In violation of the law, a multi-storey building is being constructed against the wall of the UNESCO-recognised world heritage site, Paharpur Buddhist monastery in Naogaon. The single-storey Malancha government primary school next to the Paharpur Satyapir Bhita is being extended by a second storey. This may lead to Paharpur being dropped from UNESCO's world heritage list. Prothom Alo speaks to the custodian of the Paharpur monastery museum, Muhammad Fazlul Karim, about the matter.
You have said a two-storey Malancha Government Primary School is being constructed next to the Satyapir Bhita within the core zone of the Paharpur Buddhist monastery. You have issued a letter calling for a halt to the construction. Why?
Paharpur Budhha Vihar (Buddhist monastery) is an important protected archeological site of the Bangladesh government and a UNESCO-enlisted world heritage site. This archaeological structure still stands tall as a witness of the seventh and eighth century history, heritage, culture and civilisation of this land. The archaeological museum also has vastly valuable ancient artifacts. Everyday innumerable local and foreign visitors come to see the monastery and the museum. In 1985 UNESCO included this as a World Heritage Site. Alongside the rules of the archaeological directorate, the regulations of UNESCO must also be followed.
In 1964, the Antiquities Act was enacted (later amended in 1976). Under that law, constructing any building near the protected archeological structure, harming it aesthetically or otherwise, is a crime punishable under the law. Also, constructing a multi-storey building within one kilometre of a World Heritage Site is against the regulations. The Malancha Government Primary School is next to the Satyapir Bhita within the Paharpur Buddha Vihar core zone.
When did you find out about the construction of the two-storey Malancha Government Primary School?
Work on the two-storey Malancha Government Primary School began in 2019. The custodian at the time, Md Abu Sayeed Inam, wrote to the Badalgachhi upazila primary education officer on 9 October 2019, calling for the construction to be halted. Construction came to a halt. Suddenly work on the construction has resumed. On 19 January this year, I sent a letter to the Badalgachhi upazila primary education officer asking for the construction to be stopped. On 29 January, the director general of the archeological directorate Chandan Kumar Dey sent a letter to the Naogaon deputy commissioner (DC), asking for necessary measures to be taken to stop construction of the building.
I went for a training programme last week at the Shaatgambuj Masjid in Bagerhat. Upon my return, I found construction had commenced of the two-storey Malancha Government Primary School. I informed the local administration about the matter. Construction has been stopped against under verbal order of the administration, but it has not been officially stopped. The contractors haven't removed the wooden plank shuttering. We are preparing to write to the primary education directorate.
What problems would the Paharpur Buddhist monastery face if the two-storey Malancha Government Primary School is constructed?
As it is, UNESCO has already issued warnings about the several structures around Paharpur Buddha Vihar. It will be further threatened if a building is erected within the core zone next to the Satyapir Bhita. There is fear of the Paharpur Buddhist Monastery being dropped from the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Site. Visitors come from home and abroad not to see the Malancha Government Primary School. They come to see the Paharpur Buddha Vihar. The Paharpur Buddhist monastery cannot be relocated, but two-storey Malancha Government Primary School can be shifted.