Rubbish Naga Sculpture Marks World Water Day

siem reap town – Nearly 300,000 staples, 600 kg of recycled plastic and 250 round rattan “bones.”

This is what it took to create the 225-meter naga now streched over the Siem Reap river in Siem Reap town. The mythical, multi-headed serpent made its debut Saturday night when the 600 lights inside its body were turned on in celebration of World Water Day.

The appearance of the naga, expected to remain on the river for up to three weeks, coincided with a fashion show and dance performances hosted by the FCC restaurant that attracted close to 500 people, filling the restaurant’s front garden and the sidewalk along it.

The naga sculpture, whose five stylized heads stand 4.5 meters high, is the product of what artist Leang Seckon calls his “crazy imagination.” Approximately two years ago, he and New Zealand arts-and-crafts adviser Fleur Smith launched the Rubbish Project, a volunteer effort to enroll artists into promoting environmental protection. The giant naga and Saturday’s evening of celebrations were their latest planned events to promote environmental awareness.

Leang Seckon expected to need about 15 people to construct the naga. But as he started work 14 days ago on the sculpture, whose body was to be 2 meters in circumference and stand on rattan poles above the water, panic set in.

Leang Seckon contacted Sem Sovantha, director of the Angkor Association for the Disabled, who, along with nine other association members, joined in and spent a week cutting plastic and stapling eight hours a day, Sem Sovantha said.

The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center also sent a team of 10 women who worked for six days, CWCC Supervisor Leuy Kama said. In the end about 200 volunteers pitched in, Sem Sovantha said. “They saved us,” Smith said.

With the full moon over the river, Saturday’s program kicked off with Cambodian dancers Chum­van Sodhachivy and Noun Chay­lot, who presenting a contemporary version of a traditional ballet of the Cambodian legend of the naga.

In interviews at the event, the Venerable Hiek Sopheap, executive director of the Association of Buddhists for the Environment, noted that water is as vital for people as their blood: If they keep polluting water, they will not survive; and Provincial Deputy Governor Kim Chhaihieng mentioned the importance of making Cambodians understand why waterways should be kept free of rubbish.

The event took place under the patronage of King Norodom Sihamoni, the approval of Siem Reap provincial authorities, and the support of ANZ Royal Bank and WWF’s Sustainable Rattan Harvest and Production project, which provided the rattan.

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