Air pollution levels in Siem Reap town are similar to those in Phnom Penh and two or three times as high as in central Bangkok, a researcher said Wednesday.
The air near Angkor Wat is less polluted than Siem Reap town, but is similar to air quality in the center of the Thai capital, said Masami Furuuchi, a professor with Kanazawa University in Japan, in an interview at a seminar on Angkor Wat and the surrounding environment.
Furuuchi and other researchers, including one from the Apsara Authority, began monitoring the air quality in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh in 2005, he said during his presentation at the Institute of Technology in Phnom Penh.
Tourism appears to have fueled the relatively high level of air pollution in and around Siem Reap, Furuuchi explained.
“The last 15 years, [there’s been] about a 20-time increase in tourist numbers,” he said. “Tourists need more electricity and traffic also.”
About 80 to 85 percent of the air particles in Siem Reap are from dust, he said, whereas the rest are from vehicle exhausts, generators and fuel being burned.
Air pollution can cause “problems with human health and also damage to the monuments themselves,” Furuuchi said during his presentation. However, when asked about this afterward he declined to elaborate, saying he has not studied the effects of pollution on nearby temples or people’s health.
In a paper on air pollution in Phnom Penh, Furuuchi and the other authors wrote that the rapid growth of the Cambodian economy in the last 15 years has spurred “huge energy consumption,” while the resulting emissions have received insufficient attention.
The seminar Furuuchi spoke at was organized by the Japanese project Environment Research Development in Angkor, Cambodia and followed a symposium in Siem Reap on Tuesday.
Researchers Tuesday spoke about a handful of challenges Angkor Wat and the surrounding area faces because of its popularity as a tourist destination.