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Fresh water for relocation sites

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Seng Da, 33, a former resident of Phnom Penh’s Dey Krahorm community, draws water from a drum at the Damnak Trayeung relocation site today.

Potable water will finally be available to 5,000 families living at three relocation sites on the outskirts of Phnom Penh through a World Bank-funded project to bring clean water to the poor.

Ek Sun Can, director general of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, said the US$400,000 project will extend water supply pipes to Kraing Angran, Traipang Thloueng and Damnak Trayeung villages, bringing affordable, clean water to their homes.

“When they get clean water for use, the villagers will be healthy, their children will have time to go to school, they will not go to get water far from their home, and they will also not pay a lot of money,” Ek Sun Can said.

The villages, formed following mass evictions from the city to make way for new developments, have limited access to basic services and infrastructure.

Inhabitants of the three villages now rely on regular deliveries of water brought in by a private company that charges 3,000 riel (about $0.75) per cubic metre of water.

Those who cannot afford such an expense gather polluted water from nearby water catchments.

Chan Vichet, a former resident from Phnom Penh’s Dey Krahorm community, which was violently evicted in January 2009, said the project had been a long time coming.

“Currently we use a private water supplier but they sell it at a high price ... so villagers can’t afford enough water to use,” Chan Vichet said.

While he welcomes the plans to bring water to his poverty-stricken village, he is concerned that corrupt low-level officials will take advantage of the opportunity to request money from the villagers.

Corruption is not foreign to the World Bank’s $13.22 million provincial and peri-urban water and sanitation project, under which this venture is funded.

In a May 2010 report, the bank stated that three projects in Cambodia, including the elements of the PPUWSP managed by the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, were suspended after allegations of corruption were substantiated.

Bou Saroeun, media relations officer for the World Bank, said 10 communities in Cambodia had benefited from the World Bank-funded Clean Water for the Poor programme, with an expected 16,217 poor households to benefit from the infrastructure.

Pao Bunthoeun, a former Sambok Chab leader who was evicted to Kraing Angran in June 2006, said he was pleased by the news as the private company was expensive and affected villagers’ quality of life.

“Using the state’s water supply can make the villagers’ standard of living better, as now when they are cooking they have to buy a bucket of water,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said villagers who had been evicted from central Phnom Penh would not be able to afford the newly supplied water if the middle-man jacks up the price.

“It is very good the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has promised to supply them with clean water, but they should reduce the cost of water as [the villagers] are poor people,” Am Sam Ath said.

The project is slated for completion by June of this year.

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