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Villagers gather at a school in Banteay Meanchey’s Svay Chek district earlier this week to receive water from authorities after rivers and wells dried up in the area. Photo supplied
Villagers gather at a school in Banteay Meanchey’s Svay Chek district earlier this week to receive water from authorities after rivers and wells dried up in the area. Photo supplied

Water shipped to parched Banteay Meanchey locale

At least 600 families in the remote Svay Chek district of Banteay Meanchey province are being threatened by a shortage of drinking water that began earlier this month, a provincial official said yesterday.

The water in the wells and rivers has been drying up due to the lack of rain so far this year, forcing many villagers to buy drinking water, said Khu Pov, Svay Chek’s district governor.

Tens of thousands of litres of drinking water have been supplied to the district via fire truck since Sunday, and while that isn’t enough to meet locals’ needs, Pov said, the shipments help offset the cost of buying additional drinking water.

“We are concerned about the villagers,” he said. “Villagers are vulnerable and under threatening [conditions] if there is no rain in the upcoming months.”

The drought in Cambodia, and throughout the region, could become quite serious if the area doesn’t get rain by May, said Ian Thomas, technical adviser to the Mekong River Commission.

Areas in neighbouring Oddar Meanchey province have been in drought for almost four years now, he added, and people in Banteay Meanchey have been going across the border to buy drinking water.

However, Pov said Ke Kim Yan, deputy prime minister and head of the CPP working group in charge of Banteay Meanchey, recently requested that authorities in Svay Chek district provide emergency help.

“We are looking to dig wells at the bottom of the river,” Pov said, in addition to the supply of water that’s being provided.

Um Reatrey, Banteay Meanchey Provincial Hall spokesman, maintained yesterday that “if there’s no rain we already have a measure to supply water”, but did not offer further details.

Nhem Vanda, vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said he is receiving information from all the provinces across the country, especially those in remote areas where residents and their animals could be under a serious threat of water shortage.

Although the drought in Cambodia is not as bad as it is in Thailand, it will be worse this year than it was in 2015, the MRC’s Thomas predicted, adding that climate change and this year’s unusually strong El Niño are to blame.

“But I think a lot of people are expecting it,” he said. “Hopefully, they got the message.”

People in Cambodia are also more apt to get other jobs and adjust during droughts, rather than rely on the government for help, Thomas added.

Bun Hean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, urged locals to be responsible with their water use.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that residents of Banteay Meanchey province were crossing the Thai border to collect river water. In fact, they were crossing to buy drinking water. The Post apologises for any confusion caused.


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