Ancient tower relic restoration project shows signs of unprofessionalism

Many tourists lately when visiting Banh It Tower – the 1,000-year-old Cham Relic (sited in Phuoc Hiep Commune of Tuy Phuoc District in Binh Dinh Province) have voiced their concern over the unprofessionalism of workers in the restoration project.

The construction site at Cong Tower

Banh It Tower is actually a complex of four small towers named Cong Tower, Hoa Tower, Bia Tower, and the Main Tower, all of which were built in the end of the 11th century by Cham people on a hill near Kon River. It was considered the religious center in the heart of the three ancient cities called Thi Nai City, Cha City, and Do Ban (Vijaya) City.

Banh It Tower was classified as a national architectural art relic in 1982, and was listed in the ‘1,001 Vietnam ancient architectural sites to visit’ by a group of British authors.

The construction unit uses machines to dig many places on the relic site
At the restoration site on March 8, the construction unit installs barriers and closes the entrance to the relic to protect the site. Behind the closed door, many workers are operating different kinds of machines to perform their duty of completing the foundation for the 712-meter-square reception area.
The foot of Cong Tower shows signs of gaps from careless digging
At the Main Tower site, there are sand, bricks, stones scattered carelessly around. Many bushes along the stone steps to the Tower were cleared to make way for new grass pads. Seriously, at the foot of Cong Tower, there are gaps as a sign of being accidentally dug by machines like excavators.
Construction materials are scattered around near the Main Tower
In the neighborhood of the Main Tower, many new concrete works are being formed after excavating the surrounding of the Tower, while ancient bricks and stones of the round the foot were replaced by new ones, along with new brick foundations for fenced walls and corridors.

Behind Bia Tower was a new wide road developed on a weak hill side so that trucks can transport construction materials to the sites, which makes it highly susceptible to erosion in the rainy season and negatively impacts the relic.

The construction unit is building a concrete fence wall at the foot of the ancient tower
Former Director of Binh Dinh Museum Dinh Ba Hoa complained that the use of so many machines for construction in the neighborhood of Banh It Tower is completely unacceptable. “This is more of damaging the relic than restoring it”, he stressed.

Since Banh It Tower is a complex under preservation with no adjustment allowed, the Binh Dinh Province Department of Culture and Sports is to be blamed for the approval of the construction unit to damage the tower even to a small extent via the use of machines.

“Why is there no close monitoring from a relic expert or archaeologist for such an important restoration project of a valuable 1,000-year-old Cham Tower relic, considered a national architectural art work? Why is there a greenlight for the careless use of machines in digging the sites?” pressed Mr. Hoa.

Receiving feedbacks from the public, the Binh Dinh Construction Department formed an interdisciplinary team to inspect the restoration work here. It is found out that the project investor (the Binh Dinh Province Department of Culture and Sports) and related units could not display sufficient requested legal documents for the project.

After the order of halting the work from the functional agency, many concrete fences in the East of the Main Tower were knocked down
The work was immediately asked to halt the use of machines to dig the front yard as well as the surrounding of the Main Tower. All machines must be moved away and the restoration task for Banh It Tower must be done manually instead, with absolute care so that the current status relic is not worsen. Related legal documents must be fully presented when asked.

SGGP Newspaper also found out that during the restoration period, workers accidentally discovered in the East of the Main Tower broken pieces of a stone statue (might be a Cham statue). They are under the care of the Binh Dinh Province cultural unit now.

When being asked for further information about these pieces on March 8, the related cultural unit provided no answer, saying that its managers are on a business trip and will deliver a proper response later.

An excavator working near Cong Tower
The restoration project for Banh It Tower has an investment of VND25.6 billion (US$1.12 million), approved by Binh Dinh Province People’s Committee on September 1, 2021. The project was assigned to the Binh Dinh Province Department of Culture and Sports as its main investor; Thien Tuong Consultation, Designing, Construction Co. Ltd. as its manager, the venture of Hieu Ngoc Construction Co. Ltd., Thanh Loc Construction Co. Ltd., and Hung Phat Co. Ltd. as its contractor.

This is a Group C project, funded by the State budget under the management and allocation of Binh Dinh Province from 2021-2025. The implementation time is from 2021-2022.

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