Phnom Penh's clean water supply problems might become a thing of the past on March
10, 2001 following the completion of a World Bank-funded project rehabilitating Phnom
Penh's Chruoy Changvar Mekong River water treatment plant.
The work has been made possible by a US$10 million World Bank loan funneled through
the Cambodian government to the semi-private Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA).
Built in 1885 during the French Protectorate era, the Chruoy Changvar facility has
been non-operational since 1992 due to technical problems.
"There was no immediate calamity behind its closure," explained Robert
T. Board, an engineer with Parsons International Ltd. which is overseeing the project's
completion. "It was just knackered and the government didn't have enough money
to fix it."
While questions were raised when the contractor that was awarded the construction
contract, China International Water and Electrical Corporation, submitted a bid that
was a full $5 million lower than the estimated cost of the project, Board says the
unspent money won't be wasted.
"The five million dollars saved will be spent on a pilot sanitation project
[in Phnom Penh]," Board told the Post. "Basically we'll take an area the
size of Toul Kork and put in a sewage system and make it like a real city."
Work at Chruoy Changvar began in Sep 1999 with the demolition of the original century-old
facility, and the project's 250 workers are well on the way to completing a state-of-the-art
water filtering and purification system capable of satisfying the capital's projected
"The waterworks will have the capacity to produce sixty-four thousand cubic
meters of water every day, enough to supply Phnom Penh's projected water needs for
the next three years," Board explained.
Board says the completion of the Chruoy Changvar waterworks project is good news
for a country in which the leading cause of death, gastroenteritis, is directly linked
to unhygienic water supplies.
"Basically [Mekong River water] is good water...it's got a neutral ph and just
has mud in it with no nasty taste or smells," he said. "But the plant is
designed so that the water it produces will meet or even exceed World Health Organization
According to Board, rehabilitation of the old waterworks is just one part of a $30
million dollar World Bank project to upgrade and modernize Phnom Penh's anarchic
water supply system.
"Another project is to stop water leaks and water stealing," he said. "Leaks
are the biggest problem due to the old and convoluted design of the water pipe system."
Concerns about inadvertent blending of sewage with clean water from the Chruoy Changvar
facility will apparently be addressed by a project to be funded by the Asian Development
"The ADB will provide funding to fix up the city's water pipes," Board
said, adding "They'll dig up most of Phnom Penh to do that."