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Lo Manthang folk concerned over world heritage site plan

KATHMANDU, NOV 03 -

Local people at Lo Manthang, an ancient mountain kingdom located in Upper Mustang, are concerned over the existence of their homeland once the area is enlisted as a World Culture Heritage site.

In 2008, the government had included Lo Manthang, the famous earthern-walled capital located at an altitude of around 3,900 meters above sea level, in the tentative list for World Culture Heritage designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. The famous Tibetan Budhhist kingdom is the single nomination from the country for the designation for its uniqueness and vibrant cultural heritage dating from the 15th century.

Indra Dhara Bista, a local and a member of Culture Heritage Conservation Sub-Committee, strongly objected to the proposal saying it would affect the livelihood of local communities who are dependent on Lo Manthang and surrounding cultural landscape.

Local people believe that once the site is declared a world heritage site, the authorities concerned would curtail their access to the place and restrict other permitted development works necessary for improving their livelihood. A large number of local people depend on trade and agriculture for their livelihood, and run shops connected with the earthen-wall surrounding of Lo Manthang.

Bista was among the participants attending a two-day international symposium on ‘Safeguarding Lo Manthang and Cultural Lanscape of Upper Mustang’ in the Capital that concluded on Saturday.

In the programme, Tashi Bista, a youth advisor representing the Upper Mustang Youth Society, said it is worrisome to hear news about antiques of Upper Mustang being sold online and use of sub-standard materials in the renovation of the site for listing it on World Heritage Sites list by the international community and government authorities. “We fear that once the site makes it to the list, locals’ development needs, including better education and  health, will be dominated by the conservation efforts of artifacts in the area,” he said.

Meanwhile, the locals have submitted a letter mentioning their concerns to the Jigme Shinge Palbar Bista, former king of Lo Manthang for consideration.

Since 2008, various organisations and experts have been involved in restoration temples, research and excavation of prehistoric caves in the area. Roland Lin Chih-Hung, a representative from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in France, said it is not possible to work in isolation, without consulting the communities for the sustainable development of the particular site. “Regarding the decision about listing as a world heritage site, it is still a long way to go and local people’s concerns would be taken into consideration during the process,” he added.

According to Neel Kamal Chapagain, assistant professor at the Centre for Heritage Management of Ahmedabad University in India, sustainable development of the site is possible only through a mutual dialogue between the locals and the conservationists,” he said.

Posted on: 2013-11-04 09:54


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