Guidelines To Manage Bhutanese Heritage Sites

The guideline will identify the roles and responsibilities of cultural heritage professionals during response and recovery events as well as relevant tools to equip them to carry out their responsibilities.

Punakha Dzong. (Source: DrukAsia)

 

By Phurpa Lhamo | Kuensel

 

Recognising the vulnerability of heritage sites to disasters, the Department of Culture (DoC) in collaboration with relevant stakeholders will develop an operational guideline to manage heritage sites.

A four-day workshop with the objective of developing guidelines for the monitoring of pre-disaster and ‘preparedness’ plan for heritage sites, and post-disaster response mechanism for cultural heritage professionals for recovery and restoration began yesterday in Thimphu.

Roles of cultural heritage professionals identified

The guideline will identify the roles and responsibilities of cultural heritage professionals during response and recovery events as well as relevant tools to equip them to carry out their responsibilities.

It will also have procedures to conduct post-disaster studies and assessments before the reconstruction and renovation of the site and immediate measures that can be implemented after a disaster.

DoC’s chief architect, Nagtsho Dorji, said that although the DoC did have responsibilities before a disaster such as documentation, without an operational guideline, the DoC cannot play any role after disasters have affected certain heritage sites.

She said that the guideline would help recognise individual responsibilities during disasters.

“From the Wangdue fire incident, we realised that our role is more pronounced. We need to be more prepared and know our functions. We should not wait for disasters to keep reminding us where we stand. We are reconstructing and renovating the heritage sites and we feel that we are losing the authenticity of the sites.”

Cost of losing heritage sites to disasters

According to information from the DoC, the physical loss of the structures, especially lhakhangs and dzongs was worth USD 13.5 million during the 2009 earthquake and USD 6.96 million during the 2011 earthquake. In 2012, Bhutan also witnessed a huge fire that razed the Wangduephodrang Dzong.

“The actual loss goes beyond the loss of physical structures and includes the loss of interior assets –nangtens,” the press release issued by the DoC stated.

Before the workshop, the DoC identified three case heritage sites – Talung village in Haa affected by an earthquake in 2011, Wangduephodrang Dzong burnt in 2012 and the Kabisa lhakhang in Punakha which was affected by windstorm.

During the four-day workshop, stakeholders at the workshop will visit one of the sites and meet the personnel involved during the disaster to understand the real experience and function of the stakeholders during disasters.

The representatives at the workshop will also focus on understanding the current procedures and failures of the operational procedures during a disaster.

Nagtsho Dorji said that at the end of the workshop, a framework of the guideline would be presented.

“We will have an outlined guideline, which will be further consolidated by experts. We are expecting to publish the guideline for reference and adoption by stakeholders before the end of this year.”

Guidance and expertise from Japan

Experts from the Ritsumeikan University's Institute of Disaster Mitigation and the DoC will help to develop the guideline.

The representatives from the Royal Bhutan Police, DeSuungs, the Royal Bhutan Army, the Department of Disaster Management, Dratshang Lhentshog, and forest officials are attending the workshop which will end on April 11.

 

This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the new Bhutan Times.

 


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