With its intricate layout, incredible architecture and advanced water and sewage systems, the 5000-year-old city of Mohenjo Daro in the Province of Sindh in Pakistan, was once hailed as oldest and best preserved ancient cities ever found. Now, this amazing monument of our past, is in danger of disappearing completely unless something is done soon.
The dire warning was voiced by one of Pakistan's most accomplished archeologists, Dr. Asma Ibrahim in 2012. The scientist thinks the city could be lost in less than 20 years because of neglect and decay caused by the high salinity of the groundwater which is slowly corroding its bricks. As a result, the walls of the section that experts believe was inhabited by the lower and middle-class families have begun to crumble. Things are no better in the upper town areas where the elite lived and also where the city's famous public bath is situated. Here, some of the walls have collapsed completely while others are on the verge of doing so.
Given the extreme humidity, salinity as well as erratic rainfall that the area experiences, the archeologist admits that it is not an easy site to preserve, but she believes that it can be done. What concerns her even more is that the few attempts that have been made were so amateurish that they have added to the damage. For example, one of the techniques conjured up to save the bricks was to cover them with mud slurry, with the theory being that the mud would help absorb the salt and moisture.
However, the mud simply dried and crumbled away, taking with it, pieces of the ancient bricks. Meanwhile, the decay underneath continued unabated. And if that's not bad enough in some areas, the old bricks were replaced with brand new ones! To add insult to injury, thanks to lack of supervision, many artifacts discovered from the city have been stolen from the on-site museum.
One of the main reasons for the neglect could be the ancient city's fall from popularity as a tourist destination. Though it is amongst one of the 981 World Heritage Sites, the political unrest in Pakistan has led to a sharp decline in international visitors. However, all may not be lost yet - After trying to manage it for decades, the government of Pakistan has finally handed over the responsibility of preserving the site to local provincial authorities in Sindh.
Last week, they met with international experts to try come up with a plan to save the site and promote awareness of the amazing wonder of the ancient world that seems to have been forgotten. Besides beginning an intensive conservation program, the experts may also rebury the sections of the recovered ruins that are most under threat because that is the only way to save them.
Discovered in 1922 by an officer of the Archeological Survey of India, Mohenjo Daro is believed to have been one of the earliest and most advanced cities in the world. According to experts, it was inhabited by about 35,000 residents of the great Indus Valley Civilization between 2600 BC and 1900 BC. What's amazing is that archeologists believe only between 10-30 percent of the ancient city has been uncovered. The rest of it lies protected underground, a good thing given the dire condition of the small portion that has been unearthed.