Arg-e-Bam restoration project to be completed by 2017

Tehran, July 22, IRNA – Kerman province, with its numerous historical sites dating back to pre-Islamic and Islamic eras, is among the most visited tourist destinations in Iran, the Tehran-based English newspaper Iran Daily said.

The ancient city of Bam in Kerman is Iran’s only city that has been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Bam has embraced the world’s largest adobe structure, Arg-e Bam (Bam Citadel).

Arg-e Bam has a history of 2,500 years. In 2003, a major earthquake struck Bam, reducing major sections of Bam Citadel to rubbles.

The damages to Bam Citadel were so serious that UNESCO listed the monument as the world’s heritage in danger. UNESCO’s decision prompted the then government to take immediate actions to remove the historical site from the list. Hence, an emergency committee was organized with the participation of foreign and domestic experts, who issued an announcement and voted on undertaking immediate salvation project.

The projects to revive Bam Citadel were so successful that UNESCO inspectors were persuaded to keep it off the list of world’s endangered sites.

Twelve years after the destructive earthquake that hit Bam, Iran Daily conducted an exclusive interview with Afshin Ebrahimi, the manager of Bam Global Heritage Site to get detailed information about Bam and its cultural landscape.

Excerpts follow:

IRAN DAILY: In addition to the great human loss, many of Bam’s ancient buildings were destroyed in the 2003 earthquake. Recognized as the world’s largest adobe structure, Bam Citadel was no exception. When did the salvation projects begin to save the monument and prevent further damages?

EBRAHIMI: A few months after the massive earthquake, a three-day conference was held with the participation of experts from both Iran and abroad to decide about the future of Bam Citadel.

The outcome of the conference, published in a document known as Bam Announcement, assigned the government to fund short- and long-term salvation projects.

Also, Supreme Council of Architecture and Urban Planning devised a plan titled “Comprehensive Management Plan of Bam and its Cultural Landscape” and submitted it to the relevant officials for implementation.

The projects to save Bam are still underway and will last until 2017.

Would you please provide further details about “Comprehensive Management Plan of Bam and its Cultural Landscape” as well as the first announcement issued by the conference?

Sure. The comprehensive plan is a strategic program, which assigns all related organizations and governmental bodies to cooperate with Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization to protect Bam and its cultural landscape.

Bam Announcement and the comprehensive plan together form a voluminous portfolio of about 300 pages. The portfolio includes topics which are very hard to explain in details.

What is important is that Bam Announcement and the comprehensive plan yielded positive outcomes so that UNESCO — who had earlier listed the citadel as the world’s endangered heritage — took it off the list 10 years after the earthquake.

However, Bam Citadel is on the UNESCO World Heritage List today.

What percentage of Bam Citadel was destroyed in the 2003 earthquake? What percentage has been restored?

The cultural landscape of Bam stretches over an area of 23,000 hectares, and Bam Citadel is only part of it.

Prior to the earthquake, Bam Cultural Landscape included orchards, cisterns and many ancient buildings. However, major sections of the landscape, including 80 percent of Bam Citadel, were destroyed in the 2003 earthquake.

Iran was permitted to restore only sections of the cultural landscape, as UNESCO do not allow countries to eliminate the impacts of the earthquake completely since earthquake is considered a historical event itself.

Do UNESCO experts regularly visit Bam Citadel?

All historical sites are visited and evaluated by UNESCO inspectors at times. UNESCO experts visit the citadel each year since it has recently been removed from the list of endangered world heritages.

Monuments that are less at risk are visited every three years by UNESCO inspectors. UNESCO has always praised Iran’s efforts to revive Bam Citadel.

How many people are involved in the projects to protect Bam Citadel?

Many people have been involved in the projects since it began 10 years ago.

Researchers and university graduates in the fields of archeology restoration of historical buildings, from inside and outside of the country, have cooperated with us.

Currently, 25 experts are working in the field of restoring historical objects and monuments and 125 are active in other sections in Bam.

Bam Citadel has been turned into a research center for researchers and graduates in the field of archeology and restoration of historical objects. Researches on Bam Citadel and involvement in such projects have improved the know-how of domestic experts.