Afghan historic minaret of Jam 'in danger of collapse'

By Mohammad Qazizada and Daud Qarizadah
BBC Afghan

Image caption,
There has been no extensive restoration work of the Jam minaret since it was built 800 years ago

One of Afghanistan's architectural marvels, the minaret of Jam, is in danger of collapse, officials warn.

Centuries of neglect and frequent floods are threatening the 800-year-old structure in remote Ghor province.

The 65m (213-foot) monument - thought to be the world's second-tallest brick minaret - is already on the UN list of world heritage sites in danger.

But officials have told the BBC that there is not enough money to protect it and more flooding could bring it down.

The biggest threat to the Jam minaret is posed by its position in a river valley among high mountains.

Officials say that last year's floods caused major damage to the base.

Image caption,
Flooding of the nearby Hari-Rud river has damaged the base of the minaret
Image caption,
The minaret is famous for its decorations and inscriptions, but the structure is now leaning

They say a new supporting wall has been built and other stabilisation work has been carried out, but not enough to secure the site.

The circular minaret is famous for its intricate brick work and geometric decorations and inscriptions.

But local officials told the BBC that 20-30% of the decorative brick had fallen off and that the minaret was leaning.

Few visits

Erosion of the nearby river bank and illegal excavations are considered the biggest threats to its stability.

But no extensive restoration work has ever taken place since the minaret was built in 1194, according to Unesco, the UN's cultural organisation.

Once a famous destination for international tourists, the site is now rarely visited, because of security threats in the region.

Cultural activists in Ghor say they want the next Afghan president to visit the minaret and step up efforts to preserve it.

Decades of war have made the preservation of Afghanistan's rich heritage a huge challenge.

The most famous examples are the Bamiyan Buddhas, blown up by the Taliban in 2001. Thirteen years on, no decision has been made about what should happen to that site.