Ministers, archaeologists and activists on Saturday expressed their concern that the largest archaeological site in Bangladesh, Bhitargarh Walled City, was decaying for lack of coordinated preservation efforts and resource constraints.
At a seminar on ‘how to save Bhitargarh for posterity: need for a well-coordinated action plan’, they recommended a permanent custodian office at the site of around 25 square kilometers having tea garden, fish hatcheries, poultry farm and stone quarry.
Finance minister AMA Muhith, cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor, secretary of the ministry Akteri Mamtaz, director general of Department of Archaeology Altaf Hussain, among others, spoke at the function, jointly oranised by Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Bhitargarh Promotional Society.
Located about 16 kilometers north of Panchagarh, Bhitargarh is a 1,400-year-old city, protected by four quadrangle walls made of earth and bricks, maintaining a considerable distance from another. Its outer walls, accompanied by moats, protected the city from flood, making stone dams and diverting the Shalmara river-course inside the fortified city to retain water for households and agricultural use.
Presenting his keynote, Bhitargarh Promotional society president and former commerce ministry secretary Suhel A Chowdhury said a coordinated effort of different ministries including of ministry of cultural affairs, tourism and aviation, fisheries and livestock and local government ministry could save the rare archaeological site.
He said the site could be preserved if only Tk 19.56 crore was spent.
Asaduzzaman Noor said the archaeological sites across the country depicted a dismal picture: mostly unexcavated, occupied by land grabbers and unprotected.
He urged the finance minister to allocate Tk 20 crore for the site, and Tk 200 crore to protect all the sites across the country.
Finance minister Muhith, who was chief guest, did not made any announcement on fund allocation, but said he learnt about the site and would visit it.
Department of Archaeology regional director for Rajshahi, Naheed Sultana, proposed setting up a permanent custodian office at the site.
Shahnaj Husne Jahan, professor and director of Center for Archaeological Studies at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, who has been working at Bhitargarh with her students since 2008, briefed about the structures of Bhitargarh and excavation progress at the site.
Later, some archaeological artifacts like pottery, idols, earthenware were exhibited at the National Museum lobby.
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