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.
– 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)