Conservation of stone monuments in Angkor
Title: Stone Conservation in Angkor
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: APSARA National Authority
Overall term: 2007 to 2020
The World Heritage site of Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. It is the main tourist attraction in Cambodia and is also an important element of the country’s national identity. Due to challenging weather conditions and insufficient maintenance during years of political unrest, the condition of some of the temples is a cause for concern. In addition, the spiralling numbers of tourists are a burden on the temples, presenting APSARA, the local conservation authority, with a growing challenge.
In the past, conservation and restoration measures were financed and carried out almost exclusively by international projects. These projects are usually not designed for the long term and the work done is often problematic from a conservation viewpoint as it is normally carried out by inadequately trained workers. Despite the huge need for specialists, there is still no state-approved training for restoration workers and no binding guidelines for training building site personnel. Alongside this skills shortage, financial resources are also extremely limited.
APSARA, the local conservation authority, has a professional conservation team that successfully plans all restoration and conservation measures and carries them out properly.
Local experts in stone conservation regularly conduct officially recognised vocational training activities to counteract the skills shortage in the region.
Since 2011, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been continuing the cooperation initiated in 2007 by the German Development Service (DED), as it then existed, and has been providing targeted support to APSARA in the establishment and training of its own Stone Conservation Unit (SCU).This project helps the partner organisation to carry out restoration measures without being dependent on foreign experts and to evaluate the quality of the work of international teams in a professional fashion.
The project components are the deployment of national and international experts, vocational training, small-scale deliveries of equipment, and local subsidies. Financial sustainability is ensured by the fact that the project partner APSARA is now able to bear most of the costs of the SCU itself.
The establishment of a permanent SCU and the training of domestic specialist staff in stone conservation will safeguard the long-term protection of the World Heritage site, create new jobs and also contribute to the economic stability of the region.
The establishment and equipping of the APSARA SCU began with the recruitment of three Cambodian stone conservation experts for the National Authority.
In the following years, a training programme was developed to further expand APSARA’s capacities with a planned vocational training course. The first training course, which is based on the German dual training system, ran between March 2013 and March 2015 with 20 young Cambodians as participants. A handbook for stone conservation and restoration in Angkor, which guided the training course, is regarded as a pioneering example of a textbook for training measures in developing countries.
Since March 2015, 19 Cambodian stone restorers, including three local senior experts, have been working continuously on conservation projects in Angkor Park. Over the 10 years of its existence, the SCU has already successfully carried out over 60 restoration projects on around 25 different temples. These works are generally commissioned by the authority and then planned and executed professionally and independently.