By letter dated 31 January 2007, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, following the earthquake that struck the region of Yogyakarta on 27 May 2006.
The report provides information on the activities that have taken place at the site following the mission dispatched by the World Heritage Centre in June 2006, immediately after the disaster, including through a request of emergency assistance (for USD 75,000) that had been approved by the Chairperson of the Committee. These activities were mostly aimed at documenting the situation and reducing the risks associated to the deformation of the structures of the temples, to prevent their possible collapse and the fall of unstable stone-blocks.
The Government of Indonesia established immediately a Task Force, responsible for identifying, co-ordinating and implementing the actions necessary for the protection of the temples and their visitors. Following the closure of the dangerous areas to visitors, among the first actions carried out has been a comprehensive documentation and survey of the state of the monuments, including the laser scanning of the compounds. From the preliminary observations conducted, it appeared that the foundations of the monuments are generally in good condition. The recording of cracks and deformations has shown that the degree of structural damage is higher where the stones had been glued to each other, in the framework of past restoration interventions, with a special chemical substance, called epoxy resin, such as in the Siwa Temple. The resin, indeed, had forced the structure to work as a monolith, thus reducing its capacity to absorb the horizontal thrust caused by the earthquake.
As part of the immediate measures to reduce risks at the property, fallen or dangerously leaning stones were then collected, identified and numbered, and placed in a storage area. 1600 stones were thus removed from the site, including from the balustrade of the Wisnu and Brahma Temples. Scaffoldings and other propping structures made of steel and wood were then installed, for example at the Sewu and Lumbung Temples, which had been severely damaged by the earthquake. The main tower of the Sewu Temple was also chained by means of special fibre stripes, to ensure its stability. These works and the relative equipment were paid through the emergency assistance requested under the World Heritage Fund.
In the meantime, the coordination of activities continued, including with international partners. A first national expert meeting took place on 20 July 2006, followed by the visit of a group of experts from Japan (20-26 July 2006) and aimed at identifying a possible joint project for the safeguarding of the World Heritage property. In November 2006, a new National Consultative Meeting was held in Yogyakarta, bringing together all the stakeholders involved in the rehabilitation efforts in the field of cultural heritage in the aftermath of the May 2006 earthquake. Following a visit to the site of its representatives, moreover, the Government of Saudi Arabia decided to make a contribution of USD 250,000, through the UNESCO Office in Jakarta, to the efforts for the rehabilitation of the site.
With an aim to ensure the coherence and compatibility of all these initiatives, and also to review the situation at ten months from the earthquake and draw recommendations for the future, an international expert meeting was then organized jointly by the Department of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia and the UNESCO Office in Jakarta, with funding from Saudi Arabia. This meeting, which took place between 5 and 8 March 2007, resulted in the elaboration of an Action Plan, for the continuation of the rehabilitation campaign at Prambanan and other affected heritage properties in the region. It gathered around 100 participants, including an interdisciplinary team of Indonesian experts from the University of Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta as well as several international experts in the field of cultural heritage conservation and risk-management for cultural heritage, from Australia, China, India, Italy, Japan and the United States. At the time of writing the present report (12 March 2007), the Action Plan had not yet been finalised.
The efforts of the State Party and the international community to protect the World Heritage property should be highly commended. There has been indeed an extraordinary mobilisation over the past months to assist in the documentation of the state of conservation of the monuments and their temporary stabilisation. The long-term conservation of the Temples, however, will require significantly larger investments and careful consideration of the very complex technical issues arising from the special situation of the buildings, notably due to the impact of past restoration interventions on their structural nature and behaviour.
The State Party should therefore continue the ongoing effort in close co-ordination with the World Heritage Centre and other international partners, including ICOMOS and ICCROM, to ensure that the most appropriate strategy for the rehabilitation of the Temples Compound is identified and carried out. In this regard, the organization of periodical experts’ meetings to review the progress of the works and advise on relevant issues appears as a necessity.