Every year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) requires a country to make a “tentative list” of sites eligible to be Unesco World Heritage Site. However, Bangladesh has not done one in 20 years since 1999.
That is about to change, as the Department of Archaeology has taken an initiative to update its tentative list, the government agency announced in a seminar held at department premises yesterday.
To do this, it is asking citizens to send letters to the department nominating heritage sites or antiquities they deem worthy to be a heritage site by February 15.
The “tentative list” is an inventory of all the places a government deems to be of heritage value, to be submitted to Unescco each year.
In order for the Unesco World Heritage Committee to consider a country’s nominated sites, they have to be included on the tentative list beforehand, said a statement circulated at the seminar.
Once a site is on the list for a year, a country can then nominate it to be considered as a World Heritage Site, speakers at the seminar said.
The sites currently on Bangladesh’s tentative list are Halud Vihara, Jaggadala Vihara, Lalbagh Fort, Mahansthangarh and its surroundings, and the monuments at Lalmai-Mainamati. Currently, the archaeology department manages 509 sites and monuments.
Bangladesh currently hosts three World Heritage Sites, the Sundarbans, the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur, and the mosque city of Bagerhat.
“Even after a site is on the ‘tentative list’ we have to prove to the World Heritage Committee that we are capable of maintaining the site. It is the responsibility of the state party to ensure that a site is well-maintained,” said Dr Sharif Shams Imon, President, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Bangladesh.
If a site is not taken care of properly, then UNESCO can decline to include it in the list.
“If a site is on the ‘tentative list’ or is classified as a World Heritage Site, then we can make sure it stays protected,” commented the Director-General of the department of archaeology, Md Hannan Mia.