The Siem Reap Provincial Authority is planning to construct a new bridge next to the existing Royal Residence Bridge and to widen the road from the bridge to crossroads next to Sokha Angkor Hotel to avoid further traffic jams in the tourism city, Governor Khim Bun Song said.
“The authority plans to widen the road between the trees and the Independence Gardens. The trees will stay in the middle of the road, so that you have two roads and two bridges to ease the traffic as the Royal Residence Bridge is now too small, especially as it is only a one-way traffic bridge,” he said.
The authorities began studies on building a new bridge to facilitate traffic after inspections along the Siem Reap River in early March, when they realised that traffic on the Royal Residence Bridge was congested.
The Governor said, “Tourists and the local population will continue to increase in Siem Reap, so we, the authority, have to prepare our infrastructures in advance to ease the traffic.”
Khim Bun Song told the Siem Reap Insider that authorities are studying construction of the new bridge and road widening plans that keep trees untouched, and the plans will be submitted to the Apsara Authority and UNESCO.
“We have to study what will be impacted if we widen the road, but we have no plans to cut trees – so please do not worry about this matter,” the Governor stressed.
But on Friday last week, a local newspaper reported that the Siem Reap director of Public Works and Transport Department, Kim Bunna, said that some big trees along both sides of the road will be cut down in order to facilitate the road widening plan.
This news was posted on Facebook, gaining more than 2000 ‘likes’ and eliciting many critical comments about the Siem Reap Authority as people disagreed with cutting the trees in the city.
On the same day, an unidentified angry Facebook user created a Facebook page named, “Please Do NOT cut our TREES in Siem Reap,” which quickly garnered more than 5,000 protests against what people thought the Siem Reap Authority was going to do regarding cutting down trees for the road widening.
The page stated, “We are happy to see our country develop, but we strongly protest developments that cut the trees. The trees are our hearts, our lives. Most people said Siem Reap does not look like Siem Reap anymore since the trees in front of Sokha Hotel were cut to widen the road. Siem Reap people were so sad.”
Siem Reap director of Public Works and the Transport Department, Kim Bunna, could not be reached for comment.
But in response to the news and criticism, Governor Khim Bun Song strongly reiterated to the Insider that the authority does not have a plan or is even thinking of cutting down big trees to expedite road widening plans.
“It is not necessary to log the trees for road widening in the tourism city as the authorities now have a role to protect and conserve trees. I can foresee that those trees will be very valuable as part of Siem Reap Angkor’s cultural and historical tourist sites,” he said.
There are at least 30 big trees growing along the sides of the road in question which provide good shade for drivers and have become a green landscape cover for the city. People believe that those trees are a legacy of the French colonial era and the Governor added, “They are also part of the city’s beauty.”
The Governor expressed a hope that in the near future the Royal Residence twin bridges will have enough capacity to facilitate traffic and to respond to the recent development of the “Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service” concept. This is especially significant as the Cambodian government considers tourism, especially in Siem Reap Angkor, as “Green Gold.”
The Governor also said that the Siem Reap Authority has many important plans to restore infrastructure, bridges, drainage and to maintain aesthetics and garden conservation, as well as strengthening public security and order.