The Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhuang – Plain of Jars in central Laos, is one of the country’s three World Heritage Properties, inscribed on the List in 2019. The Outstanding Universal Value of this fascinating property lies in more than 2100 tubular-shaped stone jars located on hill slopes and spurs surrounding the central plateau of country. Used for funerary practices in the Iron Age, they date from between 500 BCE and 800 CE. Considering the vulnerability of the property to various natural and human-induced hazards such as fires, erosion, flooding and landslides, as well as from theft and vandalism, the World Heritage Committee at the time of inscription recommended that the State Party develop and implement strategies for disaster reduction, including capacity building activities.
ICCROM, as one of the Advisory Bodies of the World Heritage Convention, and with its well-established expertise in disaster risk management of cultural heritage, was requested by the Lao Department of Heritage, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts (SEAMEO-SPAFA) and UNESCO Bangkok to help in reinforcing the capacities of national and local authorities, providing technical assistance for the implementation of emergency preparedness and risk mitigation interventions. It was also asked to raise awareness within the Lao government on the importance of protecting heritage in emergency situations.
The first in the series of workshops was held at Xiengkhuang from 17 to 21 February 2020. The workshop was attended by the site managers of this property, as well as those of the other two World Heritage Properties of Lao PDR, representatives of village heritage teams and from the disaster preparedness and response division. Through various lectures, classroom and field exercises and discussions, the workshop equipped the participants with knowledge and skills in comprehensive risk mapping and the assessment of heritage sites.
There will be a subsequent workshop in May 2020 which will focus on developing mitigation and emergency preparedness for this property. ICCROM remains committed and ready to serve its Member States in protecting their rich cultural heritage from the increasing risks of disasters and climate change.