PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday instructed hotel and guesthouse owners in Siem Reap province to limit their use of underground water sources, warning that excessive drilling could lead to earthquakes that could cause the collapse of the Angkor Wat temple complex.
“If an earthquake occurs, the safety of Angkor Wat and other heritage temples cannot be guaranteed,” Hun Sen said during a ceremony in Siem Reap marking the inauguration of the Siem Reap Wastewater Management System, a project funded in part by the Asian Development Bank.
“I would like to remind all hotel owners that work on drilling water has to be clearly inspected,” Hun Sen said, ordering Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem to closely monitor such work so as to prevent “disaster”.
Seung Kong, deputy director general of the Apsara Authority, the government body that manages the temples, said that the drilling of underground water could indeed lead to the collapse of the temples, arguing that the ground would dry up and thus “no longer be able to support” them.
He said most residents – not just hotels and guesthouses – are presently reliant on underground water. “Most of the residents in the provincial town use underground water, as they do not yet have connections to clean water, and the water in the Siem Reap River is polluted,” he said.
“We have informed them about the danger of the temple, but so far we have not seen any sign that they have heeded the warning.”
Also on Thursday, Hun Sen warned Cambodians to beware of lightning strikes during the rainy season.
“The lightning this year is vicious, and I would call on everyone to pay attention over the issue of lightning in order to avoid it,” he said. “You need to keep iron substances away from your body, and turn off your telephone and radio during heavy rains in the rice field. However, it is difficult to escape lightning.”
Six villagers in Pursat province were killed by lightning strikes on Monday, officials in the province said.
Lightning strikes resulted in a total of 140 deaths last year.
The ADB said in a statement Thursday that the Siem Reap Wastewater Management System, which includes a sewage and drainage system in addition to a wastewater treatment plant, would “help end bouts of serious flooding in the city”.