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Scientists conserve temple’s iconic trees

Indian scientists claim they have successfully conserved 131 of the trees that are the hallmark of the Angkor Wat complex’s Ta Prohm temple, where myrtle-green moss creeps up 800-year-old walls and massive tree roots twist and loop over crumbling archways and crevices.

Teams from Indian research groups the Forest Research Institute and the Archaeological Survey of India, working on the UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004 under the supervision of UNESCO and the Apsara Authority, were initially confronted with about 36 trees requiring urgent care.

Devendar Singh Sood, project team leader at ASI, told the Post yesterday the trees were historically important, with many around 300 years old.

“We have to conserve both [the trees and temple] simultaneously,” he said.

Angkor restoration efforts have been criticised at various points by some groups keen on preserving the site’s original aesthetics, but Sood said they were only restoring half of the temple, with half left in ruins, “so the coming tourists can understand both the things.”

He said the FRI is treating decaying roots and trunks with eco-friendly material and treating surfaces with anti-fungal material to protect against the wear of tourists’ shoes and wind damage, while props have been erected to support leaning trees.

All told, the ASI’s budget for the Ta Prohm conservation project stands at about US$6.22 million.

Reached yesterday, Forestry Administration spokesman Thun Sarath praised the conservation effort at the temple and said that the Ministry of Agriculture was committed to protecting the nation’s trees in the broader sense as well.

“Tree planting is [important for] water regulation, [protecting against] landslides, increasing forest cover and commercial use,” he said. “We conserve both [temples and trees] because both of them [will bring] long-life revenue for Cambodia’s people.”

The Apsara Authority and UNESCO could not be reached for comment yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Claire Knox at



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