Admittedly, our schedule on this trip has been a bit unruly. Often, complicated site conditions arise that require inspecting, or temples come up that require visiting. Yet, with all the confusion, the well-groomed So Pheap diligently manages a busy schedule of driving, napping, and feeding our obsession with dirty Khmer words. Indeed, this driver of a Toyota Camry - a car blinged with "VIP" stickers on the front and sides - is, without question, a Very Important Person.
The mountain directly West of our site is called Phnum Bok and it is a pretty unique feature in the relatively flat surrounding landscape.
We drove past the base of this mountain every day on the way to the site and made sure to climb it one time before leaving.
Although it kind of looks like the Loch Ness monster, you can barely see the the embankment in the middle of this shot taken from the top.
At the top there are Angkor temple ruins, an ancient linga and a Buddhist pagoda.
There were certainly many differences in the standards of Cambodia construction but we were more surprised at the many similarities in Contractor "shenanigans". Here in the U.S., labor cost is usually the biggest expense for Contractors and, therefore, the productivity of their employees is key to a successful project. In Cambodia, the Contractor we have been dealing with owns the equipment, the laborers are paid a few dollars a day to live and work on site so their biggest expense is fuel. It was common for several laborers to be napping in hammocks throughout the day.
However, even with all of these differences in cost structure our Contractor is playing a lot of the same games as Contractors here in New York. For example, the site superintendent did not speak English while asking for a time extension but was miraculously able to communicate with us over beers a couple of days later. It appears that playing the "dumb contractor" card is an internationally known tactic.
Shown above, the roadway at one point, cuts right through the southern embankment. Bryse stands in the center of where the roadway cuts the southern embankment. The left berm is where the south embankment will continue and merge with the west embankment, while the right berm is the remaining portions of the southern embankment.
Construction would require elevating the roadway to the specified height to meet the same elevations as the west embankment, and abandoning the remaining existing southern embankment.
But there are more benefits. There is an existing canal that taps into the southern tip of the basin, and this canal had run dry since the failure of the dam. This canal further supplies water to families located in the lower east portion of Balang Commune.
Further down this canal, smaller tributaries branch off to carry the water 3km further south to where a 0.25 acre reservoir (shown above) at the Wat Trach pagoda has ran dry.
The final location of the North embankment is still unclear. There appears to be a high point running along the north side of the basin but it is not as clearly constructed as the south embankment; it looks more like a natural hill.
However, there is at least one low point on this north side shown above at this rice field that is somehow still holding water at the end of the dry season. So, we want to look at this embankment in a way similar to the south. Will it be better to repair the existing embankment or construct an entirely new embankment at a location we choose? Now, if things were easy this would simply be a matter of surveying both locations, performing soil tests and making a decision.
However, the areas outside of roads such as this possible existing north embankment should not be explored without proper clearing and approvals from CMAC. The man shown above lost his leg somewhere close to our site so there is certainly a potential danger.
So we are going to pursue both options at the same time. We will survey and test soil at the existing ox cart path that follows the contours of the basin and at the same time Human Translation will begin working with CMAC to clear the area that appears to be the existing north embankment so it can be surveyed later. Once all of the information is gathered we should be able to choose a final location.