UN, Iran mark first anniversary of earthquake that devastated Bam cultural area

The region of Bam

27 December 2004 – Calling the Iranian Bam cultural landscape "an outstanding representation of the interaction of man and nature in a desert environment" the United Nations cultural agency today marked the first anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the area by formally inscribing Bam on the World Heritage List and the endangered heritage list.

"Priority will be given to studying the archaeological remains, which have been made accessible by the quake, and the population's strong attachment to the site will be mobilized in programmes for its preservation," UNESCO said.

Some 26,000 lives were lost in the earthquake of 26 December last year, which levelled most recent housing, leaving about 80,000 people homeless, and damaged the ancient Bam Citadel.

"Bam Cultural Landscape represents an exceptional testimony to the development of a trading settlement where various influences met in a desert environment in Central Asia. It is an outstanding example of mud layer technique (Chineh) combined with mud bricks (Khesht)," it added.

The outstanding canal network, or qanats, showing the interaction of man and nature in a desert environment, would be rehabilitated, while the traditional earthen architectural methods, which produced buildings resistant to seismic stress, would be revitalized, the agency said.

Representatives from many UN agencies and the Iranian, French, Italian and Japanese government were scheduled to attend the inscription ceremony on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau. UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Mounir Bouchenaki was to represent Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.

Bam developed in the 6th to 4th centuries BC, or the Achaemenid period, as a crossroads of trade in silk and cotton. The main ancient remains lie within a fortified citadel area, or Arg, whose features include 38 watchtowers and the Governmental Quarters. It also has one of the oldest mosques in Iran, dating from the 8th or 9th century.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, "The tragedy that took place in Bam has provided an opportunity to introduce things that will make life better for children, like child-friendly schools, improved access to early child care and better water and sanitation facilities, especially for girls."

Because of the shortage of schoolroom space, classes were being conducted in morning and afternoon shifts. In addition, UNICEF had equipped two buses as mobile libraries and would train 60 librarians to work with 56 schools. Science and computer laboratories would also be provided.

UNICEF said it had arranged preparatory courses for 400 university entrants who would otherwise not be able to continue their education.

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