UNESCO leading international efforts to protect damaged Nepalese heritage

nepalarchaeologicalteamatswayambhu.jpg

© UNESCO/C. Manhart -UNESCO archaeological team assessing damage at the Swayambhu WH site in Kathmandu
08 May 2015

Less than two weeks after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal, UNESCO is coordinating emergency measures aimed at securing and protecting the remains of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

With the support of local volunteers as well as long-standing partners ICOMOS, ICORP and ICCROM, UNESCO has continued evaluating damage to Nepalese cultural heritage in the past week, after preliminary assessments had shown that the monuments and sites within the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage property - as well as several other cultural and natural heritage sites located in the area - have suffered extensive damage due to the earthquake of 25 April. 

In the meantime, UNESCO has started working on elaborating a set of emergency and longer-term safeguarding measures in cooperation with Nepal’s Department of Archaeology and implementing partners. 

In this context, UNESCO organized on 30 April a first Heritage Coordination Meeting with national and international experts, site managers, the Department of Archaeology, local communities and specialized organizations such as ICOMOS, which are already involved in the clearing of the sites and the assessment of damage. 25 persons participated in this meeting, in order to exchange information, coordinate their activities to create synergies and avoid duplication, to define priorities of protection and emergency consolidation and to decide on the necessary follow-up. All participants requested UNESCO to continue to coordinate efforts to protect Nepal’s unique cultural heritage. 

As a first step, UNESCO is setting up a small coordination team within its Kathmandu office. Amongst other tasks, this team will ensure regular liaison with national authorities and offer guidance and best-practice on how to clear rubble without further damaging heritage fragments and dispersing significant structural members and decorated elements. The UNESCO team will also manage a web-based database, verifying and publishing information regarding damage to heritage sites provided by all authorized heritage assessment teams, who will be able to upload data, including pictures, directly from their smartphones. 

As financial resources have been pledged by several sources to support on-going emergency safeguarding measures, the coordination team will also ensure that these funds are allocated efficiently in order to best prepare for post-disaster reconstruction efforts.