Ancient sites under repair

The Fine Arts Department (FAD) is restoring six archaeological sites in Bangkok which were damaged by severe flooding last year.

Workers dig around the 96-year-old Bangor Mosque in Charan Sanitwong Soi 86, lifting it up to avoid floods. It is one of Bangkok’s six archaeological sites that are being restored after being damaged by severe flooding last year. APICHART JINAKUL

Tharapong Srisuchat, director of the FAD's Archaeology Office, said a budget of 35.5 million baht is being spent on improving drainage systems and installing emergency water pumps in these six prioritised archaeological sites. The work being undertaken includes adjusting floor levels and restoring the landscapes.

The six sites are Wat Sawettachat, Wat Chatkeaw Jongkonnee, Wat Maha That Yuwarat Rangsarit (Wat Maha That), Wat Arun Ratchawararam (Temple of the Dawn), Wat Jaturamit Pradittharam, and Bangor Mosque.

Most are about 250 years old, and are on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

Mr Tharapong said the restoration is in progress. He said the FAD had also supervised the restoration of other archaeological sites, the budget for which came from other sources.

"We are not very worried this year," Mr Tharapong said. "However, we have to be alert for possible heavy rainfall that might cause floods [again]."

The FAD's survey revealed 313 archaeological sites around Thailand were damaged by last year's flooding, and about 1.4 billion baht is needed for restoration work on these sites. Historical buildings in these areas were built on ground that allowed water to be absorbed into their structures, resulting in damage to walls and murals, Mr Tharapong said.

Varopas Wongjaturaphat, a landscape architect scholar who has worked with the FAD to restore several ancient remains, said the restoration work is being conducted using archaeological preservation techniques which will not destroy the architectural and historical value of the sites.

"Most of the damage from last year's flood affected the surfaces of the archaeological remains, so the process of restoration will not take longer than six months to a year."

The restoration will not only preserve the historical and archaeological value of the sites, but will also have a psychological value, he said.

For instance, he said restoring the 96-year-old Bangor Mosque would give a religious centre back to local residents.

Aram Songsiri, an imam of the mosque, said the restoration plan by the FAD would raise the floor by 1.5m.

The restoration work is expected to be completed in six months.

"Because of the restoration work, we can't currently use the mosque for our daily religious rituals," Mr Aram said.

"Now we are performing our prayers at a school nearby.

"We hope to get the mosque functioning again soon."

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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat