A sculpture of four naga heads designed in the late 1950s by Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann was removed from the Preah Monivong traffic circle yesterday in order to make room for the construction of Phnom Penh’s first congestion-relieving overpass, which will connect National Road 2 and Norodom Boulevard, officials said.
During the 12 months of expected construction, the nagas will stay in storage at an unnamed location, said Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, after which they will be placed in a park being constructed along the east bank of the river, between the two Bassac River bridges at the junction of Monivong and Norodom boulevards.
The removal of the statues marks the start of Phnom Penh’s first major construction project funded by municipal, rather than national coffers, said Mr Chuktema.
According to Mr Chuktema, construction will cost more than $6 million, all of which comes from the municipal government’s rental of Koh Pich to Canadia Bank.
“I hope we will have no more problems with traffic jams from national roads 1 and 2,” he said. “I will try and force the construction to be finished in 10 months.”
Officials and residents alike have long complained about traffic entering the city over the Bassac River bridges.
“Nowadays there are traffic jams every day at the end of the old bridge,” said Kuch Chamroeun, Meanchey district governor, adding that drivers and passengers frequently lose money, gas and time due to congestion.
Motorcycle taxi drivers interviewed at the construction site yesterday said they were glad about the construction but more than one lamented the removal of the naga heads.
“We see the naga statues every day, but from now on they will have disappeared from our sight. We lose our King’s regime’s achievement,” said Ouk Chea, 27, who drives a moto taxi.
After a pause he added more excitedly: “But I will see a new overpass in the next year.”
(Additional reporting by Abby Seiff)