September 14, 2013 / 12:24 AM / 5 years ago

U.S. to fund preservation of 11th-century monastery in Nepal

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The United States will help to preserve an 11th-century monastery in Nepal, a Buddhist shrine also deeply revered in neighboring Tibet, by donating $87,800 to protect it from flooding, the U.S. embassy said.

The money from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, created in 2001, will be used for projects at the Richenling Monastery in Halji village, about 355 km (221 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, capital of Hindu-majority Nepal.

“This historic monastery is at risk of destruction due to flooding from a rapidly forming glacial lake to the north,” the embassy said in a statement.

Buddhists make up 9 percent of Nepal’s 26.6 million people, the second-biggest religious group in the country.

Two years ago, Halji village was hit by floods that destroyed mud homes and killed cattle but caused no human casualties. Residents believe they were protected during the disaster by the monastery that stands close to the Halji river.

Nepal has more than 3,200 glaciers in the Himalayas. Scientists say 14 of them are at risk of causing flooding due to global warming, threatening millions of people downstream.

The U.S. fund to preserve cultural heritage has supported at least 750 projects in more than 120 countries, the embassy said.

Nepal has received more than $1.8 million from the fund to restore and preserve ancient monuments and other cultural sites. The United States is a major donor to Nepal, which gets nearly two-thirds of the cost of its economic development from foreign aid.

Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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