AUTHORITIES will scale back the size of a planned overpass leading into the controversial Boeung Kak lake development, a city official said Thursday following a meeting to discuss how to reduce the negative impact of the project.
Ty Dory, chief of Phnom Penh municipality’s Office of Land Management Affairs, said city officials met with officials from the Ministry of Economy and Finance Thursday.
He said the meeting had been called after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema to study possible ways to make the project less disruptive to families living in the area.
During the closed-door meeting, officials decided to reduce the width of the planned overpass from 50 metres to 20 metres, Ty Dory said.
“The discussions were focused on how to reduce the impact of the road construction projects that were approved by the city governor last month,” Ty Dory said.
“[Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon] has decided to reduce the size of the overpass … to decrease the number of villagers who will be impacted by it.”
In May, City Hall approved plans to build 12 new roads into the Boeung Kak lake project, including the overpass, which is set to stretch from Kampuchea Krom Boulevard into the project’s planned southern entrance.
The plans for those roads came as a surprise to some families living outside the perimeter of the 133-hectare Boeung Kak lake project, who had previously believed they would not be among the approximately 4,000 families affected by it.
In Srah Chak commune’s Village 3, a 50-metre-wide overpass would likely force about 50 families – or one-quarter of the village’s current
population – to move, said Duong Sim, the village chief, who noted that his own family would be evicted.
He said he had not been told of any decision to scale back the overpass. He estimated, though, that if such a change were made, the number of
affected families would be halved.
“I expect that my house might not be affected by the overpass project if the government makes it only 20 metres wide,” he said.
Authorities have rarely released information on the Boeung Kak project, though a handful of meetings on the master plan have been held this year.
In 2007, the city agreed to lease the site to Shukaku Inc, a company tied to Lao Meng Khin, a senator in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
By 2008, authorities had changed the legal status of the lake from state private to state public land, and the company began filling it in with sand.
Residents didn’t know what the project would look like until April of this year, when they were given a photocopied graphic representation of the site – a sprawling development filled with soaring towers, villas, and new roads curved around a much smaller lake area.
In late April, city officials told the Post they had approved a master plan for the project, though they have refused to release it.
An estimated 1,000 Boeung Kak families have accepted compensation offers and relocated.
Ty Dory said Thursday’s meeting contained no discussion of how to alleviate the impact on the remaining villagers, who are asking the city to boost its compensation offer of US$8,000 and 2 million riels per family and issue them land titles.
Soy Kolap, who lives in Village 6, said authorities have never visited her family.
“The government has met and approved the plan to develop Boeung Kak. But the results are never good for us,” she said, and added that she doubted Thursday’s meeting would bring her any good news.
“Right now, we feel hopeless that this meeting will make things better for us.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA