Taxila is one of the six World heritage sites of Pakistan inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980. It is a vast complex of archaeological heritage which includes a Mesolithic cave, 4 settlement sites, a number of Buddhist monasteries of various periods and Muslim Mosques of the medieval period. Most of the Buddhist Stupas and monasteries at Taxila date from 1st to 5th century A.D.
The site is facing diverse conservation and development problems. Exposure of the archaeological remains to the extremes of a tropical climate, uncontrolled growth of vegetation specifically in Sirkap and Dharmarajika, limestone blasting and quarrying activities in the valley (despite of their location outside the buffer zone, encroachment and illegal excavations, all represent a risk to the overall integrity of the property. Upon the request of Department of Archaeology, Punjab to provide technical assistance to address the issue of bio-growth, UNESCO Islamabad initiated the project "Protection of World Heritage Sites of Pakistan through Capacity Building and Awareness Raising".
The proposed activity focuses on capacity development of the state party on the specific issues of the site related to bio-deterioration, through building in-house expertise and developing partnerships with academia. For this purpose UNESCO Islamabad engaged the Comsats Institute of Information & Technology (CIIT) Islamabad and Department of Conservation Studies, Hazar University to provide experts for carrying out study of bio-growth and training workshop on the subject of Bio Deterioration. During the inception meeting with all relevant stakeholders and Department of Archaeology Punjab, it was agreed to carryout a detailed study of the types of bio-growth appearing during the whole year and its impact on the site. Hence 4 surveys have been planned to study the bio-growth appearing during monsoon, autumn, spring and summer.
First survey has already been conducted during the month of August to find the type of vegetation during monsoon season. The team of plant scientists visited the site and collected about around 50 samples which included herbs, shrubs, bryophytes etc. Ferns specimen and soil samples were also collected to study micro-flora. The specimen and samples were brought to CIIT Labs and are being identified and are dried before making herbarium sheets. The monsoon survey was followed by a 4-day training workshop on "Understanding and Mitigating the Impact of bio-growth on Taxila World Heritage Site (23-26 Nov)", organized by UNESCO Islamabad in partnership with Comsats Institute of Information Technology and Hazara University. Almost 25 persons from Provincial Departments of Archaeology, Hazara University and CIIT attended the 4-day training workshop.
The Workshop focused on the raising participant's awareness on bio-deterioration issues associated with the various sites of Pakistan in general and Taxila Site in specific. The finding of the past studies and the recent survey conducted by CIIT were also shared with the participants. A diverse group of resource persons including taxonomist, architects, geologists, bio-scientist, and conservationist facilitated plenary and practical session at the site. The training sessions focused on enhancing the participants' knowledge and skills to identify the various species and discussed methods of prevention and conservation to mitigate the impact of various types of bio-growth. Findings and outcomes of the surveys and workshop will be finalized to develop conservation guidelines specific to the Taxila World Heritage on the mitigating the impact of bio-growth on the Taxila World heritage Site. One of the major achievements of the activity is that the project facilitated to build partnership of Department of Archaeology Punjab with academia and for the first time a large group of diverse expertise from academia and government joined to work together to address this complex issue associated with the Taxila world Heritage Site.