Almost 400 families in Kampong Chhnang province gave their thumbprints to a letter on Thursday protesting against a clean water and piping system development project by NGO East Meets West.
The villagers’ representative, Som Sinai, 40, said they were uneasy about what effect the project – to purify water from the nearby Toek Chvang reservoir to sell – would have on the villagers’ access to free water for drinking and farming.
“We’re afraid of a water shortage … for our rice fields and for drinking daily if the project takes water from the reservoir,” Sinai said.
Villager Koa Chantha, 39, urged the authorities to stop the project.
“They will sell the clean water for 2,000 riel per cubic metre,” she said. “We have to spend [so much] on supporting our families, so we don’t want to spend more on water. We want to use water supplies from our reservoir as usual, [which is] enough.”
East Meets West spokeswoman Minh Chau Nguyen said the organisation’s engineer had reported that the project would not cause a water shortage.
“This has been agreed by the authorities,” Nguyen said, adding the project was being carried out at their request.
As for prices, a community group had been set up to manage the project, she added.
“The members are elected by the community, and they decide on the rate for use of clean, piped water.”
The commune chief, Pov Chhuoen, said local authorities had met with the residents.
“They do not understand the benefits of clean water. They do not want to buy clean water. They want to use [the natural water],” he said.
He added he would try to provide the villagers with more information. If they still opposed the development, he said, he would talk further with the NGO.