Fight to save Bagan

ASEAN+ November 03, 2014 20:15

By Myanmar Eleven

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Locals are against hotel construction in Bagan, as the ancient city is seeking World Heritage listing

A group of local people in Bagan last weekend voiced their grievance over some hotel development projects in the vicinity of the ancient city.
A group of local people in Bagan last weekend voiced their grievance over some hotel development projects in the vicinity of the ancient city.
Calling themselves Bagan Lovers Organisation, they demanded private hotels to stop construction which is in defiance of the authorities’ orders. They vowed to protest against further construction works.
“Most of the hotels enlarge their compound more than they had been allowed, and these enlarged areas also contain the ancient pagodas and buildings,” said Min Naing Aung, chairperson of the organisation.
The grievance came amid Myanmar government’s renewed efforts to add the Bagan cultural region to Unesco’s World Heritage List, which would certainly draw more visitors to the ancient city. Eight sites were submitted for the list in 1996, but shortcomings in the thenjunta’s applications have been blamed for the failure to have them included. Three ancient Pyu cities became the first sites in Myanmar to join the list.
Once on the list, more technical and financial assistance can be received to help preserve the sites, and the listings also will help promote the sites as tourism attractions.
To ensure Bagan’s selection as a World Heritage Site, government officials and the Ministry of Culture, on September 3, warned hotel businesses currently expanding and rebuilding their hotels in Bagan to suspend their activities. 
According to Min Naing Aung, about 20 hotels are still proceeding with their works.
Win Maung, a member of the organisation, noted that there are flaws in the Ministry of Culture’s conservation of ancient pagodas. There have been cases like letting the cars drive till the floor of Ananda Pagoda and Shwe Si Gone Pagoda. Some pagodas are blocked and people cannot pay obeisance. 
Win Maung said that during a dinner talk with Unesco officials, he asked them to force all hotels to move pagodas. 
He noted that on the ground of Aden Hotel, for example, stand as many as 14 ancient pagodas. 
“No outsiders are allowed to pay obeisance to these,” he said.
Similarly, Adventure Hotel, which is currently under construction, has claimed ancient pagodas from the 11th century as its property, he continued. 
He added that Bagan, Thande, Thazin and Palm Garden hotels are constructing their hotels over pagodas. Some hotels do not allow even the officials from the Department of Archaeology to enter their hotel compound. We have sent complaints to the Ministry of Culture but they have been ignored.
Bagan attracts visitors with more than 2,200 temples and pagodas. The kingdom flourished between the 9th and 13th centuries and was the first to unify the regions that have become modern Myanmar. The area is one of Myanmar's main tourist attractions.
In March, the authorities added the fifth zone for hotel development, which does not locate in the vicinity of the city’s ancient temples. In May, the authorities ordered the suspension of the construction in the vicinity.

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