Photo by: Phil Gordon
Diners sit outside at the Rusty Keyhole restaurant in Kampot town (left). The restaurant is located on a riverside road where authorities this week began felling trees and instructing businesses to clear space for pavement renovation.
AUTHORITIES in Kampot town have begun clearing trees from the riverfront and instructing businesses to remove their outdoor furniture so that the pavement can be renovated, a move that has drawn both criticism and support from business owners.
The clearing began on Monday, with heavily armed police and workers using chainsaws to cut down trees along the river and informing business owners of the changes. The work will continue for the next two days, authorities said.
Dominic Price, who owns Rikitikitavi hotel and restaurant, said he supported the reconstruction of the pavement but questioned the decision to fell the trees.
“It’s definitely a shame they’re not leaving all of the trees,” he said. “But the bigger trees, the 20-to-30-plus [year old] trees they’ve left.”
He said the decision to rid the walkway of tables and chairs from restaurants along the riverfront would make it safer for pedestrians, noting that many are currently forced to walk in the road.
“They removed my whole garden yesterday morning. [But] if I’m being perfectly honest, I support it,” Price said.
Another business owner, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, was more critical of the changes, focusing in particular on the tree-cutting.
“They came three days ago with paperwork and the police, saying they wanted clean fronts,” he said. “But they came [Monday] morning with chainsaws and started cutting down all the trees. I asked, ‘Why are you cutting down all the trees?’ And they said, ‘We want to make a walkway for tourists.’ Today they’ve cut four trees down already.”
He said the stretch of riverfront affected by the clearance work stretches for between 200 and 250 metres, adding that the entire stretch had been made less aesthetically pleasing.
“I am just sitting out on the wall [of the river] now, and it does not look great,” he said. “They just finished the walkway on the other side of the road, so I do not understand why they are doing this.”
Kampot town Governor Neak Sovnnary, however, said the clearance work was necessary for both beautification and safety purposes.
“Almost 90 percent of public sidewalks have been used for such things as building garages, cutting hair, selling on the sidewalks and building gardens,” he said.
Neak Sovnnary said that only trees deemed unsafe would be cut down, and that the work would continue after Chinese New Year.