The ICC’s ad hoc group of experts would like to draw the attention of the APSARA National Authority to a number of issues presently confronting the Angkor site in the wake of the success it is experiencing with ever-growing tourist arrivals to Cambodia:
1. A large-scale and rather disorderly sprawling of businesses and restaurants in the space in immediate proximity to the most prominent temples of the site’s core zone, compounded further by the many annoyances, as can be seen, caused by such things as generators noise, lack of cleanliness, etc.
2. Uncontrolled parking of the various vehicles used in increasing numbers (bus, automobile, remorks, motorcycle, bicycle) to transport tourists to the site, which is resulting not only in unacceptable visual pollution but also in congestion that considerably slows down the traffic stream. The parking of minibuses and large passenger buses on the central square is blocking the view of both the Elephant Terrace and the Leper King Terrace.
3. The unusual crowding of visitors arriving in compact groups is tarnishing in a most undesirable way the beauty and harmony of the sites, notably at the entrance to the most prestigious and popular monuments, such as Angkor Vat, Elephant Terrace, Ta Prohm, Sras Srang, Bayon, Takeo, Phnom Bakheng and Banteay Kdei, to name only a few.
Urgent action must be taken, such as better tourist flow management and appropriate control of tourist intake. The Banteay Srei tourist intake area is held up as an example of controlled, harmonious management. Meanwhile, the other temples that take in thousands of visitors every day seem to be simply left with a form of chaotic management.
The most glaring example is the sprawling of dozens of boutiques, restaurants and shops of all kinds over a 30-meter length out from Preah Pithu Temple. That temple is currently being cared for by a restoration project led by a Korean team that is working in unacceptable conditions—generator noise, cooking odors and even pollution from nearby sites due to trash and plastic waste dumping. An appropriate solution must be looked into in order to locate other land for shops and restaurants further way from the temple. To replace the boutiques closest to the temple, it can be suggested that the Korean team set up a visitor documentation and intake center.
It must be kept in mind that the Angkor site is considered internationally as a model, notably because of the outstandingly successful system that has been up and running since 1993—the International Coordination Committee for its safeguarding and development. Many countries look to it as a model to follow. But it is our duty, as your duly appointed, trusted experts for over two decades, to set the red lights flashing.
The most recent example of a potential loss of harmony on the Angkor site with its outstanding relationship between culture and nature could be that of putting up 16 telecommunications antennas in the core zone of the inscribed Angkor site. This subject is also covered by my colleague, adhoc Expert for the Sustainable Development Prof. Shinji TSUKAWAKI.
We are not experts in the telecommunications field, so we feel it is important to call upon an expert in telecommunications to make an assessment of the number of antennas necessary in this World Heritage archaeological park, based on a technical analysis of the 30 or 40-meter high load-bearing posts, the scope of their coverage and the possibility of using a less invasive technology on a site that must first and foremost conserve its outstanding universal value.
Under the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, the Periodic Reporting mechanism is soon to be completed and submitted to UNESCO. In this process, ICOMOS and ICCROM, regularly assigned to assess World Heritage properties, cannot but make note of all of the unfortunately negative points that require drastic action for the proper management and showcasing of this site. We suggest that the APSARA National Authority give this matter their full attention and take the necessary action. The credibility of the APSARA National Authority, the ICC and UNESCO is at stake.