Tourism body to direct cut of Bagan fees toward pagoda repairs
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.
President U Htin Kyaw visits the damaged Sular Mani Pagoda in Bagan on August 25.