What the River Knows: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Dwelling collapsing into Siem Reap River. (Photo by Basia Irland and Derek Irland.)

In this series, “What the River Knows,” by Basia Irland, the artist and water activist writes from the perspective of each river, using the first person. Installments are published in Water Currents every other week on Mondays. The first post is about the Ping River in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Other posts include the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok; Kamo-gawa River, Kyoto; Siem Reap River, Cambodia; Yaqui River, Mexico, where the eight Yaqui tribal villages do not have water due to agricultural corporations; the superfund site on the Eagle River in Colorado, polluted with heavy metal runoff from a mine; and the Virgin River as it flows through Zion National Park.

Please feel free to add your comments at the end of each post.

Siem Reap, Cambodia–As I flow through the town of Siem Reap, Cambodia, I am slow moving and bucolic-looking most of the year, with green parks and benches for people to sit and watch me flow by. But sometimes during rainy season I overflow and flood nearby buildings and roads. Along both sides of my banks there are old collapsing wooden houses hanging precariously over the water. These are currently being torn down in order to clean my body, while the local inhabitants will be relocated to rice fields nearby.

I have been sick for a long time, with plastic bottles and bags clogging my flow, but now there is an effort to dredge my underbelly by removing trash. I can definitely breathe better as they make progress.

Dwelling collapsing into Siem Reap River. (Photo by Basia Irland and Derek Irland.)

My source is a spring on the most holy mountain in Cambodia, Mt. Kulen (which means lichee fruit), and I have a long, dramatic history to tell. Almost one thousand years ago I helped to build the grand architectural —> Read More