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Burma’s Ministry of Culture has warned that the unauthorised construction of buildings in any of 46 cultural heritage zones will be punished by law.
An announcement by the ministry in state-run newspapers on Wednesday said that the construction of residential buildings, fences, hotels and roads or land plotting within the designated heritage zones would henceforth require permission from the ministry.
The 46 cultural heritage zones include not only the famous historical temples of Bagan but other religious and historical sites around the country – in Mandalay, Rangoon, Magwe, Sagaing, Irrawaddy and Tenasserim divisions, and Karen, Arakan and Shan states.
The cultural heritage zones have been recognised and demarcated since 1998. When asked why the ministry is only now announcing the conservation plan, the director of the Department of Historical Research, Zaw Zaw Tun, said, “We are making the announcement now because an increasing number of people are being tricked into buying plots within the cultural zones without realising that construction is prohibited.”
However, Min Naing, a representative of the Organisation for Conservation and Development of the Bagan Cultural Heritage Zone, said that hotels had been constructed in the heritage zone of Wet Kyi Inn near Bagan, while the authorities turned a blind eye.
“An official regulation prohibits construction of structures higher than 29ft in the heritage zones, however hotels are being constructed in Watgyinn’s ward-7 and the authorities are not doing a thing about it,” said Min Naing, adding that there might be “another reason” why the authorities are letting it happen.