Cambodian construction boom turns karst mountains to cement

Limestone mountains are being devoured to meet demand from the construction industry, with little thought to the undiscovered species that may be lost.

Nuon Oun, a resident of Tropaeng Thmor in southern Cambodia, watched this summer as a cement company started obliterating the side of the mountain facing his village. A gash runs for hundreds of metres from the top of the southernmost face of Phnom La’ang to the base, with diggers and dump trucks biting into the mountain’s flank like flies.

“There were three explosions this morning,” said Oun from a small dry goods shop and hair salon where residents gather on a Sunday afternoon in late July.

Oun used to climb high into the mountain’s side, collecting wood and selling it in the village. He would encounter wild boar, monkeys, chickens and snakes. There were rumours of tigers too. Now, even the village cows won’t get close, scared off by explosions that have been known to shake people off their motorbikes.

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