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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Blackouts plague flood zone

Blackouts plague flood zone


Residents of Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district have been under water since September, and now daily power cuts are proving the last straw

for many

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A Russey Keo resident climbs into a boat to get to work. The area has been plagued by severe flooding since September.

PHNOM Penh's Russey Keo district has been severely flooded since September and is now stricken with daily blackouts that are causing traffic chaos on the capital's major ring road and driving beleaguered local residents to despair.

Some 500 families living in the flood-plagued area have lodged a formal complaint to local authorities saying they are unfairly penalised by the capital's rolling blackouts.

Pich Pin, 67, a villager from Lou village, in the district's Svay Pak commune, said electricity in his village is cut off each day for two hours starting at 5:30pm.

But the peak-time electricity cuts in Russey Keo are upsetting more than local residents - the capital's major ring road runs through the area and power cuts mean traffic lights are out of operation, causing the roads to become nearly unmanageable.

"Electricity shortages in Phnom Penh are causing major traffic jams," Tin Prasoeur, chief of the Phnom Penh traffic police, told the Post on Thursday.

"We get a very bad headache when lamp posts and traffic lights on the major roads in this city are cut off as a result of no electricity," he said.

An Electricite du Cambodge official, who declined to be named, told the Post Thursday that the current capacity for power production in Phnom Penh is 190 megawatts, while demand is running at around 230 megawatts.

The power company manages this problem by cutting off the electricity in some areas on the outskirts of the city for one or two hours a day, he said.

I worry about snakes, centipedes and black scorpions stinging me.

"We cannot cut off the electricity in the centre of Phnom Penh because it is central to the economy of Cambodia," he said.
"In the first quarter of 2009 we anticipate an end to the electricity shortage because we have ordered from Vietnam about 200 megawatts of power," he added.

Life goes on

But in the interim, the lives of those in the blocks slated for blackouts - such as the Russey Keo area - are miserable.

"I'm worried about snakes, centipedes and black scorpions stinging me when I ride in an inner tube home from school," said Ngin Rathana, 19, a student at the Chea Sim Cham Reoun Rath High School in Russey Keo district, which closed two months ago due to the severity of flooding.

"But now we decided to stay home until the floodwaters fall because there is no electricity in the evening," Ngin Rathana said.

Some villagers, such as Seng Rithy, 35, from Boeng Chhouk village, in Kilometre No 6 commune, believe local authorities have conspired with power company officials to cut off the electricity as a warning to people in the area not to criticise the city's development plan.

The filling-in of nearby holding ponds for building projects has been blamed for causing the floods.

"I think that they cut off the electricity in our area ... because they want to punish us for complaining about the development plans that have, we believe, caused the flooding," Seng Rithy said.



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