A GROUP of women stand around the village well, while their tiny children are playing games at its base. One small girl has created an impromptu water slide out of the moss-encrusted concrete. The water continues to gush without any sign of a pump.
“This water always flows,” says Toch Phay, 21. “It is never dry.”
Seang Rady, 23, explains how subterranean pressure causes the water to rise naturally to the surface. There is neither need for a pump nor motor. A simple tap releases the pressure allowing the water to flow.
Seang Rady has returned to the village from Phnom Penh to visit his family. He is studying Chinese medicine.
The well is in the village of Taream, 20 kilometres from the provincial capital of Kampong Thom on the way to Siem Reap. Constructed in 2000 by UNICEF, it is one of several of its type within the province of Kampong Thom. More than 100 families benefit from this well alone.
As well as for washing and cooking, the villagers use the well’s abundant water to irrigate their fields. “They are able to grow two rice crops each year,” says Seang Rady. A single crop is still common place throughout many parts of the country.
“I feel lucky because I have water all the time,” says Toch Phay. Each day she comes to the well to wash, and collect water to cook rice and to grow a few vegetables on her small plot.
Today she is here with her small sisters, who seem more intent on enjoying themselves than in collecting any water.
As we talk 20 or so villages congregate around us drawn in by the strange visitors.
The children play their games, and some ducks take to the small pond that has over-flown from the well’s base. Clearly it is not just the villagers who benefit from the well’s eternal generosity.