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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - City fighting flood problem, but lake squatters to lose

City fighting flood problem, but lake squatters to lose

CITY administrators will soon begin dredging lakes and canals, and building new canals,

and they confidently predict that Phnom Penh won't flood so badly in the next big

rains.

It's a tough job, with the city's geology and history working against them.

"Our goal is to make significant progress toward eliminating flooding in Phnom

Penh before heavy rains return to the city in the middle of the year, said Municipal

Public Works Director Keo Savin.

One of the key factors in revamping Phnom Penh's stormwater drainage is to increase

the capacity of the heavily silted Boeung Trabek lake. Boeung Trabek is the reservoir

that captures most of the city's stormwater. However it quickly overflows and causes

repeated flooding.

By the end of the month the French-donated "Hydroland" dredging boat will

be working on the lake, sucking up and removing silt to the other side of Rd. 271.

"This road acts as a dam keeping water from entering Phnom Penh," Savin

said.

The lake's water capacity has also been affected by squatter families who have made

their homes on the banks. They have carted dirt to make "floating farms"

on which they grow food to eat and sell - their only means of living.

Almost the entire surface of Boeung Trabek is covered with these subsistence "floating

farms".

The work of "Hydroland" and the city's drainage plan calls for these people

to move - and they are neither happy nor sure of their future.

The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has already had three meeting with the squatters,

but no solutions has been found.

Squatter Na Tah has been living on the lake for a year with his parents and nine

brothers and sisters. Their entire livelihood comes from their floating farm. "I

am worried, I don't know what we will do or where we will go," he said.

Savin said they were working very hard to try to find an acceptable solution.

Since the capitol first moved from Udong to Phnom Penh, keeping flood waters out

has been a problem, Savin said. Sihanouk Blvd., Mao Tse Tung Blvd., Yothapol Khemarak

Phoumin (Rd. 271) Blvd. and Boeung Tompun Blvd. were all built not only as roads

but also as dams. The last two boulevards were still crucial in controlling flooding,

he said.

Even pumping stations cannot stop the back-up of water from Boeung Trabek, he said.

All but one of the city's pumping stations badly need repairs and modernizing. The

odd one out - near Sihaounk hospital - was rebuilt by the French in April last year.

The city is spending $109,000 on a 4,000-meter canal in the west to carry stormwater

to the smaller Boeung Tompun lake, and it will connect two pumping stations. Another

$103,000 is being spent on enlarging two bridges.

Last year Savin's department also started building a 1,500-meter canal from Rd. 230

and Mao Tse Tung Blvd. Squatters have settled on its banks however, and their rubbish

is clogging it up.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is giving $2.5 million for repairs and cleaning

of sewers, and will build another canal from the east to empty into Beoung Trabek,

he said.

Savin said however that more money was still needed, and Japan has shown interest

in helping.

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