Moenjodaro Ruins

S Jain skjain at
Sat Nov 18 23:17:50 UTC 1995

3,500 years later, Moenjodaro faces another death blow
from government neglect, squabbling and public apathy
John Stackhouse
The Globe and Mail
Moenjodaro, Pakistan

 ALMOST 3,500 years after it mysteriously collapsed with the
Indus Valley civilization, the ruins of Moenjodaro -- once one of
the largest and most sophisticated cities on Earth -- is again
under seige, this time by government neglect, bureaucratic
squabbling and public apathy.

     The ancient ruins near the Indus River in southern Pakistan
have fallen into such managerial disrepair that authorities have
dropped plans for more excavation and may soon rebury parts of
the city, which once housed more than 40,000 people.

     In the scorching 40-degree heat and tumultuous rains of
Sindh province, Moenjodaro's ancient brick houses, wells, public
baths and orderly streets are cracking and decaying barely 70
years after they were dug up, while a conservation team struggles
with only a fraction of the resources it says it needs.

     "The problem is compounding day by day," said Hakim Ali Shah
Bukhari, director of the Moenjodaro Conservation Cell. 'We need
more funds, more manpower, more technology if we are to cope. On
the contrary, we are getting less and less."

     With barely 10 per cent of the 220-hectare city excavated,
the cash-strapped archaeologists hold no hope of digging deeper
or wider. Mr. Bukhari said three of the seven periods marking
Moenjodaro's 1,000 history will remain unearthed, including the
city's first period, which may hold a wellspring of information
about one of humanity's first encounters with urbanization.

     Moenjodaro, which literally means Mound of the Dead, is one
of Asia's most important archaeological sites. First excavated in
1922, the ancient city boasts the world's first known water
supply and drainage system, including more than 700 private
wells, public sewers and an impressive river draining system
along the Indus. Built between 2,500 BC and 1.500 BC, the city's
houses were made of brick and bitumin, and some were completed
with private lavatories and rubbish chutes.

     Serious conservation work began in 1974, with the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) contributing $10-million (U.S.) since then the Pakistan
government investing another

     But as UNESCO prepares to withdraw by 1997, there are
questions about Pakistan's ability to maintain that site. "If it
[UNESCO] were to withdraw today, I would be very doubtful" about
the Project's future, said Frank Preusser, a California-based
conservation expert who sits on Moenjodaro's international
consultative committee.

     "International campaigns are not mean to run 20 years," Mr.
Preusser said. "Usually they run five years, with a tolerance of
up to seven or eight years. UNESCO cannot afford to stay in one
site for so long. And a dependency like this should not be

     Mr. Preusser praised the Pakistanis for their technical work
but said the project has been hobbled by poor management.
Although the site is managed by the autonomous Authority for the
Preservation of Moenjodaro, it is controlled ultimately by
Pakistan's department of archaeology, which has more than 3,000
monuments and five World Heritage Sites under its care.

     As an uncertain future again shadows Moenjodaro, two senior
professionals have quit the conservation team, and two more have
announced they will soon leave. Only 40 of the site's 66 skilled
jobs are filled.

     Walking next to some of the ruined city's 55 kilometres of
mud walls, Mr. Bukhari pointed to his team members, who have the
archaeological equivalent of a fish net to stop a desert
sandstorm. For the entire site, a Japanese expert team
recommended a maintenance staff at least 50, and ideally 100. The
current maintenance staff: six.

     From the outset, bureaucratic squabbling and charges of
corruption have plagues much of the expensive engineering work.

     With 27 tubewells supplied by the state water authority, the
project spends $350,000 (U.S.) a year to drain the site and lower
the water table. For another $1-million, the local team built
five spurs in the Indus River to divert the tumultuous water flow
away from the site.

     Although the water table now appears to be under control,
the lack of financial monitoring has led to suspicions of
government agencies overcharging each other.

     A recent public fund-raising campaign in Pakistan failed to
raise any money for the site, despite the fat that the 10-rupee
note bears the ancient city's image.

     With the site attracting 200 to 300 visitors a day in the
cooler winter months, UNESCO also urged the government to charge
tourists more than the current fee of 12 cents. In Egypt and Sri
Lanka, visitors pay up to $25 a day to see archaeological sites.

     Another money-generating plan called for a new canal to
carry unwanted water from the site to nearby farmlands, where it
could irrigate as much as 15,000 hectares. But farmers refused to
pay for their share of the water. "They said somehow they were
doing us a favour by accepting our water," Mr. Shamsi said.

Source: _The Globe and Mail_ Oct. 26, 1995.

Sushil Jain


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