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Concerns grow over safety of ancient tower in Mandalay

Concerns are growing over the structural integrity of the watchtower in Mandalay Palace, home of the last Konbaung Dynasty, and one of the most popular tourist spots in the country, said people in the tourism industry.

The 24-metre-tall tower, located in the southern part of the palace compound, is popular with visitors as a vantage point from which to see the palace.

But the tower’s broken railings and shaky floors are causing increasing concern.

“The watchtower is many centuries old. It should be protected, and tourists should not be allowed to climb it,” U Win Zaw Oo, chair of Myanmar Tourist Guide Association in Mandalay, said.

Between 50 and 60 tourists at a time climb the tower to gain a better view of the palace grounds, U Win Zaw Oo said.

If something happens, it could endanger people and damage the country’s image, he added.

“There is a code of conduct for licensed tour operators. They cannot expose visitors to danger, but unlicensed guides, whether local or foreign, don’t have to follow the rules,” U Win Zaw Oo said.

Mandalay resident Ko Htet Naing Aung said he had taken children to the top of the tower before. “I made sure to hold the child’s hand, even though there is a railing, as the stairs are steep. But I think U Bein Bridge or Nan Myint Tower in Inwa are more dangerous. The bridge shakes every time we walk on it on crowded holidays,” he said.

The entrance fee to Nan Myint Tower is K200 for locals and K10,000 for foreigners, U Than Tun of Banmauk township, Sagaing Region, said.

“We came by two express buses. Some in our group climbed the tower but I didn’t. As it is an ancient site, people should only be allowed to climb it after thorough renovation,” he said.

Maintenance work is performed regularly on the watchtower at Mandalay Palace, but major repairs should only be done after careful study, said Daw Soe Soe Win, director of the Archaeology, National Museums and Libraries Department.

“In conserving ancient buildings, it is crucial to maintain their historical value. So they have to be repaired in detail to minimise the loss of their original state, and this is very costly,” said Daw Soe Soe Win.

“In the first half of this year, no funds were allocated for the preservation of ancient buildings. However, K30 million has been allocated for four such projects this year. Of that total, K14.1 million has been allocated for general preservation work at Mandalay Palace,” she said.

Ko Kyaw Myo Ko of Myanmar Upper Land Culture and Travels said, “I have heard that tenders have been invited for preservation work at Inwa and Mandalay Palace. The winner will have to follow the rules on preserving ancient buildings.

Apparently, admission fees will also be increased. They haven’t begun work yet as they are waiting for artwork to arrive.”

SOURCE: MYANMAR TIMES

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