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Reconstructed Monuments Most Impacted in Bagan Earthquake, Experts Find

UNESCO, World Bank and Partners Support Rehabilitation Planning


BANGKOK, 23 November 2016 —  Most of the monuments that suffered significant damage in the 24 August 2016 Bagan earthquake had been partially reconstructed over the last 20 years, with reconstructions built on top of original structures, found a group of experts supported by UNESCO, the World Bank and partners.

Myanmar authorities have flagged around 90 out of nearly 400 damaged monuments as being of particular concern. The experts noted the disparity in the damage done to different monuments at the site.

For the reconstructed monuments, the experts noted that the most significant damage was mainly caused by: poor connection between the ancient buildings and the more recent reconstruction materials; the low quality of the newly added parts; and, in many cases, the lack of appropriate and regular maintenance. In several cases, the reconstructed parts became detached during the earthquake and fell on top of older portions of the monuments.

By contrast, monuments that had not undergone reconstruction or restoration, or had only minor interventions, seemed to have fared better in the earthquake. Monuments which had been comprehensively strengthened following the previous major earthquake in 1975 also fared relatively well.

To prevent additional damage in the short term, urgent protection and stabilization of damaged monuments is currently being implemented by Myanmar authorities, with inputs from international experts. Temporary roofs and waterproofing materials are being installed to prevent rainwater seepage, unstable structures are being propped up, damaged building components are being stabilized or removed as appropriate.

To ensure that the long-term rehabilitation of Bagan will reflect past lessons, guidelines are being developed for the conservation of the monuments as well as the entire heritage site. The guidelines will provide instructions on appropriate solutions from an engineering and heritage point of view, including in the selection of materials and reinforcement techniques. The guidelines will be reviewed by national and international experts prior to adoption by the Government of Myanmar.

UNESCO will cooperate with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture to pilot the guidelines by developing a conservation plan for one monument. It is expected that during the Prioritized Rehabilitation Phase, which will continue for the next two years, structures chosen based on level of heritage significance and degree of damage will be rehabilitated. The World Bank / the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) will also continue to provide technical assistance in the recovery planning and reconstruction process.

A team that includes several senior experts was sent to Bagan in September 2016.  The team includes key members of the UNESCO-UNDP programme conducted following the 1975 earthquake at Bagan, namely Pierre Pichard, conservation specialist from the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and Professor Predrag Gravilovic, from the Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Seismology in Macedonia. The experts’ deployment was jointly supported by the World Bank / GFDRR and the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund. EFEO also provided the services of conservation expert Christophe Pottier, who took a leading role in synthesizing the mission findings.

The Government of Myanmar is committed to nominating the “Bagan Archaeological Area and Monuments” site to the World Heritage list. The historic site contains more than 2,500 Buddhist monuments built from the 10th to the 14th centuries AD. UNESCO has been working closely with Myanmar authorities since 2012 in providing support for the long-term protection of this important cultural property.



Media contact:   

Noel Boivin, Media and Communications Officer, UNESCO Bangkok
Tel.: (66 2) 391-0577 Ext. 347
Fax: (66 2) 391-0866