Public outrage over weekend flooding – partially fuelled by a Facebook hoax – prompted an urgent closed-door meeting at Phnom Penh City Hall yesterday aimed at speeding up the city’s drainage project.
Flooding in the capital’s Tuol Kork district sparked the ire of many residents – both for the inconvenience it posed to travel and for Photoshop-altered photos that depicted a crocodile swimming in the city’s flooded streets and fishermen in boats casting their lines into the watery roads.
“Phnom Penh must find better solutions to avoid flooding in the city during the rainy season,” Municipal Governor Pa Socheatavong said at the beginning of the meeting before media and members of the public were dismissed.
The widely distributed falsified photo of the marauding crocodile drew harsh criticism from Phnom Penh residents, some of whom believed the reptile may have swam from a nearby lake, according to multiple comments posted about the picture.
Alongside the fake pictures, however, were authentic photos that showed people struggling to navigate the roads on motorbikes submerged up to their seats in the murky water.
“The recent flood was worse than previous ones,” said Ngoun Chanta, a Tuol Kork resident. “It makes it difficult to travel to school and work, and breaks my motorbike.”
In the meeting yesterday, Socheatavong urged drainage officials working on the Japan International Cooperation Agency-sponsored drainage project to speed up the project and insert pipes in strategic locations to avoid flooding, said Men Sophen, deputy director of Phnom Penh’s drainage unit.
But improper trash disposal adds to flooding issues, Sophen said, because garbage on the street clogs existing drains and pipes, exacerbating the flooding.
Izaki Hiroshi, a representative of JICA, met with Socheatavong last month to discuss the progress of the Phnom Penh drainage project.
Phases one and two, which put nearly 470 kilometres of underground piping beneath the city, were completed between 2007 and 2010.
Phase three is expected to add more than 20 kilometres of underground piping beneath the Tuol Tom Pong, Boeung Keng Kong, O’Russey, and Tuol Svay Prey areas of the capital, according to JICA data. The $26 million project is expected to be completed by 2015.