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Masuleh Heritage under Threat

Tehran, 9 August 2005 (CHN) - The unique historical town of Masuleh which attracts many domestic and foreign tourists year round is facing different problems posing threats to its natural, historical, and social heritage, stressing more than ever the need for their serious preservation.

Located in a scenic valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains in north-eastern Iran, the village of Masuleh is notable for its traditional wooden buildings, clustered on the northern slopes of the valley, Masuleh is registered as National Cultural and Natural Heritage in Iran, and the village is rich in tangible and intangible heritage. The surrounding mountains provide many opportunities for trekking, climbing and other activities.

From a road passing the mountain above, to a new irrigation tank, to the construction project of a park, to the destruction of the town school, to to the new color of the old mausoleum of the town ..., all are threatening Masuleh and its remaining heritage.

The road from Fuman to Khalkhal passes through the mountains above Masuleh. The location of the road plus its lack of protective equipment puts not only the historical context of the town but also its residents in danger.

According to an expert with the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) center of Masuleh, Arash Khodabakhsh, even the installation of fences or blocks beside the road may not stop heavy vehicles from coming down on the houses. Moreover, due to the topography of the area, there are no natural blocks to stop the vehicle from reaching down if accidents happen.

The ICHTO is now planning to block the road completely, and following talks with the Roads and Transfer Department of Gilan province, a new road is planned to replace the current dangerous one.

Another problem that the ICTHO center has recently been faced with is the launching of a project for a new water tank measuring 10x10 meters by the waterworks department of the area inside the main under-protection quarters of the town without the permission of the ICHTO.

Khodabakhsh explains that the new tank would stand nearly 10 meters high which is more than the approved height standards for the town and would moreover block the landscape of the area.

Lack of cooperation and consent between different organizations and the ICHTO center of Masuleh is what causes many of the problems of the town. The list is long with the destruction of parts of the historical town to set up a new children's park and the dumping of the removed soils in the river, to a project to build up a weather forecast center, to the destruction of the town school seemingly for setting up a UNESCO branch office, and the new color of the old mausoleum there as just some recent examples.

The new color painted over the dome of the town mausoleum by the Endowments Organization of Gilan. The color is in no way harmonious with its historical surroundings and is further disadvantage to a mausoleum which is of great importance to the residents of Masuleh. The structure has already undergone several unprofessional restorations, giving it an architecture and aura far from what it deserves as an ancient legacy.

Masuleh is the only historical town of Iran which has been registered as a natural heritage complete with its outskirts, including the road from Fuman to Masuleh, its forests, meadows, and landscape. However, the illegal nonstandard constructions throughout the town have for now deprived it from the opportunity to be registered as a world heritage site. Nonetheless, Masuleh still deserves to be saved as a unique Iranian heritage.

... Payvand News - 8/13/05 ... --

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