FROM WATER TO SAND

  • Year:
    2015
  • Country:
    Cambodia
  • Additional reporting:
    Chris Rompre
  • Photos:
    Nicolas Axelrod

A look from above of the lakes and marshland areas in and around Phnom Penh.

Boeung Kak was once a large body of water in the centre of Phnom Penh, home to a lively community of some 4,000 families. Now, it is filled with sand, waiting to be developed. The families who lived on and around the water have been evicted. But once the lake was filled, the main developer pulled out of the project. More than 130 hectares of sand now lie idle.

At Boeung Tompong, an even larger water catchment area in the south of Phnom Penh, morning glory and other aquatic edibles used to cover the waterway. Now, it is slowly being filled with sand. The farmers who once made a living from the lake are slowly being forced onto smaller and smaller patches of water.

Large tracts of land on Chroy Chongvar peninsula, nestled between the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers in Phnom Penh, have been turned into mounds of sand waiting for the first constructions.

For powerful companies, marshlands and rice fields have become lucrative investment opportunities. Small-scale farmers are forced to look elsewhere for livelihoods.

Phnom Penh is expanding rapidly, and the population grows day by day. The municipality and developers are make space where they can. Rice fields, ponds, lakes and marshlands are being filled with sand dredged from the country’s mighty waterways.

The sustainability of many of these development projects is being questioned, and urban developers are raising doubts over the common practice of placing foundations into sand.

Human rights and humanitarian organisations are voicing their discontent over the eviction of poor communities who are displaced in the name of modernisation and offered little to no compensation for their homes and land.

This short series is a look at these areas and the changing landscape of the capital.

Note these images would not have been possible with out the drone flying skills of pilot Chris Rompre – Film maker and member of Ruom Development.

April 17, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Reclaimed land is used to built gated communities on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Borey Peng Huoth, Chbar Ampov. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

May 02, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Looking out toward Chroy Chongvar.  To the left of National Highway 6,  march lands and lakes were filled in with sand to make way for commercial and residential developments. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

May 02, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Royal palace and the riverside. Up behind Vattanc and Canadia Towers (far right) Boeung Kak, once a lake in the centre of Phnom Penh. The water has been replaced with sand to make way for a development project. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

May 02, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sokha hotel and Chroy Changvar peninsula. The area north of Chroy Changvar bridge and National highway 6 has been reclaimed for development. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

May 29, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Looking north from Boeung Tompong. The large water catchment area south of Phnom Penh was once filled with morning glory plantations and other aquatic edible cultivations. The area is slowly being filled with sand for development. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

May 02, 2015 - Koh Pich, Cambodia. Built on reclaimed farmland the island is mostly sand. Mekong and Bassac riverside. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

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