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Authorities in Burma have placed a ban on the construction of more hotels in Bagan, home to a vast plain of hundreds of temples and shrines.
The news website the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reports that new building work will not be authorised while the government hopes to achieve World Heritage status for the site from UNESCO.
Soe Thein, a representative from the President’s Office, blamed the previous military regime for allowing unsightly and potentially damaging hotels in the heart of the ancient complex 20 years ago, the paper reports.
The Burmese government first applied for UNESCO recognition in 1996 but its application was rejected when UNESCO took the view that the site boundary was not properly defined and that the government’s legislative and management plan was lacking.
Four hotel zones around the site contain 75 hotels and guesthouses at the moment, with plans for a fifth zone on the table. There are 17 hotels currently under construction, according to the DVB.
The building of the 61m-high Palace Tower Hotel is one of those that has been criticised, as has the Royal Watchtower – a viewing platform – a golf course and road that cuts through the middle of the complex.
Gill Charlton, the author of our insider’s guide to Burma said: “In my view the waterfront in Old Bagan has been ruined by inappropriate development by the regime over the past 10 years.
“What is more of a worry today, both for the environment and the impact on traditional fishing and farming communities, is the huge new hotel and tourist zone in the shore of Inle Lake.”
Inle Lake is another popular tourist spot in Burma. Traditional fishing villages on silts above the water are the main attraction but, like the Rangoon and Bagan, are in danger of changing too fast as the country opens up to tourism after years as a pariah.
Gill Charlton reported that hotel prices have shot up, especially in Rangoon, where a four-star hotel in need of refurbishment can charge £250 a night for a standard room.