A violent 6.8 earthquake hit central Myanmar on 24 August 2016, killing at least four people and damaging the archaeological site of Bagan. Once the capital city of the historical Pagan Kingdom, the site of Bagan contains more than 2500 Buddhist monuments built from the 10th to 14th centuries, including temples, stupas and monasteries.
The site of Bagan is actively used for religious and cultural purposes. The monuments are greatly venerated by the population, and large numbers of pilgrims visit the site from all over Myanmar, particularly at festival times. More than 300 temples contain highly significant mural paintings. In addition, Bagan is a main focus for Myanmar’s growing tourist industry.
ICCROM’s assistance has been requested by the UNESCO Bangkok office in setting up emergency response and recovery measures to prevent further damage and loss to cultural property at Bagan.
The joint expert mission to Myanmar will take part in the overall planning for emergency measures, damage assessment and setting priorities. The mission will suggest solutions for stabilisation, and help organise debris clearance and temporary storage of movable heritage resources and collation of documentation.
ICCROM is also organizing a “training of trainers” staff activity for the Department of Archaeology and National Museum and on-site volunteers, beginning on 9 September 2016. The main goal is to strengthen local capacities and ensure that locals are involved and fully capable to conduct field activities.
Myanmar has been a Member State of ICCROM since 1987. ICCROM has frequently supported the work of culture professionals working in the heritage sector in the country. One example is the series of rapid assessment workshops for mural paintings at the site of Bagan, organized by ICCROM in June 2014 and June 2016. Myanmar professionals have also participated in the First Aid to Cultural Heritage courses organized by ICCROM.
ICCROM welcomes the assistance of Member States, donor institutions and individuals who wish to contribute to ICCROM's newly-launched Cultural Heritage Fund, to be used to support recovery activities in the event of severe crises affecting cultural heritage, as is now happening in Bagan.
Donations will enable ICCROM to provide services at request of and in coordination with Member States. These services include: technical assistance to assess damage and post-disaster needs for cultural recovery; mobilization of a cultural expert network; on-site training in context-specific "first aid" for all types of cultural heritage; building capacity for recovery, resilience and risk reduction; and technical assistance in preparing risk management plans.