The Looming Threat of Development on Koh Rong Samloem

Travelling south to the shorelines of Cambodia, we decided to take a trip over to the island of Koh Rong Samloem. Having heard through previous travellers that the island was an idyllic paradise we planned to stop here before making our way into Vietnam. On leaving the ferry, we were greeted with the tranquil Saracen Bay and then headed by taxi boat to the other side of the island to a small fishing village named M’Pai Bei. Currently there are no paved roads on the island and electricity and Wi-Fi are scarce, though for us this only added to the inaccessible nature of the setting.

However, several imposing billboard signs littering many of the remote beaches we passed whilst boating up the coast of the island highlighted that this relatively undeveloped island was about to change. The looming sings marked potential areas of development and as we reached M’Pai Bei village on the northern tip of the island we were immediately struck by the rapid paced, large scale and seemingly uncontrolled expansion that was taking place. The once yellow sands of the village were coloured brown from building work and the air was filled with the eternal sounds of machinery. The development felt out of place and damaging to the landscape that it was destroying.

After some further research into proposed development on the island it is evident that Koh Rong Samloem’s already fragile ecosystem is under threat. As of 2008 a notorious business conglomerate named the Royal Group was granted a land concession to develop 2,450 hectares of Koh Rong Samloem island and 5000 hectares of neighbouring Koh Rong island. So far, they have put forward a $3.38 billion proposal of development including casinos, hotels, golf courses and polo fields. Although not much of the plan has progressed at this point the company are currently building a $30 million 5 star resort on Koh Rong island that is scheduled to open in October 2017. With the looming threat of large scale development hanging over Koh Rong Samloem coupled with the seemingly unregulated development we saw in M’Pai Bei village, it strikes me that the islands conservation issues will not be put at the forefront of developmental planning.

This sound recording was taken as we walked through the heart of the jungle from Saracen Bay to Sunset Beach on the opposite side of the island. My hope is that these sounds will remain and that the natural beauty that produced them will be conserved.

 

 

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