Resort Under Construction at Mondolkiri Waterfall

A multimillion-dollar tourist re­sort is being built at Mon­dolkiri province’s picturesque Bus­ra waterfall, and plans include cable cars, a 38-km toll-road, a motel and restaurants, a representative of the project’s developer said Thursday.

The Council of Ministers granted the Phnom Penh-based Sorlar Investment company a 99-year lease on the waterfall and surrounding forest in 2004, but the Council for the Development of Cam­bodia only approved the project’s plans in November 2008, Sorlar Vice President Ngin Sroeun said Thursday.

Sorlar broke ground for the project, located in remote Pech Chreada district’s Busra commune, in December and intends to complete work by 2014.

“In the near future, I expect more tourists, including foreign tourists and local tourists, to visit there,” Ngin Sroeun said.

The company will first focus on a 38-km-long, 12-meter-wide toll-road from the provincial capital, Sen Monorom, to the waterfall, as well as two elevator cable cars that are designed to offer easier access for visitors to the waterfall, he said.

Both of those projects are slated for completion by 2011, he said, adding that the resort plans two restaurants, 50 motel rooms as well as 60 vendor kiosks around the site.

“We need to invest to improve the tourism sector,” he said, adding that the Busra project could eventually employ up to 100 local villagers, and currently has two on staff.

Ngin Sroeun said his company will not seek logging or mineral rights in the area.

He also said that the toll fees for using the new road leading to the waterfall and entrance fees to the waterfall have not been finalized.

Ngin Sroeun said the last time he went from Sen Monorom to Busra and back again, the journey took 12 hours over terrible roads.

Chhit Sophal, director of the provincial department of the environment, said Friday that environmental impact assessments are standard practice and that the waterfall resort would not have been allowed if it were to have “serious impacts.”

“The development project is definitely not polluting the quality of the water and the environment around that area,” Chhit Sophal said, adding that the EIAs are carried out by an interministry team.

Chhit Sophal said he did not have a copy of the EIA, and directed a reporter to the Environment Ministry’s EIA Department.

Contacted by telephone Friday, Puth Sori­thy, director of the EIA department, said, “I have not received anything yet,” before declining to comment further.

Busra commune resident Srun Theary, a member of the Banong ethnic minority, said by telephone Friday that locals are happy about the plans to develop the site, as it will mean more jobs in the remote area.

Srun Theary, who has two cousins working for Sorlar earning $60 per month from collecting parking fees at the waterfall, said she didn’t know details of the plans beyond that the company does not plan to deforest the area.

“The trees will not be cut down as the company needs to keep them for shade for visitors,” she said.

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