Final decision on Buddha statues rehab still awaited

Monitoring Desk

BAMYAN CITY: No substantial work could be done to rehabilitate the Buddha statues in central Bamyan province during the past 18 years. The two 6th-century standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff were dynamited by Taliban militants towards the fag-end of their rule in March 2001. Built centuries ago, the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art.

In response to the global fraternity’s ringing denunciation, the Taliban said the statues had been destroyed to protest international aid exclusively reserved for statue maintenance while Afghanistan was experiencing famine. The large statue was 55 metres high and the small one 33 metres high.

Ahmad Hussain Ahmadpoor, spokesman for the provincial Information and Culture Department, told Pajhwok Afghan News the Buddha statues destruction was a big loss for Afghanistan’s culture and history.

Hectic efforts have since been made for reconstruction of the rare statues, but satisfactory results were yet to be achieved, he said. “The tourism industry would significantly improve in Bamyan even if one of the statues is rehabilitated.”

The international community, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Afghan government have long been asked to reconstruct the statues on a priority basis.

However, archeologists and experts have offered three strategies for rehabilitation of the Buddha statues.

The first strategy was new construction, the second called for rehabilitation using available pieces and their third called for care of the existing statues. But general consensus on the last strategy could not be achieved.

After 15 years of the destruction of the Buddha statues, a group of archeologists from Germany, Japan, Korea and Italy in coordination with UNESCO participated in a gathering to take decision regarding the rehabilitation of the statues.

After their meetings in 2015 and 2016, four million dollars were allocated by the UN agency for rehabilitation of the historic statues.

But then vice president M. Karim Khalil had said India had pledged to offer one million dollars for rehabilitation of Buddha statues. But since it is not known either the government of Afghanistan did not follow the matter or India reconsidered its decision.

Bamyan Governor spokesman Abdul Rahman Ahmadi told Pajhwok Afghan News the decision regarding reconstruction of the statues had been finalized in a recent meeting of specialists in Germany, but the question how to build them remained.

He said pieces of the big Buddha statue would not be lost but rehabilitation work was not an easy task and it needed a special strategy.

Ahmadi said budget for rehabilitation of the historic statues had not been determined but it would definitely need a massive amount if the statues had to be reconstructed to their original form.

Abdul Hameed Jalya, director of Bamyan heritage sites, said rehabilitation of Buddha statues would be a difficult task in available resources until there was a decisive strategy and determination. He said over 50 pieces of the Salasala statue were kept in a separate place near the original site and they would be helpful for the technical team in its rehabilitation.

Ismael Zaki, a civil society activist, believed that the government remained negligent towards the development of Bamyan and had ignored the rehabilitation of Buddha statue as well.

“If one of these statues is rehabilitated, Bamyan would become a centre of tourism in the region, it would attract tourists,” he said.

Deputy Bamyan Governor Mohammad Asif Mubalegh said expert views were needed for rehabilitation of the Buddha statues. He added decision on Buddha statues was not solo concern of Afghanistan but experts and global organizations were involved in this regard. (Pajhwok)