Borobodur courtyard reopened but 90% of ash remains to be removed

Borobudur temple view from northeast plateau, ...

Borobudur temple view from the northeast: image via Wikipedia

The Borobodur site was closed to the public after the eruptions of Mount Merapi began on Oct. 26. The temple complex was partly reopened for tourists over the weekend. Yogyakarta airport is now open. The Jakarta Globe reports:

Officials are concerned the acidic soot will hasten the wearing of the temples, Borobudur in particular, which is covered in up to 3 centimeters of ash. “Since Nov. 11, we’ve taken emergency action to keep Borobudur clear of ash by cleaning up 72 stupas and the main stupa, and wrapping them in plastic,” Junus Satrio Atmojo, the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s head of historical and archeological sites, said Saturday.

The government has allocated a total of Rp 600 million ($67,200) to clean up the Buddhist temples of Borobudur, Pawon and Mendut, as well as the Hindu temple complex of Prambanan, he said. “Cleaning up Borobudur and the three other temples requires that we be extra careful and work step by step to prevent the ash lodging in the pores of the rock surface,” Junus said.

“It’s not a question of hiring more people to help clean up, but of the equipment that we need to buy.” That includes Rp 248 million for Borobudur. “Cleaning up Borobudur and the three other temples requires that we be extra careful and work step by step to prevent the ash lodging in the pores of the rock surface,” Junus said. “It’s not a question of hiring more people to help clean up, but of the equipment that we need to buy.”

“Our experience from the Aceh tsunami in 2004 tells us that cultural heritage and historical buildings are always the last to be budgeted for in the disaster recovery fund, and that’s why we need outside donors,” he said.

“Donors don’t necessarily have to give us cash. We’d be grateful for items such as plastic sheets, hoses, baking soda and anything else we can use to clean the monuments.”  Junus added that Unesco, which lists Borobudur as a world heritage site, had only been able to offer sending an expert to gauge the damage, as it had no experience dealing with volcanic clean-ups. “We politely declined, as we have plenty of Indonesian experts,” he said.

Temple officials have reopened the Borobudur yard and the first of the temple’s nine levels to the public, but the rest of the site remains closed for cleaning.

“That’s because we haven’t been able to remove all the volcanic ash covering the temple,” Iskandar M Siregar, head of technical services for Borobudur management, said on Saturday. “We’re using brooms and dust pans to clean it up, so we can’t go any faster,” he said. “So far, we’ve collected 20 cubic meters of ash.” Iskandar said this represented less than a tenth of the total volcanic ash at the site.

He also rebuffed calls to wait for the rains to wash away the ash, pointing out that this would only complicate matters. “That’s because the ash would wash into the temple’s drainage system and damage it,” he said.

Clean-up crews are trying as much as possible not to use mechanical equipment, which could damage the rock surface of the temple, he said.
“We have to hurry because the ash has a corrosive character, that accelerates the weathering of the stupas and stones,” Iskandar said.

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