Even as massive machines pound and grumble through the day, pouring tonnes of sand into a reclamation on the Mekong River, Koh Norea has taken form quietly.
The new island has made only a minor splash in local media, finding its way mainly onto construction and real estate blogs. For residents of the bankside area of the Chbar Ampov district of Phnom Penh, however, the construction has been impossible to miss. Since about May of this year, the growing land mass has crept closer by the day amid the industrial din and haze of diesel exhaust from a 100 hectare land reclamation project driven by the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, one of the country’s largest and best-connected developers.
In recent months, workers have driven a retaining wall deep into the riverbed just a stone’s throw from the head of the Bassac river. After reinforcing the wall with rubble and earth, they cleared the way for crews on rusted barges to pour in an endless slurry of wet sand – cordoning off and replacing a stretch of the mighty Mekong with lucrative dirt.