NY Nary, 28, cannot remember when the village standpipe last worked. “A long time ago,” he says. “People here lack water.” The Jarai minority village of Sala is far removed from the cultural villages found elsewhere in the province. Few of the villagers wear traditional dress, there are no cultural performances to entertain tourists and no local homestays for them to spend the night.
One of the few Khmers living in the village, having married a Jarai woman, Ny Nary is digging a well for a friend as we arrive. When finished, it should supply water for up to five families, including Ny Nary’s. That is if they manage to strike water. This year most of the wells have dried up, something Ny Nary attributes to climate change.
For the moment, he walks a kilometre each day to a nearby pool to collect water in traditional Jarai flagons. The water is not clean, but like most people in the village, Ny Nary’s family drinks the water without boiling it.
“The older generation never boils water; it’s their tradition,” he says. “Boiling water is difficult as the wood is two kilometres away and it takes time for my wife to collect it.”
Not surprisingly there are health implications. “My children have a lot more diarrhoea than Khmer children,” Ny Nary says.
Once the well is completed, Ny Nary and his family will hold a small ceremony to thank the gods for the water they will receive. At least for the few families who will share in the well’s beneficence the long walk to local pool will be a thing of the past. TRANSLATION BY RANN REUY