Unchecked Water Pumping Around Angkor Wat Threatens Temple Complex

29 Sep 2010  1218 | Cambodia Travel News

The world's largest religious monument, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, could crack or crumble if authorities don't clamp down on the opportunists pumping water from underneath the ancient city. Hotels and other private developments that cater to the tourists flocking to the awe-inspiring site are sucking the groundwater beneath Angkor's temples to keep their facilities lush and green for the paying customers.

But the Angkor temples are built on a base of sand, and if the natural rise and fall of groundwater which keeps that base firm is disrupted, the towers on the site could become unstable. The number of visitors to the UNESCO world heritage site near Siem Riep in northern Cambodia is approaching 2 million per year, which has increased the demand for water in the area. The population of Siem Riep has doubled in the past 10 years to 200,000. 

The Guardian reports that "thousands of illegal private pumps have been sunk across the city [of Siem Riep], pulling millions of litres of water from the ground each day." At the moment, the local government and water utility in Siem Riep don't have the capacity to service the rapidly-growing city. They are investigating the prospect of transporting water from other locations, and have commissioned a Japanese firm to investigate future options for the municipality.