Phalla, 15, gets carried by her sister through waist-deep water in Tonle Bassac commune, Phnom Penh, where rising flood waters have began encroaching on homes along the riverside.
Government officials remain optimistic that fast-rising rivers will not reach dangerous
levels, despite some current water levels matching those recorded in August 2000,
a year of devastating floods.
Three northern provinces that include stretches of the Mekong River - Stung Treng,
Kratie and Kampong Cham - are facing floods, said Mao Hak, director of Hydrology
and River Works Department, within the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.
Heavy July rains upstream in Laos and Thailand have caused the swelling, Hak said,
but the water level is now stabilizing.
Hak said the level of water will continue to rise until late September or early October.
"We are not worried about the flood this year," said Hak. "Last year
we lacked water; this year I'm proud to have enough water for people to produce their
His department has forecasted that the level of water this year will be higher than
last year - which measured 9.97 meters at the confluence of the Mekong River, Tonle
Bassac and Tonle Sap - but will fall short of 2000 levels that peaked at 11.20 meters.
The warning level for the Bassac-Chaktomuk measuring station is 10.50 meters.
While extensive flooding is part of the ecosystem in parts of Cambodia, if rivers
break their banks or unusually severe floods take place, crops and homes can be wiped
On August 10, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology warned people living
along the Mekong River (especially those in the northern stretches), Tonle Basac
and Tonle Sap, to be careful of the rising waters.
However, another expert in flooding questions the long-range predictions of the Ministry
of Water Resources and Meteorology.
Sok Saing Im, technical advisor of the Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Center
at the Mekong River Commission, said it was difficult to predict water levels six
months or one year in advance, due to the many variants that can affect rivers.
Saing Im described the Ministry's forecasts as more of an art than a science.
He said sugar cane farms and the villages in the low land of Kampong Cham are already
flooded, but so far no serious damage has been done.
Hatda An, who also works in the MRC's flood center, said floods are caused not only
by the flow of the Mekong River upstream, but also from rain water and deforestation.
"Floods not only bring us the negative but also bring benefits to us,"
An said. "More fishermen are happy."
While the surging rivers might put a grin on the faces of fisherman, they are making
life difficult for many who live on their banks.
Tuot Sok, 55, a villager living in Tuol Yeyma village, Chroy Changvar commune, believes
this year's flood is bigger than those of the last two years.
"I think there will be big water this year, because the water level has risen
so quickly," said Sok, adding that she and other villagers fear the flood will
bring hardships to their daily life.
"If water comes, we just have to move our home," she said.
While some provinces face too much water, others are trying to survive a drought.
Districts in Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, Takeo, Kandal, and Svay Rieng provinces are
still facing drought, said Poeu Samy, secretary general at the National Committee
for Disaster Management.
Samy said more than 2,700 tons of rice have been delivered to 45,000 families facing
"We are not concerned about the flood, but we are concerned about the drought
that continues ... in some parts of the provinces," Samy said.
Bin Sareth, chief of the Kampong Speu provincial agriculture office, said only 21
percent of wet season rice seedlings have been planted, with the districts of Oral
and Thpong still suffering from drought.
Generally, wet season rice is planted in July and August, but many farmers in drought-affected
areas have postponed their planting until more rain falls.