UNESCO named Myanmar’s ancient capital of Bagan as a World Heritage Site on Saturday, July 6, 2019 at a meeting of the UN’ cultural body in Baku, Azerbaijan. This marks a significant milestone in Myanmar. Finally, after nearly 25 years from the time the complex of Buddhist temples was first nominated for listing. From now on, the great world has recognized the outstanding universal value of Bagan, which means Bagan will be preserved for generations and be protected by the international community.
To date, there are an estimate of 3500 magnificent pagodas, temples, and other heritage structure in the region dating back from the 11th to 13th centuries. In the fulture, that will be a boon to the Myanmar tourism industry. Bagan is a famous attraction of Myanmar which is already popular among tourist. With this recognition, it will be further attract more visitors from abroad.
In 1995, Bagan was first nominated as a World Heritage Site. However, the country could not reverse inappropriate conservation intervention in the archaeological and monument site, the nomination was rejected.
With this new role, Myanmar government has been also adopted a new heritage law and had proposed plans to minimize the impact of new hotels and tourism developments around the temple.
In a talk with The Myanmar Times, Thant Myint U, a historian and Yangon Heritage Trust chair, share his thought: “Bagan is not only a place of Sublime beauty, but a place of tremendous historic importance. That was fuelled by an energetic multiculturalism and an openennes to the outside world, a place from which we can still draw lessons and inspiration.”
According to the government of Myanmar, all hotels will be removed from the archaeological site to a dedicated hotel zone by 2028. This plan is a promise to protect Bagan to sustain its World Heritage status.
This project is approved by many travel agencies in Myanmar. Bertie Lawson, leader of Sampan Travel, shared his thought: “Looking forward, it is important that a long-term view of tourism and national heritage is adopted and mistakes of the past are not repeated.”
As a local Myanmar tour operator, Go Myanmar Tours Managing Director, Mrs Hana, also commented: “Each of us takes responsibility to preserve the thousand-year-old treasure to keep it forever. Therefore, removing the hotels out of the archaeological area will help to prevent the negative effect of tourism industry on the site”
The development of tourism in Bagan has brought a huge benefit to locals. Since Myanmar tourism has boomed, there are an emergence of more lacquerware workshops, bike rental, or horse carriages, which help people a lot on making their living.
However, along with the rapid pace of tourism development, which means the region will be under of environmental and social pressure. It is necessary for local to learn about the importance of protecting the existence of the archaeological site as well as respecting the culture for the long term prospect.
According to U Aung Htun Lin, Chief Technical Lead at Skylark Myanmar Pte., Ltd, Mrauk U, which is known as a forgotten world in Myanmar will be the next location in Myanmar to be added in UNESCO.