The Jakarta Post
Local residents and businesses have expressed their support for the government's plan to establish a new entity tasked solely with the management of Borobudur temple in Magelang regency, Central Java, arguing that the current multimanagement approach has created chaos at the world's largest Buddhist monument.
Local resident Khairul Muna, who manages a tourist village in Barepan hamlet, Wanurejo subdistrict, said the current Borobudur management had failed to integrate the role of local residents in supporting the local tourist industry and preserving the temple.
According to Khairul, this had forced hundreds of indigent local people to flock to the area every day to make ends meet as souvenir and snack vendors.
'This chaotic situation naturally creates an uncomfortable experience for tourists,' Khairul told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
Borobudur Working Group head Priyono concurred, attributing the surge in the number of vendors in the area to the lack of assessment regarding the social and environmental impacts of the Borobudur tourist industry on the more than 75,000 people who live in 20 villages in the environs of the temple.
'We are hoping that the government's new body will be able to better manage the temple in terms of both preservation and local empowerment,' Priyono said.
Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, is also home to hundreds of ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, most of them built between the fifth and 14th centuries, at the time of the arrival of the two religions in the country.
Borobudur, located some 40 kilometers northwest of Yogyakarta, is one of the world's most famous temples, renowned for its gigantic size and sophisticated architecture. Built in the ninth century, the Mahayana Buddhist temple is 1.5 hectares in size and has a volume of 60,000 cubic meters.
UNESCO has also designated the temple, which is currently jointly managed by state-owned tourism company PT Taman Wisata Candi (TWC) Borobudur, Prambanan dan Ratu Boko, the Borobudur Temple Conservation Center, the Tourism Ministry and the Magelang regency administration, a world heritage site.
In a meeting with a number of ministers and local officials in Magelang on Friday evening, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo approved a plan transfer the management of the temple to a new government body in an effort to revitalize the area, which is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.
Apart from the establishment of the new Borobudur authority, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said the government would also allocate Rp 10 trillion (US$730 million) from the state budget to develop new infrastructure to improve the temple complex.
Another Rp 10 trillion, he said, was expected to come from private investment to develop hotels and other supporting facilities.
'As a main [tourist] destination, Borobudur must be directly accessible for tourists. This means that we must establish an airport and hotels that meet international standards, as well as reopening railway lines,' he said after the meeting.
With such measures, Arief said the government was aiming to see 2 million foreign tourists and 5 million domestic tourists visiting Borobudur annually by 2019, much higher than the current total annual numbers of between 250,000 and 300,000.
'First, though, we'll talk about the management, and later we'll talk about income [from tourism],' he said.