A big pile behind Bayon. Blocks, cracks, a lintel, some lichen, simultaneously the highest and lowest points in the history of a society.
I'm shocked by the aweful extent of destruction perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Even the jungle - asserting, owning the things it contains - would only slowly swallow, dissolve these thousand year old temples. By contrast, these great embodiments of human creation have been destroyed in explosive displays of power, and it seems to me a sign we're condemned to spend our lives undoing and redoing our greatest works.
Each stone here will one day be meticulously cataloged. How much easier will it be to rebuild the temple the next time we destroy it?
Some days the scope of our project seems to be multiplying.
The Commune Chief brought me to a small timber bridge today on the way to the dam site. He pointed out some broken planks and asked me to take a quick look underneath. A few of the rather small but critical beams have broken due to overloading. There appears to be no structurally reliable foundation at all. And several of the columns have large grooves cut into them from their previous life as part of a house down the road.
We've driven our heavy 4WD van over this bridge every day for the past month, but seeing it now from underneath, I wouldn't feel secure driving a small car over it. It's not safe, and it's rather heavily trafficked for a rural road. I'm worried it could collapse at any moment without warning.
We'll need to bring some heavy machinery over this bridge for the dam project. That means we'll have to do some repair work on the bridge before we can get construction rolling on the dam.
I'm still in Siem Reap. The other guys had to go back home to their day jobs last week. We met with the district governor and the Commune Council this morning to discuss their role in coordinating labor and machines. Tomorrow I'll return to the site for the last day of field work.
Here's a summary of project issues we'll face ahead:
a) Erosion is significant, and large quantities of material have been excavated from the downstream toe at the southerly end of the dam. We'll have to move large quantities of dirt, and will have to verify clayey quality of all borrow material. I have identified some ideal borrow locations that will at the same time improve significantly the reservoir capacity and streamflow direction, while reducing overall effects of evaporation.
b) Canal system has to be designed anew, whether we opt to restore the old canals or construct new ones
c) Much of the work can be self-performed by HT using local labor, under the direction of their construction engineer on staff, Mr. Chanda (he has much construction experience, and has more than demonstrated his competence and dedication during our visit)
For these reasons, we're discussing a different phased construction concept (as opposed to contracting the entire project):
1. Embankment Repair (begin March 2007)
- HT to self-perform this task, using Mr. Chanda as resident engineer
- use 1 excavator, 2 dump trucks, 1 compacting roller (available free from Province)
- local labor to move and spread the material dumped from the trucks (paid in rice)
- local labor to clear vegetation / prepare embankment for repairs
- local labor to plant new landscaping
2. Canal Restoration (begin October 2007)
- HT to self perform this task, using Mr. Chanda as resident engineer
- same equipment and labor as above
3. Water Gate (November 2007)
- Hire contractor, using minimum 10% local labor
- Ideal duration of bid process is four months
4. Inspection and Maintenance Program
- generate community understanding of importance of proper maintenance
5. Community Outreach Program (ongoing task, performed by HT)
- assess community needs (health, irrigation, etc)
- establish clear understanding with community members regarding project benefits
- resolve land rights issues among parties farming within the reservoir basin area