Tourism body to direct cut of Ba­gan fees to­ward pagoda re­pairs

The Myanmar Times - - News - EI EI THU eiei­thu@mm­

THE Myan­mar Tourism Fed­er­a­tion will put at least K80 mil­lion (US$66,000) to­ward re­pairs to pago­das dam­aged by an earth­quake last month, the chair of the fed­er­a­tion, U Yan Win, said at a press con­fer­ence on Septem­ber 3.

The money will be taken from the cut that the fed­er­a­tion takes of the K25,000 en­trance fee to the famed arche­o­log­i­cal site.

“We are ready to pay more than K80 mil­lion, from 4 per­cent of the zone fees col­lected, that can be used wher­ever the Min­istry of Reli­gious Af­fairs and Cul­ture wants, in co­op­er­a­tion with Ba­gan re­gional con­ser­va­tion as­so­ci­a­tions,” U Yan Win said.

The Myan­mar Tourism Fed­er­a­tion took over col­lec­tion of the tourism zone fees on March 1. It takes an 8pc cut, while 90pc goes to the Union bud­get and 2pc is al­lot­ted for tem­ple up­keep.

“It will be K250 mil­lion at the end of this year, 4pc of zone fees. This amount [K80 mil­lion] is just what had been col­lected through the end of Au­gust,” U Yan Win said.

Re­pair ef­forts in Ba­gan are cur­rently be­ing funded by donors, ac­cord­ing to Daw Ohn Mar Aung of the Min­istry of Reli­gious Af­fairs and Cul­ture.

“We don’t yet have the bud­get from the gov­ern­ment for Ba­gan pago­das’ ren­o­va­tion be­cause it [the earth­quake] hap­pened very re­cently,” she said of the 6.8-mag­ni­tude tem­blor that hit central Myan­mar on Au­gust 24. “But we are con­tin­u­ously im­ple­ment­ing [re­pairs] with donors’ money.”

The UN Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UNESCO) has been en­listed to pro­vide tech­ni­cal sup­port, Daw Ohn Mar Aung said.

“We can de­cide how we will con­serve the pago­das af­ter dis­cus­sions with lo­cal ex­perts and those from UNESCO. But we can’t say when it will be fin­ished,” she added.

“It will be a long-term plan but we can’t cal­cu­late the es­ti­mated bud­get be­cause un­ex­pected cir­cum­stances could oc­cur while we are ren­o­vat­ing,” she said.

Min­istry of Reli­gious Af­fairs and Cul­ture said last week that nearly 400 pago­das in Ba­gan were dam­aged by the earth­quake to some ex­tent.

Ba­gan saw about 250,000 tourists in 2015 and more than 160,000 through the end of Au­gust this year, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Ho­tels and Tourism.

“It in­creased 8 per­cent com­pared with last year’s sit­u­a­tion. We ex­pect to reach 300,000 tourists to Ba­gan by the end of this year,” said U Than Htut Khaing, an of­fi­cer from the De­part­ment of Ho­tels and Tourism in Nyaung-U, the area’s prin­ci­pal town.

In­dus­try ex­perts have said they do not ex­pect the dam­age caused by last month’s earth­quake to ap­pre­cia­bly dent the tourism in­dus­try this year, cit­ing the en­dur­ing al­lure of the hun­dreds of un­af­fected pago­das and Ba­gan’s undi­min­ished bu­colic charm.

Photo: Kaung Htet

Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw vis­its the dam­aged Su­lar Mani Pagoda in Ba­gan on Au­gust 25.

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