New add-ons to an­cient pago­das slated for de­mo­li­tion

The Myanmar Times - - News - MAUNG ZAW maungzaw@mm­times.com

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

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