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South Korea backs Cambodian temple road

South Korea has provided $9.2M (£6.2M) to Cambodia to build a new road that will circle the famed Angkor temple complex and reduce traffic in the area, officials have announced.

The 21km long road will be closed to trucks to reduce pollution, noise and vibrations that could damage the ancient ruins, said Soeung Kong, vice secretary-general of the Apsara Authority, the government agency that oversees the temples.

Construction will start this year and take three years to complete, he said.

It will be the second road in the Angkor area funded by South Korea, connecting with existing roads to the north and northwest of the temples, said South Korean Embassy official Son Sungil. The first road extended south from the temple complex.

Tourism is a major foreign currency earner for cash-strapped Cambodia, which hosts nearly 1.5 million foreign tourists each year, mostly from South Korea, Japan and the United States. More than half of the tourists visit Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Siem Reap province.

The temples were built when Angkorian kings ruled over much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries.

Conservationists have long expressed concerns about tourism’s impact. They say uncontrolled pumping of underground water to meet the rising demand of hotels and residents in the nearby town of Siem Reap may be destabilizing the earth beneath the temples.

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