2012年8月22日 星期三

wildlife endangered, Restoring ancient monuments at Cambodia's Angkor Wat


Cambodian farmer in a corn field


Cambodian wildlife endangered by land concessions

In Cambodia, land concessions and poaching are threatening wildlife and biodiversity, according to experts. The biggest problem thereby is government policy.
Experts say wildlife and biodiversity throughout the world are rapidly decreasing. Many countries are experiencing problems caused by illegal hunting and also a loss of habitat.
However, Cambodia has a unique story. While the government is cracking down on wildlife crimes, it has also been selling off protected wildlife sanctuaries to private agro-industrial firms.
Land concessions

Chut Wutty Environmental activist Chut Wutty was shot dead in April, 2012
Cambodia has two main areas for the protection of tigers and biodiversity - the Cardamom Mountain range and the Eastern Plains. However, the tranquility of these areas is now threatened. Recently, the government opened 23 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in 13 conservation areas to bidding by investment firms, according to a report by Licadho, a Cambodian human rights group.
The report further stated that the Cambodian government granted economic land concessions to more than 200 firms over the past decade and that the concessions covered 22 percent of the country's surface. It affected hundreds of thousands of families, wildlife and biodiversity.
Mark Wright of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Cambodia told DW that the intact Eastern Plains which - which is regarded as an optimal place for the recovery of the country's tiger and elephant populations - is under threat from national and international agriculture companies.
"Recently, there have been a series of economic land concessions granted within protected areas," said Wright.

"Even if the concessions are small, these will pose threats to biodiversity protection."
Kry Masphal, tiger expert of the Cambodia's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Cambodian wildlife was confronted with shrinking habitats and poaching. However, he also defended government land concession policies.
"Land concessions are not done arbitrarily; it started after clear studies on wildlife and biodiversity," he said.

"The concession is made only to land with barren trees, not to the jungle."
However, rights groups along with the open source Open Development Cambodia website came up with maps showing land concessions across Cambodia, showing that some are well inside wildlife protected areas.

A woman cuts sugarcane near a lake Land is being sold off for agricultural purposes
Wright said the conflict between development and the endangered species conservation effort could be reduced if the government had "careful planning and a long-term vision."
"We are urging the Cambodian Government to fast-track the process of developing and implement zoning plans for protected areas in order to protect areas of high biodiversity values prior to any new decisions on land concessions," he said.
Wildlife trade is a big business in some Asian countries where the use of traditional medicine containing ingredients made from animal parts is common. In July the WWF ranked Vietnam "the worst country" in terms of wildlife crimes. The other biggest consumer countries of wild animal products were China and Thailand, according to the report.

"Illegal hunting has probably already extirpated Cambodia's national animal, the Kouprey and puts pressure on all wildlife species," said Wright, pointing out that officials still needed to a lot for the protection of animals and biodiversity.
However, Masphal is optimistic about the measure the government has implemented to curb wildlife crimes so far.
"We recruit those poachers to be our wildlife rangers. We also have law enforcement team who check houses and restaurants so that those people have to respect laws," he told DW.



Restoring ancient monuments at Cambodia's Angkor Wat

A restored sculpture at a workshop in Angkor Many of the Apsara sculptures at Angkor Wat were destroyed

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"Look at that one - she's got really big lips".
Sasha Constable is admiring the carvings of the Apsara nymphs on the walls of Cambodia's most famous ancient temple, Angkor Wat. Every year, millions of visitors do much the same. The bas reliefs at this 900-year-old monument are remarkably well-preserved.
But Sasha is no tourist - she is a sculptor herself and a member of one of Britain's most famous artistic families. Her father Richard is a well-known painter - and she can trace a direct line back to John Constable.
Sasha has carried on the traditions of the dynasty, while taking a distinct path of her own.
Since 2000 she has been based in Cambodia. As well as creating her own work, she has contributed to the country's artistic revival as a teacher and curator.
Sculptor Sasha Constable is recreating some of Angkor Wat's lost carvings
As much as anyone, Sasha has helped to raise the international profile of Cambodian art, helping young artists to make a living from their passion.
"Cambodian artists are being profiled more and more," she says.
"Now some are exhibiting abroad and their work is being exposed to a different audience. That means the prices go up, which is good for them. It's one of the last countries in this region where art has suddenly become more and more interesting to people."

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Cheam Phally
We wanted to bring the sculptures back to the public ”
Cheam Phally World Monuments Fund
Now, after everything that Sasha has offered Cambodia, the country is giving something back. Perhaps the greatest prize she could have imagined: a commission to recreate some of the lost carvings at Angkor Wat.
"It's a huge privilege. It was a really interesting, challenging project - but really just a privilege."
Joining Sasha at Angkor, sweltering in the afternoon sun, is Cheam Phally of the World Monuments Fund.
She was the architect in charge of restoring one of the temple's best-known features - a long, bas relief gallery known as "the churning of the sea of milk", displaying scenes from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana.
But something was missing from the restoration. The Apsara figures which once decorated the gallery's roof were gone - victims of the passage of time or, perhaps, looters.
Sitting on the grass in front of the gallery, Cheam Phally points to what look like some lumps of rock among a number of larger slabs.
"These are fragments of the Apsaras, the lower halves," she says, picking one up, then placing it in a hole in one of the slabs.
"It would have gone in the roof stone like this."
The WMF's commission was for Sasha to recreate the Apsaras, with the aim of placing them on the roof of the restored gallery.
"We wanted to bring the sculptures back to the public - and to rebuild them we needed someone who understood Khmer art. Sasha has a deep understanding."
'Very proud' The British artist enlisted local sculptor Chhay Saron to join her in researching - and making - the pieces.
Chhay Saron Chhay Saron sees his work as a contribution to future generations
He has a remarkable story of his own - a former soldier and landmine survivor who retrained as a sculptor, and now employs other disabled people in his workshop within the Angkor temple complex.
"As a Khmer person, when I see an Apsara sculpture I feel so happy," he says. "A lot of the ancient Apsara sculptures have been damaged - that's why I'm so pleased to have been given this assignment."
Now, after months of work, the two have completed their sculptures. At her workshop, Sasha proudly unveils one of the finished pieces, pointing out how the design will allow the light to pass through.
"We were asked to make each sculpture different, as they would have been in the day. Some have different levels of detail - this one is a little bit plainer, but still has motifs around the edge."
"They're a lot more delicate than many of the sculptures at Angkor. It should give the public an image of what Angkor would have looked like in the original day."
Just down the road, Chhay Saron has finished his two pieces - and he can hardly wait for them to take their place at Angkor Wat.
"When people come by to look at my carvings they haven't seen the likes before, because the originals were damaged and destroyed. They always ask where they're going to end up - and I tell them they will be on top of Angkor Wat."
"Future generations will be able to see this and understand that there were sculptures like this in the Angkor temples. I'm very proud."
The finished work is in keeping with the legacy of Angkor - and represents a proud moment in the illustrious history of the Constable family. One suspects that great, great, great grandfather John would have approved.