May 19, 2011

Gilgit Baltistan: Loss Of 30,000 Stone Age Rock Carvings Due To Diamer-Basha Dam

Pakistan is going to lose one of the world's most precious rock art carvings due to the construction of the Diamer-Basha Dam, the proposed site hosts some 30,000 ancient carvings and inscriptions.


Below is an article published by Daily India:

The Basha-Diamer area holds thousands of very important rock carvings, which may vanish forever due to the construction of this reservoir.

Professor Harald Hauptmann, head of a research project entitled "Rock Carvings and Inscriptions along the Karakorum Highway", told that a total of 37,051 carvings on 5,928 boulders or rock faces would be inundated after the construction of the Diamer-Basha Dam.

The site hosts hundreds of inscriptions in Brahmi, Sogdian, middle Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and Hebrew languages. Some 80 per cent of the writings are in Brahmi language.

These writings not only provide insights into the religious and political situation but also show the name of the rulers and a rough date of the time. The earliest rock carvings in northern Pakistan dates back to the ninth millennium BC (roughly late Stone Age).

When asked about the importance of the rock carvings in one hand and the need of the dam on the other, Hauptmann said: "We (as an archaeologist) have to respect the decision (to build the dam), but it is very sad for us to lose one of the most rich and diverse rock art provinces of the world."

According to Hauptmann, the Basha Dam will drown 32 villages and displace more than 25,000 people, and some 3,000 very important stupas and a similar number of drawings will be submerged after the construction of the dam.

He called for establishment of a cultural centre in Gilgit, where original and replicas of the carvings could be preserved along with scientific documents about the geography, history, languages, music, wildlife and other aspects of the northern areas.

Dr. Ayesha Pamela Rogers, director of Rogers Kolachi Khan and Associates (RKK) and contracted by the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) for the Heritage Impact Assessment survey and report for the dam, agreed that some 30,000 carvings on 5,000 rocks will be affected.

While some of these rock carvings will be totally submerged, "others will be seasonally under water and then exposed when water levels are low, others which are now at high elevations will be close to the new shoreline. It means mitigation and conservation approaches are needed for this entire situation," Dr. Rogers said.

"Other threats exist which are not related to the dam - many carvings are being vandalised as we speak - and new risks will arise if and when tourism is developed. Again, all these need to be addressed in a management plan," she added.