Siem Reap town – The International Coordinating Committee of Angkor held its 17th technical meeting last week in Siem Reap town focusing on how the tourist destination can avoid becoming a victim of its success.
While numerous reports focused on the never-ending restoration of Angkor’s monuments, those on environmental issues and development took up several hours during the day-and-a-half meeting, which ended June 5 evening.
Co-chaired by France and Japan, the ICC includes countries involved in projects at Angkor and the government agency in charge of the park: the Apsara Authority chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who attended Wednesday.
Experts pointed out that the number of tourists and resulting traffic is taking its toll on the area.
One major problem is sewage, said Shinji Tsukawaki of the Kanazawa University in Japan who is part of the environmental study project Environment Research Development Angkor Cambodia.
With two million annual visitors staying an average of five days in Siem Reap town, one million tons of human wastewater is deposited into the soil each year, Shinji Tsukawaki said. The effect of sewage on the soil and underground water requires urgent monitoring and measures, he said.
According to air pollution data collected since 2005, Angkor Wat and Siem Reap town are now nearly as polluted as central Bangkok, Shinji Tsukawaki claimed.
“We could not believe it,” he said in an interview after his presentation.
Pollution in Phnom Penh is nearly seven times Bangkok’s levels based on polycyclicaromatic hydrocarbon testing, he later added.
TS Maxwell of Germany’s University of Bonn, who is involved in the Angkor Inscriptions Survey Project, told the meeting that the thousands of visitors who tour Angkor’s temples each day damage stone inscriptions by simply touching them. Some inscriptions are carved on doorframes, at times in shallow engraving easily erased, he said. This makes it imperative to protect and monitor the state of all inscriptions, Maxwell said.