BAGAN, 17 March 2016: Bagan’s Regional Development Association says the ancient city should be allocated a bigger share of cash collected in tourist entrance fees to support restoration.
Myanmar Times quoted the association chairman, U Khin Maung Nu, saying the association wants “at least half” of the revenue from the Bagan’s tourism zone fees to go towards the high cost of maintenance of the pagodas and regional development.
Under a contract signed between Ministry of Culture and Myanmar Tourism Federation in late February, the government will receive 90% of the proceeds, while MTF gets just 8% and the remaining 2% will support conservation and regional development, the report said.
“Bagan residents are angry. They are not satisfied with the current policy,” the chairman said adding that the city needed improvements in basic infrastructure, healthcare and recreational spaces, such as playgrounds and parks.
Archaeology and National Museum Department in Bagan director, U Aung Aung Kyaw, said the portion of funds dedicated to preservation was not enough to support international experts and the long-term conservation work necessary at Bagan.
“To support [conservation of] the pagodas, we have a government budget and international donor funds from UNECSO. But this is not much and preservation projects haven’t been finished. So it would be better to recognise that more money will help the long-term conservation of the pagodas, something we actually need.”
Myanmar Tourism Federation chairman, U Yan Win, said they had been collecting the tourism zone entrance fees for two years after winning the tender.
He dismissed the concerns of residents and said they should be happy to get anything, adding that the terms were decided by the government.
Last year, entrance fees totalled USD4.1 million, based on a tourist charge of USD20 per person. This year the fee has been changed to K25,000.
Assuming 250,000 fee-paying tourists the income from entrance tickets should be K6.25 billion, the report added.
Bagan is an ancient city located in Mandalay Region, built between the 9th and 11th centuries, during an era when some 55 Buddhist kings ruled the Bagan Dynasty.
According to the most recent records kept by the department, the Bagan Archaeological Zone covers about 42 sq km (16 miles) and has more than 3,000 pagodas.
The country’s Ministry of Culture is attempting to enforce regulations to protect Bagan as officials seek UNESCO World Heritage status possibly by 2017.
Myanmar has nominated 14 sites for inclusion on the World Heritage List, including Mandalay’s ancient kingdoms and Mrauk U in Arakan State. So far, only the ancient cities of Pyi have been added to the prestigious list.