sub­mit the first part in Fe­bru­ary, with the sug­gested corrections, along with the man­age­ment plan. Then, ex­perts from UNESCO will check the sit­u­a­tion on the ground in June and July 2018,” U Aung Aung Kyaw said.

Is­sues may arise as the man­age­ment plan must take into con­sid­er­a­tion the preser­va­tion of the site and the in­ter­est of lo­cal busi­nesses. Sev­eral as­pects of the man­age­ment plan should be added after ne­go­ti­a­tions with lo­cals, such as: ho­tels and tourism busi­nesses, nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, agri­cul­ture, trans­porta­tion, elec­tric­ity sup­ply and so on.

“We have to im­ple­ment the man­age­ment plan we sub­mit­ted. So we have to con­sider how to man­age the cul­tural site for the next 5 or 10 years.

“There have been man­age­rial mis­takes in the past in Ba­gan Her­itage Zone. For in­stance, some ho­tels are lo­cated in old Ba­gan. How to deal with them must be in­cluded in the man­age­ment plan,” added U Aung Aung Kyaw.

“We want to ac­cess UNESCO’S list to en­hance the pro­tec­tion of our na­tional her­itage. UNESCO con­trib­utes to the con­ser­va­tion pro­ce­dures and pro­vides ad­vice on bet­ter man­age­ment. UNESCO will not man­age the site. It will still be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment,” Daw Ohn Mar Myo, UNESCO na­tional project of­fi­cer, told The Myan­mar Times.

UNESCO’S world her­itage com­mit­tee has 21 mem­ber coun­tries. Ex­perts from th­ese coun­tries have been col­lect­ing ap­pli­ca­tions yearly, based on stan­dard cri­te­ria. The body pro­vides tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise to cur­rent world her­itage site ap­pli­cants, which amount to US$30,000. Fur­ther­more, should there be any nat­u­ral dis­as­ter to the ap­ply­ing sites; it will sup­port $100,000. Such sup­port was al­lo­cated to Ba­gan fol­low­ing last year’s earth­quake. Sites al­ready listed as world her­itage re­ceive $1 mil­lion in tech­ni­cal sup­port and ex­pert as­sis­tance in case of nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

The world her­itage com­mit­tee will ad­ju­di­cate on the sec­ond sub­mis­sion of Ba­gan in June or July 2019. So we will con­tin­u­ously watch whether Ba­gan will be­come the next world her­itage-cul­tural site of Myan­mar.

Myan­mar al­ready as­cended to the UNESCO world her­itage – cul­tural site sta­tus in 2014 for three Pyu an­cient ci­ties: Halin, Beik­thano and Sri Kse­tra.

‘We want to ac­cess UNESCO’S list to en­hance the pro­tec­tion of our na­tional her­itage.’ Daw Ohn Mar Myo UNESCO na­tional project of­fi­cer

One of the 3822 ed­i­fices in the her­itage site of Ba­gan. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

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