Forbes Rides Again

Our mentor and friend Steve Forbes has come back to Cambodia to help wiL and me out with the start of concrete construction. Steve was the first EWB representative to visit the site and has continued to stay involved with the project by providing advice and much needed reality checks throughout the design process.

Embankment Excavation

Excavation of the existing embankment for the watergate began about one week ago. Much progress has been made since. The crest elevation is currently at ~6.4m, and excavation will continue down to ~2.0m. As shown above, the watertable is at ~3.4m, thus, dewatering will need to be performed to have a dry working area.

the ride home

A long day in the field is often complimented with a picturesque sun setting over the rice fields, accompanying the ride back home.

CPAC Ready Mix

l to r: scared wiL, content chai, happy bryse

Bryse, Chai, and I paid a visit to the concrete mixing plant (CPAC) in Siem Reap (there’s only one plant in this town) to see what facilities were available. Their testing room was quite impressive, they had three compression machines; one for low range testing (such as smaller concrete samples, or compacted soil samples), a high range 350kips machine for the standard 6"x12" cylinders, and a small scale two point loading machine to test unreinforced beams.

Perhaps by saying impressive, I really mean to say I’ve wrongfully assumed such a facility would not have been available here in Siem Reap, or at least would not have been fully equipped with comparable standardized machinery. But I stand corrected, and once again, am proven wrong for underestimating what this town can provide. During the prime stages of the project, we’ve considered perhaps sending samples to Phnom Penh, or teaming with local engineering universities, to provide for concrete sample testing. But the solution was right around the bend, only 5km away, in this CPAC mixing plant.


Moving Met Sin

Met Sin, shown above, has been living on or close to the Trau Kod embankment for his entire life. Unfortunately, it was not safe for Met Sin and his wife to stay in their current location. It would be unsafe for them to stay during the embankment repair operations and later to be living and farming on the embankment.

Human Translation had been working with the District Government, the local community, and the Met Sin to resolve this issue. The District Government obtained a letter with Met Sin's thumb print stating that he agreed to move, the local Village Chiefs agreed to collect rice from the villagers benefiting from this project to donate as compensation, and HT has continued to communicate with him to make sure he understood our plan and he felt he was being treated fair.

Once we all agreed upon a moving date we built a new platform out of soil using our excavator, dump truck and bulldozer then used our local laborers to dismantle, move and rebuild his house. It has been a long process and frustrating at times but it HT has been patient and plans to continue communication with Met Sin throughout construction and in the future.



Tobias, Will and I met with Ab Koster of the ECOSORN Project yesterday. Ab has been working here in Cambodia for over ten years on civil infrastructure projects and we affectionately refer to him as "The James Bond of Cambodian infrastructure" because of his cool European style and composure. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss some of our ideas for the Water User Group (WUG) with someone that has had a lot of experience. Although the discussion was pretty overwhelming, it was extremely valuable to hear some of Ab's ideas for creating a WUG such as:
1. Use an existing community system rather than trying to create a new one
2. Work with strong local leaders that you trust
3. Try to avoid involving cash transactions
4. Keep it simple


Soil Moisture Content

It took about a week and a half to prepare the site for construction but the embankment repair work has resumed. This photo is of our compactor with the sheepsfoot roller towed behind. Our design specifies a soil type and tight range for moisture content for the new fill material. However, with the rainy season just ending the water table elevation is still very high and we are still getting rained on a few times a week so obtaining the correct moisture content has been difficult. But Narith has been able to stay ahead of construction by excavating and spreading the soil to dry before it is compacted.

Balang Commune Rice Yield

One of our goals is to measure the impact of our project over the next few years. We hope that this project will provide many indirect benefits to the community but the main direct benefit we are working towards is an increase in the rice crop yield. It took a few weeks but the Prasat Bakakong District government was able to provide us with the Balang Commune rice yields for the past few years. As you can see from the graph above, the rice yield for Balang is below average for Cambodia and Cambodia is quite a bit below average for Asia.


Surveying the River Bed

Brian, a new friend to the project, was brave enough to volunteer to be the rod man on the day we had to survey the river bed for the group back in New York. He told us he wasn't worried about leach bites but we were all glad to see he didn't have any friends attached when he got out of the river.

In additional to helping EWB obtain some valuable data Brian was also afternoon entertainment for some of the local villagers.

Site Logistics

The Cambodian dry season is only five months long, from about November to March. So we decided to begin construction November 1st to give ourselves the longest time possible in case of delays or other issues. However, the river flow is still at its highest right now so we had to come up with a solution for crossing the river with our heavy construction equipment. Narith proposed installing a concrete culvert as a temporary river crossing.

It took about two and a half days to set the culverts, place the soil on top and divert the stream but our new path across the river works very well and the equipment has had no problems crossing.



Shannon Flanagan and Christina Ho of the EWB New York Chapter have been working very hard to create an Educational Outreach arm for the chapter. One of their recent initiatives was to collaborate with the Junior Engineering Technical Society or JETS to create lesson plans based on an EWB Project and they were nice enough to use the Cambodia project for their first project! They did a pretty amazing job and it's really interesting to check out the lesson plans.


Community Meeting

We had a community meeting at Trau Kod with HRND and some of the commune and village leaders last weekend. Human Translation and HRND wanted to let the community know that we are starting construction and we intend to finish before the next rainy season.

There are still quite a few community issues such as the Water User Group, land merchants from Siem Reap purchasing land within the reservoir basin and a farmer still living on the embankment so we also tried to let everyone know that this is a community project and we are only here to help facilitate resolutions to the issues. We are not here to make decisions for the community. The general tone of the meeting seemed positive although 99% of it was spoken in Khmer so it was tough to tell. For the most part, Tobias and I just tried to look interested and then laugh when it appeared a funny joke had been told.


Construction Has Begun!

The equipment finally made it to the site and the embankment repair work has begun! The bulldozer will be working on vegetation clearing and erosion damage removal for the next few days but next week we will begin placing and compacting soil.

This is a photo of the site office being constructed. Work will be taking place from 7:00am to 5:00pm, 7 days a week so we are going to try and make things a bit more comfortable.

The Road to Trau Kod

Last Thursday we began moving the equipment to Trau Kod. It takes a little over an hour to get to the site from Siem Reap and that is due, in large part, to the last 5km of dirt road through Kroper Village. So our plan was to unload the equipment from their tailors and repair the road as we went so the concrete trucks will have an easier time traveling to the site. The majority of the repair work was just filling holes and moving vegetation that has encroached on the road. However, there was one wood bridge that was completely unsuitable for heaving equipment.

So Narith directed the equipment operators to demolish the wood bridge, back fill soil into the river, dig a trench, and install a concrete culvert.

The photograph above is of the audience that came to watch the bridge demolition and culvert installation. It was quite an operation but the villagers seemed very excited about the improvement to their road.