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Pakistan dam threatens age-old site: Expert

One of world's greatest archaeological sites will be inundated with construction of reservoir on Basha Dam.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2006 22:20 IST

One of the world's greatest archaeological sites dating back to the 12th century BC will be inundated with the construction of a reservoir on Basha Dam at Diamer district in Pakistan's Northern Areas, said an expert.

Harald Hauptmann, head of a research project on 'Rock Carvings and Inscriptions along the Karakorum Highway', said: "The project would submerge 30,907 of the 32,405 petroglyphs of unique diversity, recorded so far in Diamer district, besides 3,290 other ancient inscriptions."

"A major part of the rock art galleries in Diamer district will be lost to the dam's construction, which is a tragedy for the cultural history of the area," he said, adding that the cultural and historical remains should be preserved for future generations.

Hauptmann has suggested that since the rock carvings could not be shifted, the Pakistan government should get replicas made by three-dimension scanning technology.

"We can have at least the replicas of these edifices for which we need more museums in various parts of the country, especially one in Gilgit," Daily Times quoted him as saying on Sunday.

"Many countries including Japan, China and Germany can extend financial assistance to Pakistan in this regard," said Hauptmann, who has been working on the archaeological sites of the Northern Areas for the last 25 years.

Giving the history of the mountains in the Northern Areas, he said the western Himalayas and Karakorum were one of the world's largest rock art regions.

Petroglyphs of unique diversity cover cliffs, rock faces and boulders accompanying the Indus River from Indus-Kohistan to Baltistan, and reaching Ladakh and Tibet.

So far, over 50,000 rock carvings and 5,000 inscriptions have been discovered ranging back to 6th century BC.

Hauptmann said these mountains had served as trade routes, connecting China and Central Asia with the Indian subcontinent.

Basha Dam is part of President Pervez Musharraf's "Water Vision", meant to augment water supply to meet the growing water demand in the country.

However, its location at Chilas on river Indus and its feasibility are part of the ongoing debate in Pakistan with various conflicting viewpoints.