From India's Taj Mahal to Cambodia's Angkor Wat, Asia's cultural landmarks are threatened by man and nature and more must be done to protect them, experts said on Monday. Earthquakes, floods, civil strife and looting loom large as potential threats, while the more mundane ravages wreaked by tourists could turn ancient attractions into victims of their own popularity.
BANGKOK From India's Taj Mahal to Cambodia's Angkor Wat, Asia's cultural landmarks are threatened by man and nature and more must be done to protect them, experts said on Monday.
Earthquakes, floods, civil strife and looting loom large as potential threats, while the more mundane ravages wreaked by tourists could turn ancient attractions into victims of their own popularity.
"The greatest threat is actually people like ourselves who do not have much appreciation for cultural heritage and often go overboard to try to get income from tourism," Suvit Yodmani, executive director of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, told Reuters.
Museum curators, architects and academics from eight Asian nations are meeting in Bangkok for the next two weeks to learn new ways to protect their cultural heritage back home.
They will study how to draw up complicated contingency plans and learn more simple solutions like using catgut to secure museum displays in quake-prone areas such as Turkey.
The impact of increasing tourism, the motor for many developing economies including Cambodia, which lures thousands of tourists a year to its Angkor Wat temples, would also be debated.
"Asia is the highest natural and man-made disaster zone on earth," said Earl Kessler, the Center's deputy executive director.
Delegates from Japan to Sri Lanka will draw up their own disaster management plans upon returning to their home countries. In eight months, the group will gather again to review their efforts.
"This is a management issue. It's not a pro-forma recipe for security," said Kessler.
Organised by the Getty Conservation Institute, the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the training course comes at a time of increasing focus on security for cultural artefacts.
Rioters looted the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad in April 2003, stealing an estimated 10,000 items from museum displays, according to ICOM secretary general John Zvereff.
Roughly 5-6,000 of those items have been recovered, helped by the sharing of information and documentation of stolen items.
While disaster plans naturally concentrate on saving lives and repairing damaged property, the preservation of culturally important sites and artefacts also plays a role in rehabilitating communities hit hard by disaster.
"Obviously there are very important priorities following a disaster to do with the saving of human lives," said ICCROM director-general Nicholas Stanley-Price.
"Culture plays an important role in that recovery process."