With rain pouring down for hours yesterday thanks to a low-pressure system, many Cambodians found their daily lives disrupted by severe flooding, with some taking to social media to criticise a poor flood management system in Phnom Penh.
Ol Van, a Phnom Penh resident, blamed the heavy flooding on the city’s controversial decision to allow the filling in and development of numerous lakes – like the now-notorious Boeung Kak – which had functioned as natural drainage systems.
“As far as I remember, 10 years ago, when I first came to Phnom Penh, the rain flooding didn’t happen as quickly, because back then more lakes had not yet been filled and the water could flow into those lakes,” he said.
On the streets, 19-year-old Chhun Thanu Socheata’s motorbike stalled thanks to the high waters.
“The water made my motorbike break down, and now I have to pay for the repairs,” she said. “When the flood comes, I don’t know where the potholes are, so when I ride my motorbike, an accident might happen” she said.
“The trash in the drainage system also prevents the water from flowing out . . . and when it rains, a lot of trash piles up at the drainage covers,” she added.
So Nalin, also 19, said her motorbike had fallen victim to the flooding as well.
“My motorbike’s engine cannot be started, and now I am late after it rained heavily and flooding occurred . . . I want City Hall to check the standard of the drainage system and improve it,” said Nalin, travelling from her house in Toek Thla.
Tha Sopheap, a 50 year-old street vendor on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard, lamented the loss of customers. “Once it rains and the flood comes, no one comes to eat,” she said.
All of the locals interviewed called on the city government to improve the drainage system, but Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng said the rain had simply been too heavy, and flooding was inevitable.
“The storm is a natural phenomenon, and the water cannot just disappear immediately after the rain dies down,” he said, but added that authorities would try to improve drainage next year.
Criticism earlier this week of the city’s drainage system by municipal official Khut Sopheap resulted in her abrupt sacking. But in spite of the sentiment being widely shared across capital residents, municipal Information Department Director Khuth Sopheap – who is also the offending official’s brother – stood by the decision, saying the criticism could “not be tolerated”.
“She cursed people on Facebook,” he maintained, despite the fact that the post only expressed shame at the frequency of flooding. “This is her mistake, and it means that she has no longevity as a government official. As I am her superior, I cannot tolerate that.”