siem reap town – The Bayon temple, whose legendary faces have mesmerized countless generations, is in grave danger of losing its central tower, experts said.
Come a strong wind, and the 31-meter structure could drop stones on visitors or simply collapse, they said.
A series of conferences on the Angkor Archeological Park, which ends today, opened Monday with this harsh fact: The monuments, Cambodia’s biggest economic asset, have been at the mercy of the elements for 600 to 1,200 years and are built on water-weakened sand.
The plight of the Bayon was discussed in Siem Reap during the ninth Bayon Symposium, organized by the Japanese Conservation Team for Safeguarding Angkor (JSA).
The Bayon, one of the three most popular attractions at Angkor along with Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, sits on about 11 meters of sand above ground level, said Yoshinori Iwasaki, managing director of the Geo-Research Institute in Osaka and a member of the JSA geothenological, geological and environmental unit.
The central tower, weighing 2,200 tons, stands on soil that is sinking, he said. Tension cracks have appeared, stones have come untied and the structure is sagging. A sudden strong wind could topple it, Iwasaki said.
The tower should be tied with ropes to keep it together, a roof should be installed to keep rain off, and gaps in-between stones cleaned and grouted without delay, Iwasaki said.
“We must take emergency measures,” for the conservation of the monument and for the safety of tourists, said Ros Borath, deputy executive director of the Department of Monuments and Archeology for Apsara, the government agency managing Angkor.
At the Bayon Symposium last February, participants had stressed that drastic changes in the underground-water level could cause Angkor monuments to sink and asked for data to be collected on the amount of underground water pumped by hotels.
But water and sewage problems caused by hotels, which have multiplied along National Route 6 and the roads leading to the archeological park, have not been addressed by the Cambodian government.