Muaro Jambi complex at risk from development

The Muaro Jambi complex is a cluster of Buddhist ruins dating to the 7th century, a major site of Buddhist scholarship in its day. Today, the surrounding region is being developed for heavy industry and it seems like the local government is unwilling to grant the site protected status.

A Lost Island and Temples of Doom as Jambi Trades Away Its Valuable History
Jakarta Globe, 08 March 2012

All around the city of Jambi, people are busy discussing the fate of Berhala Island. From the simplest of coffee shops to four-star hotels, from informal chats on the street to official meetings, Jambi is concerned about what happened. Berhala was officially declared part of Jambi province in 2011, but that decision was overturned this year, and now it officially belongs to Riau Islands province.

The case of Berhala highlights a worrying development: it seems the Jambi administration isn’t getting its priorities right. Because with Berhala, an important part of Jambi’s history has been given up without much of a fight. Worse still, an ancient, huge and still largely undiscovered temple complex is about to suffer the same fate.

The history of the Melayu Kingdom, an ancient sultanate, is closely linked to Berhala Island. And it was that kingdom that built the Muaro Jambi temple complex, located on the banks of the Batang Hari River. The site has been placed on a tentative list to be recognized as World Heritage Site by Unesco.

Oddly, this 2,612-hectare site that holds tremendous potential as a tourism attraction is now the home of various heavy industries.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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