Cambodia sustainability
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    Cambodia sustainability Cambodia sustainability Document Transcript

    • Abel Koster May 20, 2011 TSEA Period 7The Damages of Love for Angkor Wat “My approach to Angkor Wat was to see as many of the main sites as possible with the least crowds. I love to travel, but I enjoy a sense of serenity and beauty when there aren’t that many people around me. I was very excited on my way to see these great historical monuments! I was sitting in the back of a fashioned Tuk-tuk when it first started to impact me. Upon arrival I was shocked; shocked at the amount of people I saw. There were tourists everywhere as well as tour guides leading them around. Despite the number of people and the pricey ticket I had to pay, I went inside. Only this time there were even more people! Some running, some climbing on restricted areas; it was chaos. Many monuments were destroyed or damaged whilst still people were climbing over them. There wasn’t any sign of control or even guards! Over all, this trip was ruined for me. I didn’t enjoy it at all nor would I come back to that same state ever again” (John Smith – Personal Account). In its past, Cambodia has been devastated for numerous years by poverty, war,and even genocide. Back then, Cambodia would of have never expected any form oftourism in their country. However, after the Khmer Rouge was over, everything haschanged, for better and for worse. Cambodia became a popular tourist destination forvisitors all over the world because of its majestic Angkor Wat temples andmonuments. These temples once belonged to the ancient Khmer empire andsubsidized as its capitol that reigned over much of Southeast Asia. They were built tofunction as religious shrines for Hindu gods as well as insignias that gleamed politicalpower over its domain ranging from Vietnam to the eastern parts of Burma. Eversince the vicissitudes after the Pol Pot regime of 1979, The Angkor Wat and itscontiguous monuments were designated a World Heritage Site by the United NationsEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1992. After this,tourists from all over the world flocked to see this world heritage site and so the 1
    • tourist boom began. Unfortunately these temples and monuments aren’t leftunharmed. They are confronted with the issue of mass tourism and all of itsencompassed aspects. Firstly, Cambodia’s economy is on the line; in some ways itaids the country but in most ways it does not. This also counts for the continuousissues and benefits regarding the social aspects of tourism in Angkor wat. But themost damaging and impactful problem yet is the environment and the everlasting tollit has on Angkor Wat. It may seem that tourism brings social and economic benefitsto Cambodia, althoughin reality it is far too unsustainable because of its social issues,economic complications and mostly its environmental damages. To its credit, the Cambodian government and its affiliates have claimed thattourism brings many social benefits to the nation. For starters tourism has thecapability to profoundly increase the socioeconomic development in Cambodia(Chheang). This means that with the ever-increasing tourist population needs aworking force behind it to keep it running successfully. In other words, with tourismcomes a plethora of local population employment. According to research done by theJapanese Institute of Developing Economies in Cambodia, tourism in Cambodia hasbeen responsible for a significant change in employment. In 2005 alone, tourism hasbeen accountable for an increase of 200,000 jobs (Chhaeng). In 2006, tourism allowedfor another 250,000 jobs (Chhaeng). When looking into the future, it is estimated thatby 2018, the employment number would increase by a staggering total of 1,120,000.With this increasing amount of employment comes a variation of benefits. One suchbenefit is keeping the youth from living a life of poverty and being forced into a lifeof drugs and crime (Chhaeng). Another illustration of social benefits of tourism is itscultural promotion. It is well known that tourism is a key facilitator in the cultural 2
    • exchanges between hosts and guests. Because of tourism specifically in Cambodia,Angkor Wat and Cambodia’s culture has been promoted to the rest of the world(Cerrer). Also, the Angkor Wat monument plays an important role of the Khmerculture, giving people a sense of pride and nationalism of their country (Franz). Apartfrom that, tourism in all also encourages civic involvement and perhaps pride as well.An example of a group attempting to make a positive and sustainable difference inaiding the social perspective of tourism in Cambodia is UK manger of Siem Riep’sGecko’s Adventures (Smith). He specifically offers an alternative touristic eco-tourthat helps clean up trash at and around the monuments and temples (Smith).Additionally they also train local guides to make sure that visitors know exactly howto dress and behave; which is very important to Khmer culture (Smith). Tactlessly,there are also quite few problems and issues ascertaining to the social aspect oftourism in Cambodia. Despite what has been previously said the fact that tourism may bring somesocial benefits to Cambodia, the problems and issues should not be overlooked. Whenlooking at Cambodia’s wealth through its GDP of $818, it is clearly not that wealthywhen comparing it to the rest of the world. Cambodia is also in quite a state ofpoverty when looking at its rural population (Chhaeng). Additionally, the gapbetween the rich and the poor is continuing to prove troublesome amongst Cambodianpeople (Chhaeng). It is in fact quite a hardship amongst these people whilst this isaffecting countless more. Another problem ascertaining to social impact of tourism inCambodia are, simply put, the tourists themselves. The main countries that touristsoriginate from are Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and China (Chhaeng). With that being said,a plethora of these tourists find it important emanate their high standard services and 3
    • high-class mannerisms. With these ideals they often only intend on eating at foreignowned restaurants and staying at foreign owned hotels and resorts. This proves to be aproblem because of the fact that these tourists are not investing their wealth in localbusinesses and infrastructure (Chhaeng). Instead there tends to be a loss of traditionalvalues and culture because these restaurants are not promoting any form of localculture. Many do not see the point in visiting other counties only to eat, sleep andrelax at places that do not hold and significance or promote any Cambodian culture.These businesses that hold these tourists compete with local business and more oftenthan not, hold some sort of control because of their connections with the travel guideservices. On the topic of travel guide services, there tends to be quite an inequalityamongst their employers. In a speech made by Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen,he said, “…training schools were established; technical staff and employees havebeen trained both at home and abroad (Hun Sen, 08 May 2003)”. Unfortunately aproblem has come forth dealing with the unequal amounts of females and male tourguides. In Siem Reap alone there are a total of 2,988 registered tour guides. Thisincludes tour guides that do not have licenses and those who do. Out of that total, anoverwhelming 2,616 were male and 372 were female. This proves that there might besome sort of sexist discrimination amongst the employees in the tourism industries.As previously stated, social aspectsare undoubtedly not the sole affect of tourism. The Cambodian government claims that tourism brings many economic benefitsto the nation. In 2003 merely 270,000 tourists travelled to Cambodia. And over theyear until today, Cambodia has gone through somewhat of a tourist boom afterUNESCO proclaimed Angkor Wat as being a World Heritage Site. Now, over 1million tourists have visited Siem Reap in an ever-inclining number (Cameron). 4
    • Economists have argued that the mass tourism present in Cambodia and Angkor Watis in fact helping Cambodia become, simply put, wealthier. In comparison with thepast, Cambodia has a rising economy with moderately high economic growth andpolitical stability because of tourism in general (Chhaeng). Income obtained fromTourism generally helps to promote poverty diminution, economic growth, culturalidentity, as well as political authenticity in a nation struck by so many war casualtiesand horrors (Chhaeng). Currently, Cambodia is the second largest income contributorto the Cambodian economy after the garment industry (Chhaeng). In 2005 tourismhad brought in an income of $832 million, which was a total of 13% of Cambodia’sGDP (Chhaeng). In 2006, tourism had profited a $1,594 million increase making it atotal of 16% of Cambodia’s GDP (Chhaeng). In 2008, the income from tourist alonewas $820 million making it 9% of the country’s GDP (Chhaeng). Lastly, it ispredicted that tourism will bring in an income of $1,705.7 million. These numbers arein fact overwhelming, and respectfully so for income like this aids Cambodia and anation by diversifying and stabilizing the economy. It also provides the CambodianGovernment with a superfluous amount of tax revenues every single year by means ofaccommodation as well as restaurant taxes, airport taxes, sales taxes, park entrancefees etc. Also, as previously stated, these economic benefits create a higheremployment rate as well as local business opportunities (Chhaeng). These jobsinclude a variety of careers directly related to tourism such as hotels and tour guideservices as well as food and housing construction jobs. There are in fact quite a fewnegative economic impacts that tourism has on Cambodia. Despite the fact that tourism may bring some economic benefits to Cambodia,the truth of the matter is that tourism creates many more economic hardships than it 5
    • solves. The main factors that are attributing to such hardships are mainly Cambodia’scorruption and money inequality. The distribution of wealth is not equal, whilst thepoor always seem not gain any benefits from this economic development (Chhaeng).The income dealt through the government is very often times mismanaged and putinto the pocket of the wrong greedy person. Corruption has proven to be a great issuein Cambodia, specifically in its rural areas where control and authority is limited.Additionally, Tom Fawthrop, a Southeast Asian affairs expert and British journalist,stated that much of the countrys tourism income is not properly used in aiding thenational sites and monuments due to corruption and mismanagement (Franz). It hascommonly and repetitively been said that tourism does in fact provide developmentstimulation and prosperity as well as it improves living standards amongst the localsmost affected by the changes occurring. It is also said that hotel expansion hasprovided new jobs opportunities for the locals (Fawthrop). Regrettably, this is notentirely true fact for in reality the majority of poor farmers in Siem Reap have gainedno benefits or even improvements in living standards. It is quite the contrary becausethe so-called economic changes that the government has promised has truly onlyincreased the value of land and food prices if anything (Fawthrop). The reason for thisis because of the fact that the rural locals are not able to compete with localbusinesses and markets as well as being unable to cope with rising costs and ever-increasing rent prices all due to tourism. Also, the people who selfishly benefit themost out of their money mismanagement deriving from mass tourism are primarilythose involved in international hotels, foreign airlines, travel agencies and businesscompanies based in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia (Fawthrop). Acomparison had been made and it is the following; for every dollar of incomestemming from tourists visiting Cambodia, it is roughly estimated that 80 cents will of 6
    • have leaked out of the country, while the remaining 20% of the income is mostvoraciously taken by local mafia businesses or even the ruling elite (Fawtrop). Thisclearly shows at what lever corruption is at amongst citizens in Cambodia. If any ofthe money is properly brought back to the economy (or the government) Cambodiawould be facing a completely different situation as it is now. When looking at thecurrent situation, sadly not much of the income generated solely from tourism isproperly and deservingly benefiting the Cambodian general public. As a matter offact, this money is also not being used to help conserve the temples as well(Fawthrop). Much of the money in being placed into the private sectors and used tobuild fancy new scenic golf courses with a nice view of Angkor Wat. Not only doesthis affect the economy it also effects the environment. As Tom Fawthrop saishimself, “Only strong pressure from Cambodians concerned about the erosion of theirheritage in the name of development can stop the damage being inflicted by a free-for-all scramble engendered by the mass tourist market”. As of yet, this essay has made clear of the benefits and problems of thesocioeconomic spectrum of mass tourism in Cambodia. But those combined do noteven merely have as much impact as the environment does in the Angkor Watmonuments and temples. There is a wide range of environmental effects on AngkorWat due to tourists. First in order is the water situation plaguing Siem Reap andAngkor Wat along with its temples and monuments. The area in and around SiemReap has a water supply that is being polluted by hotels that are flushing untreatedsewage into the flood-prone Siem Reap River (Smith). A overabundance of bothforeign and local hotels deriving from a still increasing number of tourist that visitSiem Reap is depleting gallons of groundwater from underneath surrounding urban 7
    • areas (“Heritage site in peril: Angkor Wat is falling down”). This issue has thepotential to harm the delicate foundations underneath the huge area that is AngkorWat and quite possibly sink them into the ground, causing great magnitudes ofirreversible damage. A culture program specialist at UNESCO said, "There is a veryimportant balance between the sand and water on which the temple is built. And ifthat balance is taken away then we might have trouble with collapse” (“Heritage sitein peril: Angkor Wat is falling down”). The magical temples and monuments aren’tthe only things in danger of collapse; in fact Siem Reap is also starting to collapseunder the pressure of increasing tourist rates. Its sewage and draining systems areoften damaged because of streets flooding into rivers during the rainy season (Franz).With great water damage possibilities, the Cambodian government needs to findalternative solutions to this problem because with such a huge area that needs to beprotected, comes the need for a complex water management system which in ancienttimes, and even now, is provingto fail in quite a few places around the temples andmonuments (Franz). Water isn’t the only element posing a threat to the AngkorTemples, pollution and littering is also among the long list of issues. Air pollutioncoming from tour busses and cars being left on right outside of the temples isdamaging the quality of the ever so feeble sandstone built monuments. Not only that,but because tourists have the freedom to walk as they please without much restrictedareas cause heavy foot traffic that is wearing the steps and pathways down leading tomore damage (Cerrer). At a very specific temple called the Bayon temples is wherethe biggest impact can be physically seen. It seems to be under a lot of pressurecausing it to slowly crumble into a sinkhole caused by extraction of groundwaterunderneath its foundations. If the Bayon temple and monuments do in fact crumbleinto devastation then it would have a profound effect and serve as a signal as what 8
    • could happen to the rest of the Angkor Wat. As of yet, there are no concerns of thatordeal. It was said that around 500 years ago a failing irrigation system led tocountless water ordeals and forced the Khmer population and their rulers to abandonthe sprawling capitol of the Khmer empire. Unfortunately we are seeing a similarsituation forming itself not mainly because of irrigation but primarily due to masstourism, which is posing a threat day by day. Mass tourism has indubitably affected the Angor Wat complex significantly inmany ways, both positive and mostly negative. The temples and monuments thatcompose of Angkor Wat as a whole is the shining jewel of the Cambodia people; it iseven honored and revered that is has deserved to be on the national Cambodian Flag.It has even been recognized as being the deathbed of King Suryavarman II to honorthe Hindu god Vishnu. The history of Angkor Wat has been and will be told in greatstories for centuries to come. When looking at tourism and how it is affecting AngkorWat, it is safe to say that even though tourism as whole subsidizes as social andeconomic benefit to Cambodia, its protuberant difficulties profoundly prove itsunsustainability due to its prominent social factors, economic issues and mostly theenvironmental complications. It would be shameful if Cambodia would be responsiblefor the downfall of the symbol of their country. Hopefully the government and boththe private and public sectors soon takes actions in changing the tourism industry inCambodia, step by step to make a better future for its entire nation. 9
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