Through determination and savvy fundraising, Cambodians and foreigners ressurrect an ancient water catchment and bring irrigation to thousands
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2008 03:17:16 -0800 (PST)
Angkorian reservoir revived
Written by ERICA GOLDBERG
Thursday, 04 December 2008
Through determination and savvy fundraising, Cambodians and foreigners
ressurrect an ancient water catchment and bring irrigation to
AFTER five years of planning, fundraising and construction, the
rebuilding of a reservoir once believed to serve the ancient Angkorian
temple Chao Srei Vibol has entered its final stages, and will provide
irrigation for more than 9,000 residents in three communes in Siem
"We're working with the government right now to finish the final phase
of construction," said Tobias Rose-Stockwell, project director of the
NGO Human Translation, which spearheaded the project.
"We need a good, solid, erosion-proof road on top, and we need to get
more vegetation on the embankment itself and to finish portions of the
canal system. But that's pretty easy compared to what we've done so
far," he said.
Rose-Stockwell added that archaeologists believe this reservoir to be
one of the largest remaining pieces of the ancient Angkorian
irrigation system because the canal system fed by the reservoir shoots
straight into a moat around the Chao Srei Vibol temple.
The reservoir has been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, and
was most recently in disrepair due to years flooding and neglect
during Cambodia's civil war.
"The last time the reservoir was rebuilt was by force under the Khmer
Rouge, but this time the community wanted to take ownership and
rebuild it themselves," Rose-Stockwell said.
The odyssey of reconstruction began when Rose-Stockwell, travelling
through Cambodia five years ago, was introduced to a monk who asked
him to visit his village. The monk explained that the village had a
huge problem because its reservoir was broken.
"When I first saw the reservoir, it was just a mound of earth covered
with trees," Rose-Stockwell said. "I realised this was way bigger than
anything I could do myself, but I thought, I'll at least try."
Rose-Stockwell began by raising money through drawing and
photographing the reservoir. He soon realised, however, that "a
ridiculous amount of money" was needed to fund his project.
Three years ago, Rose-Stockwell coordinated with the New York chapter
of Engineers Without Borders, a voluntary organisation of professional
and student engineers.
"The first thing they said to me was that this project is huge," Rose-
Engineers Without Borders began to work on the assessment, design and
construction, while Human Translation performed the fundraising.
According to D Bryse Gaboury, a project engineer, EWB first removed
the overgrowth from the embankment, which would hold the water, then
planted grass on the embankment to prevent erosion. It then built a
watergate to stop the flow of water and create a mini-lake.
"On the first assessment, we couldn't feel if the embankment was going
up or down," he said. "Just looking all around you, it was just
endless rice fields."
William Cao, a structural engineer, explained that EWB built a special
remote-controlled camera attached to a kite to take aerial photographs
of the site.
"Prior to this, there were no aerial photos of the site, not even
satellite images on the web," he said. "It was like losing a key in a
patch of grass; we had to find the embankment."
Another challenge was demining the site. Luckily CMAC made this effort
a high priority, according to Cao.
The actual building, overseen by EWB and conducted by Cambodian
contractors, began one-and-a-half years ago after a successful
fundraiser in Napa Valley, California, at which donors contributed
"Honestly, we never had the money for this project until this
fundraiser in August of 2007. The board of Human Translation put
together an incredible opera in a winecave with an auction
afterwards," said Rose-Stockwell. "It was amazing to see people to
come together for Cambodia, a community they had no relationship to."
The communities served by the reservoir, from the Balangk, Run Ta Eak,
and Knar Pu communes, also contributed funding and labour.
"Hundreds of villagers and monks come out to help grass the embankment
for erosion control," Rose-Stockwell said.
"It's been a constant push-pull trying to get as much out of the local
government, the district government, and the community overall. And
they've really proven themselves in that regard."
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