The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has raised concerns over the proposed US$350 million (approx £250 million) development situated just 500 metres south of the outer restricted zone surrounding Angkor Wat.
The development would involve the building of a “non-gaming integrated resort (IR)” on 75 hectares of land on a 50-year lease to NagaGroup Global Limited, owned by Hong Kong firm NagaCorp Ltd. The proposals would see the first phase of the development opening in 2025.
The development, provisionally called Angkor Lake of Wonder, is proposed to include hotels, a water theme park, an indoor hi-tech theme park, a non-motorised boating canal system, business facilities for meetings conferences and exhibitions.
The resort is part of the much larger Siem Reap Tourism Development Master Plan 2020-2035 which aims to capialise on the popularity of the area. It is believed that Siem Reap and Angkor Wat accounted for as much as 15% of the total GDP of Cambodia prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of the plans include the construction of Grand Siem Reap, a large high-rise city located 60km (37 miles) east of Siem Reap. Siem Reap itself is limited on developed due to the areas UNESCO protected status.
UNESCO have released the following statement:
“The UNESCO World Heritage Centre has also received numerous appeals from third parties expressing their concern.
The plenary session of the International Coordinating Committee for Angkor (ICC), held virtually on 26 and 27 January, addressed this project with particular attention, and the technical opinions of experts in the fields of conservation and sustainable development were clearly unfavourable to it.
The proximity of the project to the protected buffer zones of the site as well as the scale, scope and concept of the planned activities could indeed have an impact on the outstanding universal value for which Angkor was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including its setting, the surrounding landscape, the environment and the archaeological remains, all of which are an integral part of this World Heritage property.
UNESCO is in close dialogue with the Cambodian authorities, with whom it has been working continuously since 1992 to protect the site and its surroundings, notably through the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) for Angkor. UNESCO is certain that the Cambodian authorities remain fully committed to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and will ensure that the protection of the outstanding universal value of Angkor remains at the heart of the decision-making processes relating to the property and its surroundings.
Any development concerning the Angkor site will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in June-July 2021.
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992, Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including wooded areas, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the various capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the 9th to 15th centuries.”
Cambodia has a number of ambitious plans for the development of tourism in the country. Earlier this week we reported on plans to develop Kep province into a high-end eco-tourism destination. There are also plans for a huge US$16 billion development for Ream City in the Sihanoukville region and an eco-tourism project planned for the Lower Mekong Dry Forest Eco-region.
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