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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New report warns of Boeung Kak flooding

New report warns of Boeung Kak flooding

Group calls for municipality to take action to mitigate coming loss of natural catchment areas caused by lake's filling.

Photo by:
SOVANN PHILONG

A young boy plays in the abandoned, partially submerged house of his former neighbour in one of the Boeung Kak communities worst affected by the filling-in of the lake. Since local developer Shukaku Inc  began pumping sand into the lake late last year, hundreds of families have been forced to abandon their homes.  

THE reclamation of Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lake will increase the level and frequency of wet season flooding in areas in the city's north, according to a technical report released Wednesday.

The Boeung Kak Area Drainage and Flooding Assessment report, prepared by a team of Australian drainage and flooding engineers in 2008, found the filling of the lake for a 133-hectare commercial and housing project would eliminate a major rain catchment area, leading to

"significant impacts on property" in areas adjacent to the lake.

"While the lake is a closed system with little catchment contribution beyond the lake itself, the proposed development area is large enough to generate large volumes of run-off," the report stated.

"The anticipated increase in peak flood levels and flood frequency that would result without mitigation is considered unacceptable."

The team of engineers, commissioned by local housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), conducted hydraulic modelling of the

Boeung Kak area, concluding that the rain runoff from the proposed development would overwhelm the current poor drainage infrastructure in Russey Keo district to the north.

"The areas of greatest impact are immediately to the north of the Boeung Kak area on both the east and west sides of the railway embankment, and approximately 1.5 kilometres to the north," the report said, adding that significant increases could also stretch as far afield as the proposed Camko City development in Russey Keo.

‘Vague' assessments

The drainage assessment report claims the August 2008 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) completed by project developer Shukaku Inc "did not appear to be based on sound engineering", and that it included only "vague" plans for the construction of a 20-square-metre canal to mitigate the increased runoff.

It also states that City Hall's 2020 Phnom Penh Master Plan had not conducted the detailed hydraulic modelling needed to predict the drainage impacts of the city's expansion.

Photo by:
SOVANN PHILONG

A young Boeung Kak resident plays with tin cans in the submerged foundations of his neighbour's former home at the lakeside. Around 4,000 families are expected to make way for the project. 

STT adviser Hallam Goad said the results were unsurprising to anyone who witnessed the chronic flooding in Russey Keo during last year's wet season.

"This report confirms what many have suspected - that the development at Boeung Kak is being undertaken without full regard to the environmental impacts," he said in a statement Wednesday.

Lao Meng Khin, the president of Shukaku Inc, could no be reached for comment Wednesday, but Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun rejected criticisms  that the municipality's approach to the issue was insufficient.

He described the ESIA as an "inter-ministry" effort, which included input from the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, among others.

"The Boeung Kak development plan will not have any impacts such as flooding," he told the Post Wednesday.

But Be Pharom, 56, a representative from Boeung Kak's Village 22, agreed with the study, saying that more and more villagers were losing their homes as the lake's reclamation continued to drive up water levels.

"The study is right. Other observers have also said that pumping sand to fill in the lake has created floods," she said.

"And during the rainy season, it not only floods around the lake, but also in other areas such as Phnom Penh Thmey, Russey Keo [and] Tuol Sangke."

Goad said he hoped the conclusions of the report - technically more detailed than anything released by the municipality - would force decision-makers to take action to mitigate the effects of flooding resulting from the Boeung Kak project.

"My impression is that the municipality is just not open for business when it comes to Boeung Kak," he said by phone.

"But if the report creates some discussion, they might have to do something about it."

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