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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - In the frenzied grip of footpath fear and loathing

A once serviceable footpath rendered into rubble.
A once serviceable footpath rendered into rubble. Miranda Glasser

In the frenzied grip of footpath fear and loathing

I think all Reapers will agree that Temple Town’s roads are somewhat hit and miss – or hit and bump-judder-wince, depending on your mode of transport and the size of the pothole. So the residents of my dirt track road (which like many is nameless but is where BELS school and Thmor Meas hotel are located) were delighted when it appeared the road was going to be concreted.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before that, the powers that be decided to build a canal, to act as a waterway during the rainy season. So in January 2013, the digging of what for many months I would refer to as The Trench began.

By February The Trench had deepened. In March, April, May it sat quietly as all work mysteriously ceased, and it was only around the time of the rainy season that workers seemed to reappear and take up work again. But, their efforts were thwarted by the semi-completed Trench filling up with rainwater time and time again, requiring draining before work could continue. Work was finally completed towards the end of the year.

Then, last month, the road was concreted. Cause for much jubilation. Shiny and new with its thick layers of concrete, the road was now a good few inches higher than the original dirt track underneath. Great – except it now meant that for all the people living down one side, it was something of a challenge to get in and out of the house. Going out involved actually lifting a bike or moto onto the road. I’m not sure how cars were meant to cope. The logical thing, of course, would have been for the contractors, Kumho E & O, to build a small concrete ramp out of those houses, but when asked, one of Kumho’s engineers, Rameth, had this to say:

“We dug the canal for flood prevention, and we already finished the new concreted road and built some ramps for the villagers to walk in and out from their houses. However, some houses and lands are a lot lower than the road, so they have to make higher ramps than what we have done for them.”

He added, “We will still go back to fix if the road or the canal is broken.”

Interesting, as I saw no evidence at least on our block, of any ramps at all.

Residents have found a short-term solution by building makeshift ramps out of stones and packed earth, but of course once the rainy season comes this will all wash away. The Cuisine Wat Damnak road, which intersects with ours, will similarly become impassable once its dirt ramp washes away.

The other after-effect of the new road is that the pavement is now utterly annihilated – in leveling the road, bulldozers simply drove along ripping out pavement slabs as they went. The sidewalk – or what it once was – now sits in unhappy-looking piles of stone to the side. Rameth told Insider that Kumho would return to fix the pavement, “perhaps after Khmer New Year,’’ as they were now busy on another project along National Road 6.

However, here the story takes an unexpected turn. The day after Insider spoke to Kumho, lo and behold a team of workers turned up to commence repairs. They put most of the pavement back, with a promise to return next week to add a curb and cornerstone. The Kingdom of Wonder indeed!

We seem to have fared better than expat Ota Veverka, who discovered access to his house, a bridge, being destroyed by the same construction firm one morning last January.

An Insider article quoted Ota Veverka exclaiming, “‘I said how do we go to our jobs in the city, hospital whatever? And the guy said they have no plan.”

The managers in Ota’s case were unwilling to formulate a resolution, saying replacing the bridge was not their responsibility.

Attempts to speak to the company were fruitless, until an engineer spoke to The Insider and said the bridge was the government’s problem, but management would come to speak to Ota and the landlord “soon.”

Additional reporting by Thik Kaliyann



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