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Friday, August 28, 2009

Save Moenjodaro (February 29, 1976)

A set of five (5) stamps of vertical format in horizontal row presents an integrated view of the Moenjodaro site covering some of its important excavations. The first stamp of’ the row (of Rs. 4/-.) gives a general view of the ‘Great Bath’ and the second stamp shows a well inside a house, while the third one (65 P denomination) offers a general view of the Citadel area with the Kushan period stupa in the background. The fourth stamp (20 Paisa denomination) and the fifth stamp (10 P ) depict the remains of houses and general view of the remains of the citadel area respectively. The slogan ‘SAVE MOENJODARO’ appears at the top of the stamp in blue colour. The horizontal wavy lines in blue colour across the bottom of the stamps represent ‘Salinity’ which endanger the famous archaeological wealth of’ Pakistan.
The ‘UNESCO’ emblem appears at the top left and the denomination at the top right side below the slogan, both in black. ‘Pakistan’ in Urdu and English appear in red below the wavy lines. Moenjodaro was one of the main centres of culture that flourished in the Indus valley 5,000 years ago. This archaeological site is now in danger as a result of erosion caused by rising underground water level. It is the opinion of experts that, unless preserved, Moenjodaro is in danger of total destruction within the next 30 years.
Measures to save Moenjodaro have been devised by the Pakistani authorities with the help of UNESCO experts. The total cost of the priority work will be 7,500,000 dollars and it will take 5 years to complete it. It is obvious that for a task of this magnitude the technical and financial resources of Pakistan are not sufficient.
As a part of an international appeal for assistance to preserve Moenjodaro, the Pakistan Post Office in collaboration with the Authority for the Preservation of Moenjodaro (Pakistan) has arranged to bring out a series of commemorative stamps for public motivation. It will be known as the “Save Moenjodaro” Series. The first issue of the series consists of a set of five stamps of different denominations printed on the same sheet. It is proposed to bring out a single stamp every quarter for at least a year depicting customs, arts and crafts, social system and economic life of the people who inhabited this city about 5000 years ago.
It is a paradox of facts that the ruins of Moenjodaro buried beneath the accumulations of five thousand years remained in an excellent state of preservation. But as soon as they were exposed from oblivion to the incredible gaze of the 20th century, they were overtaken by water logging and salinity. These two diseases combined with the threat of bank erosion by the Indus River, pose a grim danger to the existence of one of the most valuable cultural legacies of the human race. If ever the world felt concerned for sinking Venice, it must feel despe-rate at the crumbling of Moenjodaro: if ever the world’s consci-ence was roused to save Abu Simbel, it must be shaken to save Moenjodaro.
The phenomenon of salt encrustation on the bricks and structures of the ruins was noticed during and immediately after the excavations in the early twenties. The swelling of water table, which had already risen by several feet during the excavation period, was observed to be the main cause of decay of the structures. Certain chemical measures for the preservation of these ruins were adopted, but these methods were a palliative and not a cure of the malady. The site was left unattended for several years during the Second World War and in this interval, the effect of salts and the defective drainage played havoc on the remains. In 1940, efforts were made to remove salts from the structures and the remains of the Great Bath were washed with plain water and given chemical treatment. In 1948 mud plaster and mud brick capping was applied to some structures with considerably suc-cessful results. These homespun techniques have been in use since then to the extent of the available funds. In nature and scope these techniques, however, serve only to slow down the rate of disintegration of the remains.
The importance of the archaeological remains at Moenjodaro attracted the attention of specialists and laymen alike. It is doubtful if any advanced country, had it inherited Moenjodaro, would have done more for its preservation than what has been done so far by Pakistan despite her tight economy. In 1960, the Government of Pakistan opened negotiations with the UNESCO, inviting their technical advice in response of which a number of individual experts and missions of experts have since visited the country to study the situation and suggest remedial measures.
In order to save this priceless heritage from total extinction, the Government of Pakistan have prepared a Master Plan, which has since been approved by the UNESCO. Besides, UNESCO have also pledged to make financial contribution towards the execution of the aforesaid Master Plan.