In its annual report on disaster preparedness, the National Committee for Disaster Management yesterday affirmed that last year’s drought was the worst in 50 years and recommended the construction of new wells to alleviate future dry spells – despite serious risks identified by recent research.
The report states the government’s intention to maintain wells currently in use and build additional ones to prepare for future droughts, recommending that local authorities “build more wells and canals for water storage”.
However, in February 2016, Stanford researchers published a study explaining that increasing groundwater use will deplete shallow wells, forcing Cambodians to dig ever-deeper in order to access a severely diminished water supply.
Some NGOs also say they now favour other means of facilitating water access.
Stopping short of saying that its members would stop building wells, the secretariat of the Humanitarian Response Forum – a network that includes the UN and NGOs – said yesterday that it preferred alternative solutions, citing “recently constructed rainwater harvesting tanks” in “116 schools in areas particularly impacted by the dry conditions in 2016”.
But Uy Samath, of the Cambodian Red Cross, said yesterday that his organisation – which has been accused of working as an auxiliary to the government – disagreed that wells pose an immediate risk. Building wells will “reduce natural water, but [only] in five or 10 years”, he maintained.