2015年5月3日 星期日


As Human Crisis Takes Priority After Nepal Quake, a Nation’s Treasures Become Its Scrap

April 29, 2015

Basantapur Durbar Square on Sunday after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. The detritus of centuries-old temples and palaces has been left unguarded as the government puts health and safety first.
Bernat Armangue/Associated Press
KATMANDU, Nepal — On Katmandu’s Basantapur Durbar Square on Tuesday, a heavy wooden beam was slipping down what was left of the Maju Dega Temple.
Members of a volunteer search-and-rescue team were clambering up and down the temple’s base, using the beam as a stepladder and occasionally sending a shower of bricks crashing onto it. It would end up on a pile of timber, in a square traversed by people, exposed to the rain.
If you worked as an antiquities dealer, you would note certain things about the beam: It was intricately carved with the image of two deities and possibly dated to the 17th century — the kind of piece that could sell for many thousands of dollars at an auction house in the West.
In the three days since a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, the death toll has mounted so quickly, to more than 5,000, that most concerns other than the health and safety of its people have been put aside. Hope for finding survivors was waning, and tens of thousands of people are living in tents despite heavy rains. Reserves of clean water are running low.
Basantapur Durbar Square in Katmandu in 2008.
Basantapur Durbar Square in Katmandu in 2008.
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images
But in the meantime, in many places, the detritus of centuries-old temples and palaces has been left unguarded, diminishing chances to eventually rebuild one of the world’s largest clusters of cultural heritage sites. Pedestrians, possibly for sentimental value, are walking away with bricks from the 19th-century Dharahara Tower, which crashed to the earth on Saturday, trapping at least 40 people inside.
On Monday, after a citizen called an official in Nepal’s department of archaeology to report having thwarted an attempt to steal a bronze bell from the roof of a temple here in the capital, the authorities took some first steps to guard against looting. A notice was printed in a local newspaper on Tuesday, warning that anyone taking artifacts will be punished.
But there was also a sense of helplessness at the magnitude of the calamity that has befallen the Katmandu Valley, a place meticulously documented by preservationists and named a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1979.
Earthquake victims were cremated in Katmandu on Monday. More than 5,000 people were killed by the quake in Nepal.
Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times
“Nobody is really able to do this — the government not, Unesco not, so I think all have to work together,” said Christian Manhart, the head of Unesco’s office in Katmandu. “There are thousands of sites, and we cannot put a policeman or military on each of the sites 24 hours a day. They are needed for other purposes. So it’s impossible, as you can imagine.”
Unesco’s top official, Irina Bokova, said in an interview on Monday that she was unaware of any natural disaster in modern times that had damaged so much cultural heritage.
The city of Katmandu was built at the intersection of two trade routes linking China and India, and its architectural heritage reflects overlapping influences: miniature Buddhist votive structures from the seventh century, decorated with fine brass and wood carvings; tiered temples made of fired red bricks; monasteries, religious complexes, palaces, courtyards and clusters of tile-roofed homes.
The destruction has been overwhelming. Unesco has said temple complexes in Katmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan are almost destroyed. At Basantapur Durbar Square on Tuesday, teams of volunteers were shoveling debris off the foundations of two temples that had collapsed on Saturday; ambulances arrived to remove two bodies the volunteers found. A few police officers stood in the square, but made no attempt to supervise the effort.
“There is no organization whatsoever,” said Kaitlin Bull, 22, a tourist from Canada who spent four hours helping clear rubble off Maju Dega. “It’s just a free-for-all.”
In the hurry to remove the rubble, carved beams and struts had ended up in piles of scrap wood, though a few particularly beautiful carvings — like one pink-stained piece showing women frolicking acrobatically below two smiling gods — had been set aside.
Anil Adhikari, a police inspector at a station in the square, said that the only arrests for looting in the square were of eight teenagers who had planned to sell wood carvings at an antiques market. Outside the police station, in white bags used to sell rice, Mr. Adhikari had collected about a dozen statues of gods and goddesses.
Officials said that the issue of looting had taken on more urgency in the past several days, but each seemed to hold another agency responsible for securing the sites.
But that was a subordinate worry on Tuesday in Basantapur Durbar Square, where volunteers were intent on removing the last bodies from the dusty rubble. Shortly after noon, they found one, a Nepalese man who was found on his chest, apparently crushed when he tried to run down the temple stairs.
Thomas Bell, a journalist and the author of “Kathmandu,” a 2014 book about the city, was watching the volunteers toss down carved beams, which landed atop each other in a cloud of dust. The beams, he said, should be immediately cataloged, stored and protected from any further damage.
In Nepal, “people don’t necessarily place a great deal of value on a piece of wood just because it’s old,” he said. “But if you were to restore the temple, you would want it back.”


Bernat Armangue/Associated Press
尼泊爾加德滿都——周二,加德滿都的杜巴廣場,一根沉重的木樑從太后廟(Maju Dega)的廢墟上滑落。
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images
Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times
「沒有人有能力做到這點——當地政府不能,教科文組織也不能,我認為只能是各方攜手努力,」教科文組織駐加德滿都辦事處負責人克里斯蒂安·曼哈特(Christian Manhart)說。「有數千處遺址,我們無法在每一處都安排警察或軍人24小時值守。別的地方也需要他們。所以你可以想像那是根本不可能的。」
教科文組織總幹事伊琳娜 ·博科娃(Irina Bokova)在周一接受採訪時說,據她所知,此次災難中被毀的文化遺產之多,為近代自然災害中所未見。
地震造成了極其巨大的破壞。教科文組織稱:加德滿都、巴克塔布和帕坦的寺廟建築群基本都被摧毀了。周二,在巴山塔布杜巴廣場(Basantapur Durbar Square)上,志願者們正在清理兩座周六坍塌的寺廟基底上的廢墟。救護車運走了志願者們發現的兩具屍體。有一些警官站在廣場上,卻並未試圖去監管清理工作。
「沒有任何組織,」22歲的加拿大遊客凱特琳·波爾(Kaitlin Bull)說,她花了四個小時幫助清理太后廟上的碎石瓦礫,「什麼人都可以參與。」
安尼爾·阿迪卡利(Anil Adhikari)是廣場警察局的一名巡官,他說至今唯一在廣場上因為非法劫掠被逮捕的是八個十來歲的孩子,他們打算把木雕拿到古董市場上賣。在警察局外面擺着一些白色米袋,裡面是阿迪卡利收集的十來座神像。
記者湯姆斯·貝爾(Thomas Bell)正看着志願者們拋下雕花的大梁,讓這些大梁壘在一起,砸起一團團塵土。貝爾說,這些大梁應該立即編號登記、儲存起來,以免進一步受損。貝爾曾在2014年出版過一本講述這座城市的書《加德滿都》。