Back in Siem Reap, and I must say it feels good to be here. I arrived about a week ago, after a whirlwind 17 day tour of Asia via the TransSiberian Railway (but that's another story, for another blog!) My last visit out here was in early 2008, in the very dry and dusty month of January.
Having just emerged from the rainy season, Cambodia seems like a different place in October - full of vibrant green colors, lush rice fields, tree limbs full of flowers and fruit, and the occasional afternoon or evening rain shower to cool the hot air.
I made my first trip out to the watergate early in the week, a day or so after I arrived. The first thing I noticed was that the ride to the site was surprisingly pleasant, and much quicker than I remembered... it took me just a minute to remember that the roads had recently been topped out and leveled by the military with laterite. What a difference! The second thing that I noticed was all the water flooding the rice fields, which I learned was from the reservoir. As Chai and I approached the watergate, again I was struck by the colors of the scene around me. The burnt orange of the laterite road, bright blue water in the reservoir, and the white/gray concrete of the watergate - it was quite beautiful. Chai and I walked the length of the main and north embankments, looking at the state of things in general after the past weeks of storms, and I reacquainted myself with the landscape.
I couldn't check out the Vetiver Nursery during my visit (due to the recent storms). The culverts on the south embankment are in good shape, and there were no worrisome wet areas on the downstream side of the embankment (though the water level is somewhat low right now, so none were expected). While at the site, Chai and I went through the latest version of the Operations, Maintenance, and Inspection Manual - a work in progress that is coming along well. I've been working with HT, analyzing some recently collected demographic and agricultural data from the villages surrounding the watergate. This information will be the basis of our Baseline Year Project Assessment. EWB's intention is to compare data over the next years of reservoir operation to see the impact that the project has had on the agricultural prosperity of the commune.
Structurally the embankment and watergate are in good shape. They weathered the recent storms very well, and that's encouraging for the future because Typhoon Ketsana was said to have been the worst storm to hit Siem Reap in years. Unfortunately, it seems that another storm is headed along Ketsana's path, Typhoon Mirinae. We'll see how things turn out as that storm develops.