Afghanistan: UNESCO to convene meeting on preserving Bamiyan Buddha site

Afghanistan: UNESCO to convene meeting on preserving Bamiyan Buddha site

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will hold a meeting this week aimed at helping to preserve what remains of Afghanistan's great Buddha statues, which were all but destroyed by the Taliban.

The explosive charges used by the Taliban to demolish the Buddha statues in Bamiyan have severely damaged the surrounding area, according to UNESCO, which warned that because of large cracks in the rock at the top of the alcoves, the danger of their collapse is "increasingly likely."

The two-day meeting set to open on Thursday in Munich, Germany, will focus on setting project priorities for preserving the Buddhas. Japan has already committed $700,000 to UNESCO for safeguarding the site by consolidating the cliffs of the former Bamiyan statues and undertaking archaeological excavations.

The Afghan authorities, who will be represented at the Munich meeting, are working with UNESCO on current plans and will take any final decision on the matter.

In another development, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced that it is distributing some 3,700 tons of wheat seeds and 7,000 tons of fertilizers to half a million people in almost all of Afghanistan's provinces.

The seeds, given to farming families affected by conflict and more than three years of drought, were purchased from local suppliers. "Procuring seeds directly from farmers strengthens local production of high-quality seeds and the adoption of new varieties," explained the FAO's Anne M. Bauer.

While underscoring the value of the initiative, she cautioned that much more remains to be done. "The current distribution of seeds covers only a small amount of the real needs," Ms. Bauer said. "If we want to help farmers to get out of poverty and produce more food, we need to increase our assistance, extend the seed multiplication programme and improve the marketing and processing of seeds," she added, appealing to donors to support this goal.