Pollution not harming temples, yet

Pollution not harming temples, yet

090618_08a.jpg
090618_08a.jpg

Photo by: KYLE SHERER

Dr Shinji Tsukawaki, Japanese researcher studying air pollution.

DR SHINJI Tsukawaki, the Japanese researcher who insists that air pollution in Siem Reap is worse than Bangkok, has backed away from his recent claim that the town's foul atmosphere poses a direct threat to the temples.

Before presenting his research at a session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor two weeks ago, Tsukawaki told the Post that Siem Reap's polluted air "will cause some damage to the sandstone in the Angkor monuments".

But in a follow-up email last week, he acknowledged that the claim requires some heavy qualifications.

"I do not think that air pollution would cause direct damage to the temples at this moment," Tsukawaki said.

"However, in the case of acid rain, maybe in the near future, it will accelerate the weathering process of certain minerals in sandstone," he added.

Tsukawaki has not confirmed the presence of acid rain in Siem Reap.

For the past three years, Tsukawaki and the Environment Research Development Angkor Cambodia team have been taking monthly air samples in Siem Reap for analysis, where the levels of sulphur, nitrogen, carbon, particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are measured.

Tsukawaki said his studies show that Siem Reap pollution is "a little higher" than Bangkok, but despite the dramatic nature of the claim, Tsukawaki said his research has generated little interest from his colleagues at the ICC,

"They are keen only on monuments. Three years ago I distributed our first report on pollution, but nobody read it," he said.

"I don't think they will be more interested now. Almost nobody came to our symposium in Siem Reap."

Tsukawaki blames the pollution on car exhausts, generators and the old tyres used on most vehicles, saying that it spikes with every tourist season.

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