Unesco team to inspect progress of work at Makli necropolis next week

Updated 15 Jan 2019

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World Heritage Site faces risk of losing ‘endangered’ status. ─ Photo by Humera Naz
World Heritage Site faces risk of losing ‘endangered’ status. ─ Photo by Humera Naz

THATTA: A two-member reactive mission of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) is to visit the Makli necropolis next week to ascertain whether the 15 recommendations of the UN’s specialised agency for better maintenance of the heritage site were implemented or not.

The reactive mission would specially visit the 15th century shrine of Jam Nizamuddin-II alias Jam Nindo (1443-1509) which had deve­l­o­p­ed wide cracks and is crumbling.

The visiting team of experts comprising Hayashi Nao and Jonathan Stanhope will prepare an exclusive report which is to be presented at Unesco’s next annual meeting, scheduled for June-July 2019 at Baku, Azerbaijan.

At last year’s meeting, held in Poland, followed by a recent meeting in Bahrain, Unesco had war­ned the government of Pakistan that if required steps were not taken towards conservation of the site as per international standards and the 15 recommendations were not followed, the Makli necropolis could be de-listed as an endangered World Heritage Site.

World Heritage Site faces risk of losing ‘endangered’ status

Besides the Jam Nindo tomb, the reactive team would inspect construction of the outer boundary wall of the necropolis and ascertain what measures had been taken to prevent unauthorised burials within the precinct of the heritage site.

A meeting of the archaeology department’s steering committee was held recently under the chairmanship of Manzoor Kanasro, the director general of antiquities and culture. Thatta Deputy Commis­sio­ner Usman Tanveer, consultant (archaeology) Qazi Ayaz, Makli necropolis conservator Sarfaraz Ahmed Jatoi, Nawaz Jatoi and Dr Mohammad Ali Manjhi, a historian and former director general of the culture department, attended the meeting.

It discussed threadbare various issues pertaining to the heritage site with reference to the Unesco reactive mission’s visit, tentatively scheduled for Jan 20-22.

The meeting decided to strictly implement the recommendations including stopping fresh burials in any part of the necropolis.

It noted that an alternative burial site had been earmarked for the local population.

Conservator Jatoi told Dawn that recently, structural engineers, architects and conservationists Mr Matthias from Germ­any and Mr Rand Eppich from Spain had visited the site and conducted geotechnical studies of the monumental shrine on behalf of Unesco with a view to protecting the heritage site. They have alre­ady submitted their reports to Unesco.

It also discussed measures for early completion of the necropolis’s outer boundary and beefed up security at the site.

Former director general of arch­a­e­ology Qasim Ali Qasim has, meanwhile, observed that Unesco was seriously concerned over the state of the Jam Nindo monument, which had been included in the master plan of the archaeology department.

He pointed out that when the position of the tomb’s columns was measured, it emerged that the 33-foot-tall structure with an equal size of plinth had tilted by seven inches which was quite alarming.

Dr Manjhi expressed his concern over Sindh and Balochistan having no representation on Une­sco’s annual convention tho­ugh Punjab and Khyber Pakhtun­khwa did have their representation.

The meeting expressed its satisfaction over the working of digital cracks monitors and weather stations present at the necropolis.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2019