Temple conservation projects are thriving as Angkor Wat nears its 20th anniversary of its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site later this year, heritage representatives said yesterday.
“I could not imagine that after almost 20 years I would see this same level of enthusiasm and dedication,” said UNESCO country director Anne Lemaistre after representatives from the Cambodian Apsara Authority and UNESCO’s Cambodia office agreed to put US$250,000 toward ongoing preservation of the world-famous temple complex.
This agreement will initiate phase two of a repair and maintenance project started in 2005 by an Italian government-funded team that has worked on temples in the area since 1994.
Deputy Prime Minister and Apsara National Authority President Sok An said after the signing that $200,000 will come from the Italian government, and $50,000 will come from the Cambodian government.
The project will repair the flood-damaged west embankment of Angkor Wat’s moat and a staircase by the moat, said Valter Maria Santoro, head of Italy’s temple maintenance technical mission.
Santoro headed to Siem Reap as soon as the meeting ended to continue what Lemaistre called “a life-long commitment”.
Lemaistre said she has seen such engagement from all of Angkor Wat’s restoration teams, which according to Sok An have come from 14 countries and 28 organisations to work on more than 60 projects since 1993.
“It’s really a partnership now,” Lemaistre said, noting that the addition of Cambodian experts to the project “increases the ownership of Cambodia”.
Lemaistre praised Italy for its commitment in the face of its financial crisis, though Santoro noted that its contributions have decreased in recent years.
According to Sok An, Cambodia is more than ready to host the 37th annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee next year.