A historian has raised fears that the drought currently gripping Cambodia could affect the foundations of the Kingdom's globally renowned Angkor Wat, while the temple complex's Apsara Authority management has said that, while it was prepared, it was not expecting such a problem.
Diep Sophal, a professor of history at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said if the water in Angkor Wat's iconic moat was to dry out to such a degree that the temple's foundations were exposed, the resulting natural degradation could lead to the building's structural integrity being compromised.
He also expressed concern that the loss of the moat would discourage tourists from visiting the Unesco World Heritage Site.
“Scientists have discovered that Angkor Wat stands solidly due to its sandstone construction and the sandstone in its foundations beneath the moat. According to scientists, if the moat dries out, the foundations being exposed must surely be problematic,” Sophal said.
However, he said he expected the Apsara Authority would monitor the situation to avoid such an issue.
Phoeun Sokhim, the deputy director of the Department of Water Management at the Apsara Authority, on Friday said the Angkor Wat moat had so far lost more than 10,000 cubic metres of water in the drought.
“The dry season this year is compounded by the El Nino phenomenon, making the weather so hot that lots of water has been lost to evaporation."
“Although the water evaporation is on a large scale, it has not affected the amount of water in the Angkor Wat moat because it is able to store more than one million cubic metres,” Sokhim said.
The Apsara Authority restored the ancient water system from the Tonle Om river in the archaeological park to Angkor Thom and then the 4km to Angkor Wat, he said.
“This means water in the moat of the Angkor Wat temple remains balanced without drying out, maintaining the beauty of the site.”
Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal on Sunday said that even though water evaporation was currently high, it would not create problems for Angkor Wat as its moat could store millions of cubic metres of water.
“The Apsara Authority is also regularly cooperating with the Siem Reap Water Supply Authority to manage water. We are not worried about this because we have solutions to fully address any challenges. We have not ignored the issue,” Kosal said.
The West Baray reservoir in the Angkor Archaeological Park can store some 56 million cubic metres of water and the North Baray some five million, he said, while there were millions more cubic metres in the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom moats.