PM: Unregulated Wells Threaten Angkor Temples

Trees falling on ancient temples in Preah Vihear province Tues­day did no serious damage, officials said, while Prime Minister Hun Sen warned this week that a more serious threat to temples in Siem Reap province could come from be­low.

Tuesday’s violent storm brought trees down on Koh Ker, Pee Chuon and Snam Prampi temples, heri­tage police Chief Tan Chay said.

Koh Ker’s east gate sustained mi­nor damage, but with careful re­mo­v­al of the fallen trees there should be no further problems, Ap­sara Au­thor­i­ty Deputy Director Soeung Kong said.

Hun Sen warned on Monday that the temples of Angkor might col­­lapse if Siem Reap’s underground water is pumped to the surface irresponsibly, which he said could cause the ground to subside.

Speaking at the inauguration of a $15 million Japan International Co­op­eration Agency-funded water treat­ment system in Siem Reap, Hun Sen said that the 100-plus ho­tels in the area are potentially en­dangering historical sites with un­reg­ulated private wells.

“If we extract too much water from underground, it will create difficulties,” Hun Sen said. “If Angkor Wat is affected…the whole nation is aff­ected.”

He added that although the JICA-funded subterranean project drains only 8,000 cubic meters per day for public use, more studies need to be conducted to understand the cumulative effect of Siem Reap’s myriad wells.

Teruo Jinnai, UN Educational, Sci­entific and Cultural Organization country representative, said the problem is a long-term one.

“At the current level, there is not an immediate threat [but] the way that development is going, especially the way that these hotels are popping up like mushrooms…the prime minister is right,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)


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