21st session of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) for the World Heritage site of Angkor

Source:Siem Reap, Cambodia   Date:2014-12-24

Mr. Hong Tianhua, Executive Deputy Director and Secretary-General of HIST and Prof. Natarajan Ishwaran, State Recruited Expert working with HIST on international cooperation projects attended the 21st session of the ICC for Angkor World Heritage site held on 4 December 2014 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The ICC was convened in the Conference Hall within the new APSARA Headquarters in Siem Reap.

Mr. Tianhua presented a 10-minutes report on progress of the “Remote Sensing for the Environment of Angkor Site (REAS)” project which was launched in June 2013 following the signing of an MOU between HIST and APSARA, the Cambodian authority responsible for the conservation of the Angkor World Heritage site and the sustainable development of surrounding areas of the Province of Siem Reap. Several participants, including representatives of APSARA and UNESCO, Phnom Penh and others such as those representing the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, expressed their satisfaction on the progress of the REAS project. Some of the data obtained through satellite image interpretation of changes that have occurred over the last 20 years within the 5000 study area, comprising the Angkor Heritage site and the catchments of the three main rivers (Siem Reap, Poux and Roulos) feeding the Angkor hydraulic system were transmitted to APSARA authorities for their use in day-to-day planning and management.

During the lunch break of the session, Mr. Tianhua and Prof. Ishwaran accompanied Mr. Cheng Haobo, representative of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to visit the REAS Project Office set up within one of the Villas of the new APSARA Headquarters in Siem Reap. The Villa houses several posters of HIST as well as the Virtual Ground Station (VSG), a technology developed by AIR and transferred to APSARA in September 2014 when Mr. Hong visited Siem Reap as part of the Chinese Delegation to Cambodia under the leadership of the Vice-President of the CAS, Prof. Li Jinghai. VSG now allows APSARA near-real time access to satellite images that are received by AIR via its three ground stations in Miyun, Kashi and Sanya in China.

Mr. Du Yue, Secretary-General of the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO also visited the REAS Project Office in the APSARA headquarters, on 3 December 2014. Mr. Du was accompanying His Excellency Mr. Hao Ping, Deputy Minister of Education of China and the Chairman of the UNESCO General Conference who inaugurated, together with His Excellency Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, the launch of the ICC for Preah Vihear, another Cambodian World Heritage site in northern Cambodia. Following the success of the ICC working model for over 20-years in Angkor, under the joint Chairmanship of France and Japan, the Executive Board of UNESCO recommended the establishment of an ICC to co-ordinate international co-operation for the conservation, management and sustainable development of the Preah Vihear World Heritage site included in the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee in 2008. At the same time, the Executive Board of UNESCO invited China and India to serve as the co-chairs for the ICC of the Preah Vihear World Heritage site of Cambodia.

Both Mr. Cheng Haobo of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Mr. Du Yue, Secretary- General of the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO commended HIST for the interesting range of activities that it has developed under the REAS project in collaboration with the APSARA authority. Both of them encouraged Mr. Hong to scale-up HIST/AIR co-operation with Cambodia on space technology applications for natural and cultural heritage. HIST’s experience in designing and launching REAS has provided it valuable insights and experience which could facilitate its ability to develop similar initiatives for the Preah Vihear World Heritage sites as well as potential World Heritage sites, such as the Sambor Prei Kuk in the Kampong Thom Province of Cambodia and whose nomination is currently under preparation by the Cambodian Government. Siem Reap, Preah Vihar and Kampong Thom are Cambodian Provinces that are adjacent to one another in northern Cambodia. HIST is well placed to demonstrate innovative and interesting approaches to space technology applications for natural and cultural heritage as its work and progress under the REAS for Angkor in Siem Reap begins to attract attention and recognition of many Cambodian Ministries as well as international organizations and partners working in Cambodia.