Mon, 07 Jul 2003

Borobudur needs more commitment: UNESCO

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Magelang, Central Java

The famous Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Magelang, Central Java, needs a complete restoration that focuses not only on physical development but, mainly, on cultural, economic and environmental factors, according to a UN official.

United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director General Koichiro Matsuura said that entering the second phase of the temple, all related government agencies should give adequate attention to all factors to help preserve the world heritage site.

"We should focus not only on the temple's physical development but also on many other factors to benefit everyone worldwide. The temple has not only archeological and historical value but, mainly, on religious, economic and environmental ones and the people here need to give adequate attention to help preserve it," he said in the opening ceremony of the fourth international expert's meeting near the temple compound over the weekend.

Around 120 local and foreign experts of different disciplines are attending the meeting scheduled to end on Monday.

He explained that the first phase of the temple's physical renovation which began in 1973 was completed in 1983 and the meeting was the fourth that UNESCO has organized to make preparations for the second phase of the temple's restoration that would be started as soon as possible.

Matsuura emphasized the importance of paying serious attention to the non-physical factors in the second phase of the temple's planned restoration. He said that included an improvement of the people's awareness of the world heritage's religious, environmental and historical value since thousands of people are living around the temple and more than 2.5 million locals and foreigners visit the site annually.

"First of all, the temple's presence should benefit locals to encourage them to preserve the historical site. Those living around the temple should be empowered to take part in the tourism development at the temple compound.

"Local youths and adults should be trained to be tour guides for all domestic and foreign tourists visiting the site. Such programs will indirectly encourage the locals to help preserve it," he said, adding both locals and visitors should have a common understanding of the temple's relevance not just for the present, but forever.

Last month, local artists and people held four art festivals in conjunction with the International Borobudur Festival organized by the provincial administration because of the absence of coordination between authorities and local artists.

Minister of Tourism and Culture I Gede Ardhika who officially opened the meeting said the experts were expected to come up with concrete recommendations to make policy and strategy for the temple's long-term preservation, utilization and development.

"That is why I consider this meeting very important especially because it is expected to recommend long-term policy and strategy to preserve world heritage," Ardika said in his opening address at the meeting.

He called on the experts to discuss a possible redesign of the temple's landscape and what measures should be taken to help empower locals to preserve the temple and its religious, historical and environmental values.

The minister also inaugurated the Karmawibangga Museum and library in the temple's tourist park complex.