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Siem Reap looks to Great Lake for relief of groundwater supplies

Siem Reap looks to Great Lake for relief of groundwater supplies

With Angkorian temples threatened by water shortages, Japanese government-funded project proposes to tap lakewater for local use.

AUTHORITIES in Siem Reap province last week announced plans to pump water from the Tonle Sap Lake in order to supplement the province's supplies as water shortages continue to tighten their grip on the region.

Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin said Friday that the government would implement the program under a soft loans package from the Japanese government worth between US$200 and $300 million, pending the completion of a feasibility study.

THE NEW PROJECT WILL SUSTAIN A CLEAN SUPPLY OF WATER TO THE PROVINCE.

"A one-year-and-a-half feasibility study will be started in June to take water from the Tonle Sap basin to supply Siem Reap province," he said.
The province's water is primarily sourced from underground water tables, but Sou Phirin said the proposed project would supplant traditional sources, citing fears the draining of groundwater was endangering the foundations of Angkorian-era temples in the province.

"The new project will sustain a supply of clean water for the province," he said, adding that three new satellite cities currently under construction would also be supplied with lake water.

Chan Sengla, deputy director general of the Siem Reap Water Supply Authority, said the initiative to pump water from the lake was due to the growth in population and increased tourist traffic to the province.

"For the first phase, we plan to tap 20,000 to 30,000 cubic metres a day from the lake," he said.

"We are concerned that the growing demands for clean water will affect the possibility of tapping water from underground supplies [since] it affects the foundations of ancient temples in the province."

Water shortages

 He said that currently the provincial town was using 8,000 cubic metres of groundwater a day, but that demand had risen to 15,000, and that the provincial Water Supply Authority was only capable of supplying 4,440 of the 18,000 families in Siem Reap town with water.

Bun Narith, director general of the Apsara Authority, which oversees the temples of Angkor north of the town, said Monday that the authority had capped at 8,000 cubic metres the amount of groundwater that could be pumped out each day, saying further extraction could endanger nearby temple foundations.

"It is very good to take water from the lake for provincial usage and to replace the current usage of underground water," said Bun Narith.

Chhit Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, agreed, saying that the use of lake water posed no serious threats to the biodiversity of the lake.

Seng Solady, a program assistant of the planning section of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a Japanese development body, said that the project's feasibility study is slated to start in June.

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