Angkor's past foretell's Angkor's future

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15 August 2007 (Sin Chew news and other news sources) – Finally, a story that relates the buzz about the redrawn Angkor map to events today. Given the renewed interest in the water management system of ancient Angkor, and the theorised failure that would have led to its abandonment, how is the Angkor today coping with the stress on its water management system? Not very well. Siem Reap is lined with hotels and guesthouses, all causing a tremendous drain in the local water systems and potentially undermining the ancient temple structures. When I was at Angkor last month, the Siem Reap river was heavily polluted as a result of the huge numbers of visitors and resettlers to Siem Reap; more alarmingly, the river level was only half of what it would usually have been despite being the rainy season. It interesting to note that the Apsara authority is taking note of Angkor’s history repeating – hopefully, measures can be taken to balance both the conservation needs and the economic needs of the country.

New Study On Ancient Angkor City Is A Wake-up Call For Cambodian Conservation

A new study about the vast extent of the ancient city of Angkor and reasons for its demise is a wake-up call for Cambodia to be more vigilant in its efforts to conserve a centuries-old heritage, an official said Wednesday (August 15th).

The study _ published recently in a U.S. science journal _ represents a new tool for preventing over-exploitation of Angkor, Cambodia’s main tourist attraction, said Soeung Kong, a deputy director-general of Apsara Authority, the government agency managing the site.

“The findings are eye-opening for us. They awake us to a greater need for safeguarding (the ancient city),” he said.

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Angkor Wat being loved to death

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12 April 2007 (The Daily Telegraph) – Every now and then, this blog features another article about how the massive number of visitors is a cause of concern to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This article further talks about one of the main sources of concern about the stability of Angkor – not the wearing down of stone, but the destabilisation of the underlying sand because of the rampant growth and water usage of nearby Siem Reap. The role of water management in the fall of medieval Angkor is an archaeological research question currently looked into (see here, here and here). I am planning a short trip up to Siem Reap in the middle of the year, and hopefully I can document first-hand the amount of tourist hordes and deterioration to the temples there.

Angkor Wat being loved to death

However, the battle to preserve Cambodia’s temples won’t necessarily be fought in their stone breezeways and intricately carved sanctuaries.

Rather, the bigger threat comes kilometres away, along Siem Reap town’s increasingly congested thoroughfares, where more than 250 guesthouses and hotels, including several sprawling resorts, have sprung up in recent years.

Some 500 years after a failing irrigation system forced Angkor’s rulers to abandon the sprawling Khmer capital, a lack of water is again threatening Cambodia’s most famous temple complex.

Just as the ancient city’s waterways collapsed under the demands of a population of as many as a million, an unprecedented tourism boom is again sucking the area dry and risking the collapse of many of Angkor’s temples.

The sinking foundation and widening cracks between the carefully carved stones of Bayon temple, famous for the serene faces carved on its 54 towers, confirm what experts have long feared: one of Angkor’s best-known monuments is collapsing into the sandy ground around it.

Related Books:
Ancient Angkor (River Book Guides) by C. Jaques
The Treasures of Angkor: Cultural Travel Guide (Rizzoli Art Guide) by M. Albanese
Uncovering Southeast Asia’s Past: Selected Papers from the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists by E. A. Bacus, I. Glover and V. C. Pigott (Eds)