New add-ons to ancient pagodas slated for demolition
NEW pagoda additions to ancient Bagan will be demolished, archaeology experts said. The newer structures are believed to be an earthquake hazard with their extra weight and proclivity to toppling, putting the heritage zone at risk.
“There are many factors involved in causing destruction here,” U Aung Aung Kyaw, director for the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library in Bagan, said yesterday. “One problem we can currently solve is taking down the newer, smaller pagodas that have been erected alongside the ancient temples. There are many of these small pagodas built on various levels of the ancient structures. The upper parts of the old pagodas can’t stand such extra weight while enduring an earthquake.”
The exact number of the new pagodas is unknown, he added, but before the slated removal, the department will conduct an inventory. U Aung Aung Kyaw estimated the number would be substantial.
“We won’t demolish any small pagodas that were built at the same time as the ancient pagodas. We are only talking about taking down the new additions in order to minimise the destruction caused in future earthquakes,” he said.
In August, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake centred near Chauk, Magwe Region, caused extensive damage in Bagan, at least partially destroying 397 ancient pagodas.
The archaeology department is conducting emergency maintenance of pagoda murals affected by the tremor in cooperation with the Ministry of Religious and Cultural Affairs, the Myanmar Engineering Society and architects specialising in ancient buildings.
According to U Aung Aung Kyaw, the initial process of clearing up the rubble is nearly complete with just 10 more pagodas needing cleaning on upper terraces.
“It is difficult to do clearance works on the upper terraces. So we have suspended the work until we get cranes from the Department of Engineering and put up scaffolding,” said an engineer who is assisting in the clearance.
Iconic Bagan sites, including the Sulamani Temple and the Saytanargyi Pagoda are among the 10 still needing to be cleared.
The maintenance work is expected to be completed by the end of this year, with restoration projected to begin in February.
In another effort to remove undue stress on the ancient site, vehicles have been banned from the eastern gate to Bagan old city, and NyaungU district administrator U Soe Tint said that there is a plan to ban passenger vehicles from the 12th-century Thatbyinnyu Pagoda, one of Bagan’s most highly touristed sites.
– Translation by Thiri Min Htun