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Lakeside families flooded out

THE pumping of sand into Boeung Kak lake has flooded one-fifth of the houses in a village at its southern end and forced at least 20 families from their homes, residents and local officials said yesterday.

Chea Siphana said she and the seven other members of her family moved to a temporary residence last week after floodwaters rendered her home in Village 3 unlivable.

Yesterday, the water in her home, mixed with wastewater from the toilets of neighbouring houses, reached hip level, she said.

“We can’t even lift all our belongings to a safer height, because the water comes in through the window and we are worried about snakes and centipedes crawling into our house and biting us,” she said.

Another resident, Chum Vareach, spent Wednesday preparing to move – a step she said her family could ill afford.

“Now, our family is planning to pay US$30 a month to rent a room until the water settles down,” she said.

Villager Biv Thuong said 56 families – roughly one-fifth of the 283 families in the village – may have to leave their homes and spend money on rental accommodations if the flooding does not subside. Already, 20 families have made the decision to leave, he said.

Residents are blaming the floods on the massive Boeung Kak lake real estate development, which took off after a 99-year lease was granted in 2007 to Shukaku Inc, a company headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin.

Biv Thuong said that in the past, Village 3 rarely flooded, even during the wet season.

But in the past year, floods have become a common occurrence after sand pumped into the lake for the real estate project blocked the existing drainage system.

“We do not object to their development projects, but we still ask them to make a drainage system to release water from our village,” Biv Thuong said.

City officials yesterday declined to comment at length on the issue.

Nov Saroeun, chief of the drainage and pumping unit at the Municipal Public Works and Transport Department, said drainage problems caused by the development are the responsibility of Shukaku, not the city. He referred further questions to municipal governor Kep Chuktema, who was not available for comment. Representatives of Shukaku could not be reached.

More flooding predicted
Local officials said they had repeatedly asked authorities and the company to rectify the problem.

Duong Sim, the deputy chief of Village 3, said he had on a daily basis urged commune, district and city officials to ask Shukaku to make changes to the drainage system so that his village would not flood.

He said the company had used a simple pumping machine to drain water from the village, but that flooding occurs whenever it rains.

“The homes of other villagers around Boeung Kak will be flooded if the Phnom Penh authorities ignore requests to improve the drainage system,” he predicted.

Chay Sithirith, the chief of Srah Chak commune, said he gave 50,000 riels (US$12.50) to each family seriously affected by the flooding, and distributed wooden beds to other families.

“We asked the company to pump water from their village already and we allowed some families to move to live near and in the village and commune halls temporarily as well,” he said.

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