Temporal reconstruction of Khmer Rouge reservoirs in Kampot and Kep Provinces, Cambodia

Authors: Mandy Munro-Stasiuk*, Kent State University, James Tyner, Kent State University, Corrine Coakley, Kent State University, Sokvisal Kimsroy, Kent State University, Chunnly Chhay, Kent State University
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Historical Geography, Remote Sensing
Keywords: Cambodia, hydrology, Khmer Rouge
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Buchanan, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

We present a case study of reservoirs built by the Khmer Rouge in former district 35 (currently Kampot and Kep provinces), southern Cambodia. Thirteen Khmer Rouge era reservoirs were mapped from historical and contemporary satellite imagery over approximately 8km by 8km. These were built between 1973 and 1977 and thus span both the civil war (1970-1975) and the early years of the Khmer Rouge regime. All reservoirs were ground-checked in the field and local elders were interviewed about their involvement in, and knowledge of, construction and relative success or failure of those same reservoirs. It is clear that locals connect three or four closely spaced reservoirs as part of a scheme, but they have no knowledge of other close contemporary reservoirs. Based on our interviews, reservoirs are divided into four smaller groups: eastern, western, northern and central. All reservoirs, except one commune-level reservoir, are part of district-level projects. Construction of these reservoirs and the links between them appear to ignore hydrology and topography to a certain degree. The approach to organizing construction and maintenance was different in each cluster. For example, labor was divided by gender and age in the western cluster only, and all three reservoirs failed in the eastern cluster but none were rehabilitated during the Khmer Rouge era. In summary, while irrigation projects were organized at the district level, significant leeway was given to local communities to organize the construction projects as they saw fit.

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