Funds Urgently Needed to Support Emergency Relief in Myanmar

Earthquake in Myanmar Damaged 171 Ancient Buddhist Temples

by Scott Lee
September 2, 2016

I’m Scott Lee, Program Director at CyArk , a non-profit that digitally documents and shares the world's cultural heritage. Just 8 weeks ago, I was in Myanmar to laser scan and capture a few of the incredible ancient Buddhist temples and statutes in Bagan. Sadly, the recent 6.8 earthquake has taken a huge toll with terrible loss of life and severe damage to the temples. This is not only a tremendous loss of history and heritage but also a great blow to people’s livelihood as it impacts visitors to these sites.

Bagan, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was once the home to over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries constructed on the Bagan plains alone between the 11th and 13th century. They are some of the most venerated religious sites and a key destination for Myanmar’s growing tourism industry and re-emerging economy.

My team has been asked  to help conduct a full scale assessment of the damaged sites with our partners at Carleton University. The Government teams on the ground are stretched and are struggling to understand the scope and scale of the damage. They need the support of experts to conduct emergency digital documentation via aerial survey and to do everything possible to support their rehabilitation efforts. 

CyArk and its partners have received frequent updates from people on the ground and they continue to report more and more damage.   With our help, the data collected from aerial surveys will be used to generate 3D models and high resolution maps to help assess the damage to over 2,300 temples. Due to the delicate nature of the unreinforced masonry structures it is often impossible or dangerous to conduct these surveys on land. You cannot simply climb one of these structures as you might injure yourself or cause further damage to the site. Our methodology will survey the 40 square miles in a few shorts weeks compared with the months it would take using other methods. 

Will you support our emergency work today?  We urgently need to deploy our experienced team to conduct aerial damage assessments of the region and complete comparative analysis of the structures already scanned in our digital archives. The records we gathered just weeks ago during my recent trip can be utilized in the rehabilitation of these damaged sites. It’s also a reality that local communities depend on tourism for their livelihoods and their lives have been seriously disrupted by this earthquake.  


"I recently had the opportunity and privilege to visit Bagan as part of CyArk's documentation efforts in May and experience the beauty of this site and country first hand. The devastation to these monuments as a result of the recent earthquake is heartbreaking, not just for the physical destruction and loss of the structures themselves but the effects on the surrounding communities who depend upon the tourism generated by this marvel"

-CyArk Board member, John  Ristevski, and former Vice President of Reality Capture at Nokia’s mapping company, HERE.


We need your help now to raise $16,000 as quickly as we can.  Your support will help with the assessments, provide equipment and training of local heritage professionals in Myanmar and help with the restoration work that will be guided by CyArk’s data.  

Now, more than ever, we need your help to  to respond and focus on the most vulnerable sites throughout the world.

Please make a donation to CyArk’s emergency appeal and if you can, please share this with family and friends because every dollar counts. 

Thank you for caring and thanks for being part of the CyArk family. Without you, our work would not be possible.


Scott Lee

Help spread the word!

The Government Struggles to get a handle on the scope of damage
Field Work 8 weeks ago reveled the incredible beauty.....but also fragility of this site
Aerial survey will be an indispensable tool for the recovery efforts