German restorers from the International Council on Monuments and Sites have spent two years carefully sorting through the debris from both Buddhas, lifting out the largest sections by crane — some weigh 70, even 90 tons — and placing them under cover, because the soft stone disintegrates in rain or snow. The smaller fragments and mounds of dust are carefully piled up at the side.A surprising fact:
Reports that the Taliban had taken away 40 truckloads of the stone from the statues to sell were not true, said Edmund Melzl, a restorer. “From the volume we think we have everything,” he said. Yet only 60 percent of that volume is stone, he added. The rest crumbled to dust in the explosions.
The Buddhas were only roughly carved in the rock, which was then covered in a mud plaster mixed with straw and horsehair molded to depict the folds of their robes and then painted in bright colors.To remain a world heritage site, the statues need to be rebuilt out of the old pieces -- up to 90 tons of material. Quite aside from the difficulty of the project, there is some question whether it is right to spend the money -- $50 million -- on this in such a poor country. And there must be some question -- though the article barely refers to it -- about whether people in a Muslim country want giant Buddhist sculptures in the open landscape. The Taliban hated them enough to destroy them. Even assuming that few Afghans supported the outright destruction of the statues, how much do they want them back, what do they think of all the outsiders who care so assiduously about it, and do they really want all the tourists?
But there is already a plan to put on a big laser show that will project images of the Buddhas into the empty niches, a plan that involves hundreds of windmills and is designed to supply electricity to the local citizens. Presumably, these projects are made palatable by offering poor people benefits that outweigh any opposition they might otherwise have. But I'd really like to know what the local people think of it aside from the economic benefits they will be promised. Does anyone ask them?