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Officials plan to extend urban area in Bagan

A view of Bagan from a nearby hotel. Aung Htay Hlaing/The Myanmar Times

A view of Bagan from a nearby hotel.

The government is working on urban development in Bagan, Myanmar’s new UNESCO World Heritage site, according to the Department of Archaeology and National Museum and Library.

“We planned to carry out measures for future population growth and economic improvement before applying for World Heritage status. Government agencies are now cooperating on urban development,” said U Aung Aung Kyaw, director of the department’s Bagan branch.

An expert from the International Council on Monuments and Sites, an advisory group of UNESCO, said at a meeting in Azerbaijan that urban projects for future population growth and building hotels in Bagan should be compatible with the region. 

Bagan’s urban development will be conducted according to UNESCO regulations.

If hotel and housing projects do not damage Bagan’s cultural heritage area, they will be allowed. Hotels outside the city and villages will need to seek approval if they do not conform to regulations, U Aung Kyaw Kyaw said.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture announced zoning restrictions in the Ancient Monumental Zone, Ancient Site Zone and Protected and Preserved Zone.

According to UNESCO rules, the distance between a pagoda and building must be 120 feet and the public cannot dig deeper than six feet underground. There are over 300 hotels in Bagan but most of them are small family businesses with only 30 to 50 rooms, according to data from Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. 

Rather than investing in large hotels, businesses can also build small traditional guesthouses in Bagan, World Heritage management expert Kai Weise suggested.

Bagan was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 7, a quarter of a century after the ancient capital was first nominated.  

Over 210,000 tourists visited Bagan in the first six half of this year, which was over 90,000 more than same period last year, according to the Hotels and Tourism Directorate.

Bagan region receives over 300,000 tourists a year, and travel companies expect that number to grow because of its World Heritage status. But meeting conservation pledges and effective local governance will be critical for the area’s future. – Translated