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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Russey Keo floods halt lake reclamation

Russey Keo floods halt lake reclamation

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081119_01.jpg

Photo by:

Heng Chivoan

Teacher Chea Meng, 47, checks his fishing nets in the flooded courtyard of Russey Keo district's Chea Sim Chamreoun Rath High School.

THE filling in of Boeung Kak lake has been suspended until flooding in the capital's Russey Keo district is under control, putting a temporary halt to one of Phnom Penh's biggest development projects, city officials said Tuesday.

"We have stopped [pumping sand into the lake] for a while, and when the flooding in Russey Keo has gone down, we will have a discussion with the company about pumping or not pumping," said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong.

He added, however, that a "technical problem" had also halted the pumping, which he did not believe was directly responsible for the flooding that has left large swaths of Russey Keo under water for weeks.

"Heavy rain is the main source" of the flooding, he told the Post.

Boeung Kak residents have been engaged in a drawn-out fight with City Hall over compensation since a private company began reclaiming the lake in August, protesting several times for fair-market value for the homes they are losing.

Some 4,000 families will eventually be affected by the project.

An official with HSC, the company behind the pumping, said it had only stopped operations for last week's Water Festival but declined to comment further.

Several residents in the lake's Village 22 said that since the pumping stopped earlier this month, the water levels in their flooded homes have gone down significantly. "Before, when they were pumping, the water was almost one metre deep in my house, but now it is gone," one villager told the Post.

Officials at the Boeung Kak Development Committee's offices said Tuesday that they did not want to comment on the situation.

The 133-hectare Boeung Kak development will feature residential and commercial facilities.

But it has come under fire for its impact on the surrounding area, from expected flooding to the mass evictions.

City Hall has long maintained the land surrounding the lake - parts of which were a former Sihanouk-era park - is state land and could not be claimed by squatters under the Land Law.

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