Saving the Buddhas of Mes Aynak
Image Credit: Brent Huffman

Saving the Buddhas of Mes Aynak

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Outside the village of Mes Aynak, in eastern Afghanistan’s mountainous Logar province, a burgeoning Buddhist center once flourished. In its heyday, this Silk Road hub thrived on trade between the Middle East and Asia, and hosted Buddhist pilgrims who helped spread the faith.

As The New York Times noted, while Europe was crawling through the Dark Ages, Afghanistan was home to Nestorian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and, finally, Muslims, in a tolerant, prosperous society.

According to The Guardian, the 2,600-year-old site contains fortified monasteries, a Zoroastrian fire temple, several Buddhist stupas, more than 1,000 statutes and walls featuring frescoes of donor portraits and scenes from the Buddha’s life. Not to mention smelting workshops, miners’ quarters (even then the site’s copper was well known), a mint, two small forts, a citadel, and a stockpile of Kushan, Sassanian and Indo-Parthian coins.

Today, this treasure trove of cultural and spiritual heritage stands at a crossroads. One way leads to the development of a tourist hotspot: a win-win scenario that would breathe life into the local economy while preserving the integrity of the site. The other path is colorfully illustrated by Brent Huffman, a documentary filmmaker and assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University, who asks us to hypothetically imagine the following scenario taking place at another site of similar value: Machu Piccu.

“Imagine Machu Picchu at dawn cloaked in fog. Now imagine the fog slowly lifting to reveal an enormous ancient city perched on the edge of a mountain,” he wrote for CNN. “Picture a sense of mystery being immersed in thousands of years of history as you walk between antiquated hewn stone structures. There is tranquility in the wind-blown stillness of the primeval site. You feel a renewed sense of kinship with the past and with your ancestors and feel a deep reverence for their lives and accomplishments.”

He continues: “Now imagine the menacing sound of bulldozers closing in and men at work. Their heavy machinery rattles the ground. You hear workers rigging dynamite to these massive stone structures. There is a brief lull and then the deafening blow of multiple explosions as Machu Picchu is razed to the ground.”

“Be at ease,” he added, “Machu Piccu is a UNESCO protected site. But a very similar 2,600-year-old Buddhist site in Logar province, Afghanistan isn’t so lucky.”

Unfortunately, Huffman’s guided visualization is no exaggeration. In 2007, the Chinese state-backed China Metallurgical Group paid $3 billion to the Afghan government – its largest contract ever – for mining rights to Mes Aynak (“little copper well”), which contains an estimated $100 billion worth of copper. To reach the coveted natural resource, the firm plans to dig a 500-meter-deep crater that would effectively wipe the archaeological treasure off the map.

Comments
10

[...] Source [...]

Roshan
June 13, 2013 at 12:43

i am agree with Ken Taylor that we should give importance to the historical value of the sight which can give more income then the mines  and regularly. 

scdad07
June 12, 2013 at 06:27

Unrelenting spins!

 

Wang
June 12, 2013 at 00:38

and once China starts going to work on demolishing the Buddhas and extracting minerals they will then secretely support a major Taliban push to oust the government so that the Taliban can rule the country again and so that China can get an even cheaper deal on resource extraction. China eats the world into oblivion

Mr Know it All
June 11, 2013 at 15:39

On cyber hacking other countries to steal IP yes, you are truly World Champions , and I hope you are proud of yourselves……..

Kanes
June 11, 2013 at 13:40

I agree.

I'm not against this mining project because Afghanistan offers no economic hope to Afghans. This will lead to a Chinese-Taliban link up in sharing resources which is the dangerous bit. Pakistan does not have a problem with that.

admiral Cheng
June 11, 2013 at 12:14

China wants, China gets. No stop. Wow, its great to be the World Most Dominant Power. Sorry for the USA to have lost the title. Hail China the New top Dog of the World.

tocharian
June 11, 2013 at 09:26

Chinese State Owned Businesses (I like the acronym) possess no Soul. They are greedy robots consuming Mother Earth and destrying all that is left of Human Sprituality just for the materialistic needs of the :Great Economic Leapfrog Forward of the Han.

Ken taylor
June 8, 2013 at 10:16

It is a pity that the two can not be achived side by side. How ever the historic value of the sight will give fare more income for a longer period then the mine. The Chinese can not be trusted in any way on any form of a deal. Given time the rate of expansion of technology will enable both to live together in peice.

kaneluo
June 7, 2013 at 10:11

Capitalism is the only force that drives the world since the time of Adam Smith, whoever is on the same side of Capitalism shall prevail, whoever act against it shall be crashed and dumped into the bin of history, unfortunately, China is on the right side while the West isn't in this case. Democracy, Human Rights, cultural hiretage, or enviornmental concern, you can use whatever the weapon you can find, but in the face of mighty economic need, they will all be crashed one by one, just watch, and learn. . .

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