Unesco body gives govt one more year to ensure protection of Makli necropolis
THATTA: The world heritage committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in its recently concluded conference in Istanbul expressed serious concern over the fast crumbling Ramsar Site, the Makli necropolis, mainly due to neglect and unchecked encroachment.
The meeting discussed the option of putting the world’s second largest historical necropolis on the list of ‘endangered world heritage sites’. However, it granted the government of Pakistan one year’s time to take appropriate measures to avoid such an action.
This was revealed by sources privy to the conference while speaking to this reporter here on Wednesday.
The conference began on July 10 and concluded on July 20. It was attended by over 1,500 delegates from around the world.
Former director general of the Sindh Archaeology department Qasim Ali Qasim also attended the conference as consultant on behalf of the department. He told this reporter that Pakistan’s arguments regarding its capacity to protect, preserve and maintain the heritage site were heard and after a debate, the committee agreed to extend the time, to take appropriate and effective measures for the protection and preservation of the site, by another year.
Sources in the Sindh government suggested that the provincial Minister for Culture, Tourism and Archaeology, Syed Sardar Ali Shah, took notice of the Unesco committee’s concern.
Presiding over a meeting of the officials concerned a few days ago, he called for stern action against the elements that had encroached upon of the land of the Makli necropolis and damaged to taken away the rare properties belonging to it.
The minister, according to the sources, asked the secretary concerned to mobilise the police force, administration and all other available resources to ensure protect of the world heritage site. He ordered removal of all encroachments and dislodging of unauthorised people from the necropolis.
A participant in the meeting quoted the minister as telling the officials that enlistment of the necropolis as the ‘endangered world heritage site’ would earn a bad name to Pakistan.
He said that being an engineer by profession, he was well versed with the protection, rehabilitation and preservation of historical monuments and fully realised the significance of such sites. He warned the curators and other officials against showing negligence or slackness in the fair discharge of their duties. He said the ministry had to accomplish the task assigned to it within the grace period.
The Makli necropolis is spread over an area of nine square kilometres. It has thousands of mausoleums and graves, built with carved stones, of the rulers, soldiers, prominent personalties and other people belonging to five dynasties — Samma 1350-1521, Arghuns 1521-1551, Turkhan 1551-1599, Mughals 1599-1729 and Kalhoras 1729-1782.
According to eminent historian and a former director general of the culture and archaeology department Dr Mohammed Ali Manjhi, the Makli necropolis originally had more than 125,000 mausoleums and graves but a large number of them vanished owing to neglect, theft of priced carved stones and encroachment of its lands, besides weather-related damage.