Author Topic: Cultural Heritage Should Be Conserved  (Read 4044 times)


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Cultural Heritage Should Be Conserved
« on: May 09, 2015, 11:35:43 AM »

Looters prowl as Nepal's treasures SPILL INTO VIEW.  Buddhist monks brave the threat of aftershocks to guard priceless cultural heritage gleaming in the rubble.

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Kathmandu May 7, 2015 1:00 am

Rajesh Suwal has spent much of the 12 days since the earthquake running up and down the steps of Swayambhunath, an ancient Buddhist temple on a hilltop at the western edge of Kathmandu. "I am a bit lost," he says. "I just don't not know where to begin."

Someone needs to clear the rubble, secure the area, take an inventory, protect and transfer whatever is left, and provide food and water to the locals. Not mention the shortage of tents.

The area around the 5th-century temple - one of Nepal's oldest and most sacred - looks like it was hit by a bomb. Twenty-seven religious monuments and buildings are in ruins, as well as scores of locals' houses.

Hundreds of idols, statues, bells, and roof tiles are scattered across the floor. The Hindu god Mahankal has been knocked off his horse and only the legs remain of a brass peacock on a stone pedestal.

Locals are sorting the rubble from the treasures, setting aside bricks and wooden beams that might be reusable.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 7,500 people in Nepal also destroyed a large number of historically and culturally important monuments and temples.

Christian Manhart, the head of Unesco in Nepal, says the impact was "absolutely dramatic."

Unprecedented devastation

No other natural disaster in recent history has caused more harm to a country's cultural heritage, he adds.

"We have here in the Kathmandu Valley three-quarters of the heritage badly damaged. Outside we are just starting the evaluation, but the news we have so far is not very encouraging."

The German archeologist says that of the seven World Heritage Sitesin the valley, Kathmandu's medieval Durbar Square is worst hit.

"Eighty per cent of the temples have collapsed there, as well as apart of the royal palace."

An open house believed to have been built with the timber of a single tree around the 16th century is one of them. It collapsed during a blood donation, killing everyone inside.

Other sites also lost temples and other monuments, Manhart says, including two medieval towns being considered for World Heritage listing.

Inside Karma Raja Mahavihar monastery, saffron-robed monks consider the ruins where they used to pray. Prayer wheels lie on the floor amid religious texts and broken glass.

Some valuables, including expensive stones, are being stored at the house of Rajendra Lal Manandhar, the secretary of the monastery, for safekeeping. He suspects some were stolen during the first five days when there was no security except for two local guards. Now the area is secured by a dozen police and most of it is cordoned off.

Suwal, a member of the area's management committee, says even otherwise law-abiding people are being tempted in the circumstances.

"A nice couple came to pray on the third day of the earthquake. We let them go up to the stupa to pray. They stole two small idols. Thankfully, our volunteers saw them and got them back."

Smaller items like terracotta idols had even been stolen after being taped to toy drones, he says, forcing authorities to ban the devices from the area.

A local paper said a senior government official had sent his driver to bring back some bricks and wooden artefacts.

"There is a danger of these areas being looted, always, all over the world, in these situations," Manhart says.

But the heritage sites are also facing other risks.

In some areas the first responders used bulldozers to clear rubble, causing irreparable damage according to some archaeologists.

"We tried to prevent this immediately when we learned this," Manhart says.

History bulldozed

"It was very difficult to convince the authorities because they had this pressure of saving lives. They thought that with bulldozers they could quickly remove the rubble and pull out the bodies," he says, adding hands would have been more effective.

Also, resources have been focussed on aid and relief, and little attention or funds are available for the urgent consolidation of vulnerable sites and damage assessment.

"Before restoration, we need to know the damage done," Manhart adds.

Unesco has issued a flash appeal, an unusual request for a type of funds more commonly used for humanitarian emergencies than cultural ones.

Satya Mohan Joshi, a cultural expert and historian, notes that the value of Nepal's heritage goes beyond the local culture.

"It belongs to all Nepalese in the country. It is a treasure.

"Creativity and skill and talent is the world's property. Cultural heritage should be conserved."


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Re: Cultural Heritage Should Be Conserved
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2015, 11:42:03 AM »
I have been to Nepal and I know how beautiful the cultural heritage in Nepal are. There are 2 reasons why I think these cultural sites should be conserved and restored in light of the Nepal Earthquake.

Firstly, these sites,whether Buddhist or Hindu were built to benefit the living and to remind us of the cultural practice of people in the past. The second is the function of religion and in the case of stupas and statues, it creates merits for people who see them. The former attracts people who are more inclined to the cultural aspect of these site but inevitably it results in the latter.