Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bou Sra Waterfall Becomes Special Economic Zone

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

Bou Sra is the original name of the largest waterfall in Cambodia, situated in the pleasant surroundings of Mondulkiri province. In the near future, this place of beauty will become a special economic zone. The Waterfall is located in Pich Chinda district and stands about 43 kilometers distant from the town of Sen Monorom, according to Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce.

The Minister said that his government will develop the Bou Sra Waterfall area following the introduction of other special economic zones in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, and latterly in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

The Royal Government of Cambodia will open joint-checkpoints between the Cambodian and Vietnamese borders located in Mondulkiri province in the near future, according to an ambitious plan revealed by Minister Prasidh, speaking to the Cambodia Weekly during a telephone interview on December 25.

The Minister said the two governments are going to establish the joint-checkpoints to facilitate the flow of trade between Cambodia and Vietnam and promote the area as a tourist destination.

“Bou Sra Waterfall is a traditional cultural zone of outstanding natural beauty and it has an international reputation as such. This area is a potential economic zone for people in Mondulkiri province,” he said. “I think that if we can develop this area, it will be able to generate more jobs for our people and to reduce poverty in the province.”

The Minister said that to pave the way for development of the Bou Sra Waterfalls, the government had recently approved an arrangement with the Cambodian Sorla Investment Company to develop this pleasant place.

According to the agreement, the Sorla Investment Company will have full rights to manage the Bou Sra Waterfall complex on a 99-year lease. Ngin Sroeun, Vice President of Sorla Investment Company confirmed this fact.

The Sorla Investment Company had initially planned to spend over $8 million on construction and renovation of the waterfall surroundings, according to development plans revealed by Sroeun.

The Vice President said that construction has already started as of December 18, 2008 and the building project will be completed over a three-and-a-half year period.

In the first phase, he said the Company has planned to construct 2 escalators, 2 cable cars, 50 motels, restaurants and marketplaces; they have also pledged to place about 100 benches in strategic sites surrounding the waterfalls.

“We are also planning to build one clinic, one technical school and one hydro electric power station for the people there,” he told the Cambodia Weekly,

The Vice President said that besides the Bou Sra Waterfall construction plans, his company is being built a 36-kilometer long road from downtown Sen Mornorom district to the site. He hinted that the road construction will cost up to $3 million to complete. He added that this project is now about 85 percent complete.

He continued to say that to generate jobs for the people there, his company has hired an exclusively local labor force. He emphasized that about 95 percent of his staff and workers are chosen from the poorer members of the community in Mondulkiri.

“I am very proud to say that after the renovation and construction is complete, Bou Sra Waterfall will become a haven of peace for people in Cambodia and further afield. We can expect to see the region thronged by tourists.” he said. “I hope that people in this area, especially young people will have jobs and will be able to make money for their families. This will have a measurable impact on poverty levels in the region.”

The Sorla Investment Company was established in 2000, when the company was involved in a $US1.2 million project to build schools, libraries, pagodas and roads throughout the country, said Sroeun.

Lay Sokha, Governor of Mondulkiri province, spoke of his appreciation for the company’s development projects. He said that the project will help to improve the people’s living-standards and reduce poverty in the province.

The Governor said that about 80 percent of the province’s population is made up of ten tribal minorities. The largest of these is the Phnong community. Others include Khmer, Chinese, Muslim and Islamic communities.

He said that the population lives off the land, planting rice, fruit trees and a variety of vegetables. Others grow strawberries, coffee, rubber and cashew nuts.

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