Parts of Phnom Penh's famed riverfront are getting a complete overhaul as part of a larger, three-year city-wide flood protection and drainage rehabilitation project.
The big green fencing cordoning off the riverfront and blocking the view of the Tonle
Sap river from the K'West hotel to the end of Psar Chas, will be up for at least
a year while a riverfront flood protection project is under construction.
Some business owners say the fencing is driving away customers, but others are taking
the long view. They say that when the project is finished, the area will be cleaner
and at less risk of flooding.
The fencing was put up to wall off the public from the Phase II flood protection
and drainage improvement project underway by the government and the Japan International
Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The project is funded with $20 million in aid from the Japanese government. It focuses
on the central and east side of the city. Phase I, completed in 2004, covered southwest
part of the capital.
The riverfront protection is part of a bigger two and a half year project to be finished
in 2010 that also includes drainage improvements at Wat Phnom, Central Market, the
Royal Palace and National Museum.
Four underground reservoirs and four pumping stations are being built.
According to the project's master plan, the project will protect the Phnom Penh Municipality
against flooding of the Mekong, with safety levels according to 30-year flood probabilities.
It will also minimize flooding from heavy sudden rainfalls and mitigate river pollution
by diverting wastewater away from the river bank.
Some owners of riverfront cafes said fencing off large areas of the riverfront park
and the view are hurting their business.
"It seriously affects our business because the clients didn't like the narrow
view, " said Chim Monesota, manager of Restaurant & Coffee River Front.
He said business is off by 5 to 10 percent. He said about 30 of his 200 regular clients
have gone elsewhere since the wall went up.
Others said they know their business will be better when the project is finished.
"It is good, for not only the public, but also businessmen. The park will be
cleaner, no flooding, less bad smells. The environment will be much fresher for the
people," said Som Sam Oeur, the owner of Café Rendez-Vous.
At the project's ground breaking ceremony on October 13, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked
for the public's understanding, explaining the walls were necessary to protect the
construction and to ensure the safety of the public.
"It creates difficulties since the area is one of the important tourist sites,
but please understand that it will be for the good of the public after the project
is finished, with good environment and traffic," he said.
The project began with an exchange of memoranda between Japan and the Royal Government
of Cambodia on June 14, 2007 after the government requested assistance following
the successful completion of the first phase.