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Tonle Sap water project to help Siem Reap town

The Japanese government sealed the deal yesterday on an agreement to provide Cambodia with a US$86 million loan for a project that will supply Siem Reap town residents with water from the Tonle Sap lake and alleviate their need for water drawn from wells.

The 40-year loan will curb the pumping of well water from beneath the Angkor Wat temple complex, which is thought to have an adverse effect on the world heritage site, the Japanese ambassador said yesterday.

The agreement, signed yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Foreign Minister Hor Nahmong and Japanese Ambassador Kuroki Masafumi, with Prime Minister Hun Sen in attendance, launched a project that, when finished, will provide Siem Reap town with about 600,000 cubic metres of water a day from Tonle Sap Lake.

“This new project will take water from the Tonle Sap Lake, instead of underground water, to avoid the possibility of impacting the world heritage monument of Angkor,” the ambassador said.

The project will include the construction of water intake and treatment plants, as well as 217 kilometres of pipelines for water distribution, he said.

The longtime use of well water by residents and tourists has stirred concern from archaeologists that this continued pumping of water will begin to affect the structure of the ancient temple complex and could even cause a collapse.

Bun Narith, director of APSARA, the government agency that monitors the complex, said the many tourists and villagers coming to Siem Reap has increased water consumption.

“The government has thought about the loss of underground water and the authorities are trying to bring water from the outside for consumption,” the director said. “The pumping of water from the Tonle Sap will be a long-term process and it will reduce the pumping of water from underground.”

Japanese Embassy second secretary Yoshi Abe said more development needs in Cambodia were still to be addressed.

“[The] development of Cambodia is important for the stability and prosperity of ASEAN and Asia,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheang Sokha at cheang.sokha@phnompenhpost.com

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