Afghanistan: Conservation of the Bamiyan Valley

© UNESCO/ M. Santana
Bamiyan Village

“It is abominable to witness the cold and calculated destruction of cultural properties which were the heritage of the Afghan people, and, indeed, of the whole of humanity… The loss is irreversible. Everything possible must be done to stop further destruction.”

– Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Former UNESCO Director-General.

The destruction of the 7th century Bamiyan Buddha statues in 2001 caused great international outrage, in advance of the eventual overthrow of the Taliban regime that same year. 

The loss of this heritage – which included what had been the tallest standing Buddha statue in the world - has revealed elaborate mural paintings and caves within this site. Following its inclusion on the World Heritage in Danger List in 2003, UNESCO has led a comprehensive international effort to conserve the many fragments of the original Buddha statues, consolidate its cliffs and niches, and restore mural paintings within the Buddhist caves, and define a master plan to safeguard the Bamiyan site. The project, generously funded by Japan and now in its third phase of implementation, is also about training and raising awareness among national and local authorities to ensure the sustainability of conservation measures. 

To support cultural tourism opportunities and a secure environment for further conservation and archaeological research, UNESCO is working closely with the United Nations Mine Action Centre in Afghanistan (UNMACA) to clear safe pathways to archaeological sites contaminated by mines and unexploded ordinance in the Bamiyan Valley World Heritage site. In the course of the de-mining activities, many archaeological objects have been recovered from the site and are being scientifically documented and restored for future exhibition.

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