Scientific investigation is indispensable for disaster risk mitigation planning of heritage sites, say experts
Experts gathered in an event unanimously agreed that further scientific investigations, especially the study of the underground rocky formation from the standpoint of soil stability or earthquake, is crucial to define next steps for preparing the disaster risk mitigation planning of Swayambhu. They expressed this in the seminar held on 27 July where a study for disaster risk reduction planning for the Swayambhu monument zone was shared. They also discussed and pointed out the need to continue monitoring the soil settlement at the site.
The seminar “Integrating heritage values with disaster risk assessment in Swayambhu” was jointly organized by the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu and the Department of Archaeology with the funding support from the Oriental Culture Heritage Sites Protection Alliance, Paris.
Amita Vohra, Officer-In-Charge of the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu, in her opening remarks said, “Swayambhu, like most of heritage sites around the world, is exposed to enormous threats, putting its value at risk”. She added, “I hope that the discussions on the study findings will lead to recommendations for better conservation planning and establishment of a heritage-sensitive disaster risk management strategy for Swayambhu.”
The study findings are based on the detailed structural and heritage value survey of altogether 40 buildings atop the main hill, including the secondary data of technical investigations carried out at the site earlier. The study has identified three types of risk, namely the seismic, landslide and fire, as the main hazards to which the Swayambhu monument zone is exposed to. During the seminar, findings of the hazard analysis at the site and vulnerability of the structures carried out in respect of the heritage values of the site were presented in detail.
The discussions on the findings not only provided an understanding about the disaster risk related issues but also raised concerns among the stakeholders to initiate similar approach for other monument zones of the Kathmandu Valley. It also highlighted the importance of practical approach, for example, the documentation process and updating the inventory as a tool for conservation and disaster risk mitigation planning, and of monitoring-based actions that consider integration of identified measures and its regular implementation through annual resource plan of the concerned department, municipality or local federation.
The Department of Archaeology showed its readiness to support and agreed to further the plan of actions in partnership with the Kathmandu Metropolitan City and the local Federation of Swayambhu Management and Conservation.
The study was carried out by the Centre for Applied Research and Development (CARD) of the Institute of Engineering, Nepal. Following the recommendation of 2 September 2013 workshop held in Kathmandu, UNESCO had commissioned the CARD to investigate issues related to disaster risk preparedness and mitigating planning by taking into consideration the heritage values of the Swayambhu monument zone and to suggest future steps for integrating fundamental aspects into the existing management plan for the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage property.
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