Work Begins on $1 Billion Bokor National Park Development

bokor mountain – Ground broke Wednesday for a $1 billion, 7-hectare development project at Bokor National Park that aims to transform the park’s mountain summit and restore existing buildings constructed during the French colonial period in the 1920s.

The Bokor Palace Hotel and Casino, financed and developed by the Sokimex Group, will include a 12- to 16-story five-star hotel capable of holding between 650 and 950 guests, a residential area, a shopping center, an amusement park, a casino and a cable car system, Sokimex deputy general director Heu Heng said at the groundbreaking ceremony. A golf course will be built at the foot of Bokor Mountain in the 140,000 hectare protected area, he said.

“The development of Bokor Mountain has started; the name Bokor Mountain has now been heard again,” Heu Heng said. Most of the project will be completed in 2012.

The groundbreaking comes approximately a year after rehabilitation began on the 32 km road that winds up to the former French resort that fell into disuse during fierce fighting in the 1970s.

Sokimex workers have carved a wider flatter road out of the mountain though it is still incomplete. The road renovation will cost more than the $20 million investment initially planned, Heu Heng said.

After the ceremony Sokimex chairman Sok Kong said that his company is financing 95 percent of the project and that the financial crisis has allowed cheaper prices for materials.

“This project is a good opportunity for my company,” he said.

The project will include high-rise apartments and villas that will be capable of housing 6,000 people, said Nguyen Duy, director of the design department of Sokimex. A trio of three-star hotels will eventually be added to the site.

Crews will restore the crumbling French-built buildings, Nguyen Duy said, and new buildings will have some architectural similarities with the older colonial-era structures.

Kampot Provincial Governor Khoy Khun Hour said that the Bokor development will make Kampot a major tourist destination in Cambodia.

Over the next half-decade the construction of a new port, a special economic zone, and hydropower dam will add to that, he said.

“In five years Kampot will have a new face,” he said.

Environmental Minister Mok Mareth said that Sokimex has agreed to pay for additional park rangers at the site to protect the land.

Sokimex has also created plans to address ministry concerns about waste management and erosion, he said.

While the project will raise some eyebrows by placing a golf course in a national park, it also offers protection to the site, David Emmett, a biologist with Conservation International, wrote in an e-mail.

“It’s not ideal to have a casino in a national park,” he wrote, “but I am confident that, as long as they manage their pollution properly and they ensure tourists do not collect wildlife, the bio-diversity of the protected area could benefit from the new investment in this area. Time will tell.”


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