A Japanese-funded pipeline to redistribute water in Siem Reap is being constructed
amid concerns that a continued drop in the level of the town's water table could
destabilize the Angkor temples.
Geologists and archeologists have been concerned for years about water usage around
Siem Reap and its effects on the temples.
For every four meters the water table drops, the ground could settle six millimeters,
according to a Technical Survey of Angkor Monument conducted in 2000.
Currently, the vast majority of households and hotels in Siem Reap rely on water
from individual wells. This increased demand is depleting underground stores of water.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) undertook a water feasibility
study in 2000 and concluded that the use of groundwater was sustainable.
The following years, however, saw tourists numbers boom and JICA was forced to revise
their study in 2003. They recommended building a distribution station, so that water
from up to 12 wells located along National Highway 6 could be piped to hotels.
Construction of the pipeline began in October of 2004. JICA anticipates completing
the grant aid project by March of 2006.
Earlier this month, water usage and deforestation were identified as key issues facing
preservation efforts at the annual technical meeting of the International Coordinating
"The water situation is already alarming," said Etienne Clement, representative
of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "We
need to address the consequences of a lack of water as a serious issue."
Deforestation is compounding the water shortage, particularly logging on Phnom Kulen.
"Phnom Kulen is recognized as the water source of this region, and deforestation
brings the problem of decreased water levels because the vegetation is gone, so the
ground cannot retain water," said Tamara Teneishvili, a Programme Specialist
As well as the distribution pipeline, other solutions to the water shortage have
In the 2003 Technical Survey of Angkor Monument, one author recommended that no more
wells be dug in Siem Reap and all future water needs be supplied from the Tonle Sap
Ung Bun-Ang, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, had an even more radical suggestion.
"The government should put a moratorium on tourism development in Siem Reap
until they address the water shortage and the management of sewage in the city,"
Bun-Ang said. "If we allow tourism to develop freely, laissez-faire style, we're
putting a lot of pressure on the environment, and that will affect these temples."