20.05.2013 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

Protecting Bhutan’s heritage from fire

Further to the loss in fire of Wangduephodrang Dzong, a 374 year old historic heritage site in June 2012, His Majesty the Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck issued an order to undertake fire vulnerability assessments for all the Dzongs throughout Bhutan.  

Wangduephodrang Dzong is one of the sites being proposed by the Government of Bhutan for future WH nomination as part of a serial nomination on "Dzongs  the Center of Religious and Temporal Authorities".  Disaster mitigation of Dzongs is particularly important for the people of Bhutan as they host sacred objects of national importance that lay the basis of country’s identity.   

However, many of the temples are under vulnerable conditions due to several factors such as the oil lamps in the altars, inappropriate electronic wiring, and cooking by the monks residing inside the temple complexes or lack of sufficient equipment.    

In response to the request of the UN Country Team, UNESCO fielded the mission of two experts, Chris Marrion (USA) and Rohit Jigyasu (India) in January 2013 to understand existing conditions and challenge to prepare an initial Road Map towards the capacity building and strategy development that would assist the people of Bhutan to protect the country’s rich cultural heritage of the Dzongs from fire.   Experts met with various stakeholders, conducted a site visit of one of the Dzongs that will be undergoing restoration in the near future and delivered a Fire Strategy Workshop.   

UNESCO New Delhi office is currently raising funds to ensure the continuation of this technical support.  

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