UNESCO has expressed concerns that the Potala Palace, listed as a world heritage site
in 1994, is being increasingly surrounded by nondescript modern
In response, the director of the Potala Palace stated that,
"Potala Palace has so far enjoyed first-class preservation."
"Seeing is believing. I hope the UNESCO officials can carry out
an inspection of the Potala Palace, because a conclusion without an
investigation is meaningless,"said Qiangba Gesang, palace director
for 19 years.
A year after its inauguration, the Qinghai-Tibet railway has transported 1.5
million passengers into Tibet, nearly half of the total tourist
arrivals in the region. Concerns have arisen that the weight of the
tourist influx would pose a serious impact on the mud and wood
structures of the 13-storey palace.
"For the overcrowding of tourists, we have found solutions,"
said Qiangba Gesang.
The palace currently restricts visitors to 2,300 a day and stays
open from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM.
"The restriction of visitors proves our commitment to the
protection of Potala Palace," said Qiangba Gesang. "We can't fully
satisfy the needs of all tourists, but we have no other way around
In 2002, the central government invested a total 179.3 million
yuan (about US$23.6 million) in the renovation of the palace and
planed to invest more in the near future, he said.
Potala Palace, the essence of ancient Tibetan architectural art,
was first built by the Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the 7th
century during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), and was extended
during the 17th century by the Dalai Lama.
The palace, together with the Norbu Lingka and the Sakya
Monastery, are the three main Tibetan cultural heritage sites.
The local government will invest 140 million yuan (about US$18.4
million) to renovate the areas surrounding Norbu Lingka, the summer
palace of the Dalai Lama.
(Xinhua News Agency July 17, 2007)