The French Development Agency (AFD) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) are joining forces to assist Battambang province with building two big irrigation projects covering over 40,000ha in Kors Kralor and Ratanak Mondol districts.

Long Phalkun, director of the provincial water resources department, revealed the plan at a press conference to highlight Battambang’s five-year achievements, held at the Council of Ministers on January 24.

He said the first of the two irrigation projects is under the assistance of the AFD, covering 20,000ha in Kors Kralor district. The second project, called Thvaak floodgate, is funded by ADB in cooperation with the Bank of China and is located around 10km downstream from the Sek Sak dam in Ratanak Mondol district.

However, Phalkun did not reveal the cost of the two projects or provide a timeline for their implementation.

“The Thvaak floodgate has two roles, the first of which is to control the flow of water that will serve to irrigate the plateau area of more than 20,500ha. The second role is to bring the water from the top into the Kamping Puoy Reservoir,” he said.

Phalkun noted that the man-made Kamping Puoy reservoir itself, dug during the Khmer Rouge era, can now store up to 170 million cubic metres of water. Just last year, the reservoir was used to irrigate 28,500ha, or 285sq km.

He said that if the Thvaak structure was successful in responding to the needs of residents, it would mean that the province would no longer have to worry about a shortage of water for agriculture.

Phalkun noted that the province currently has a huge irrigation system in Battambang town covering over 60,000ha across four rivers. The system can help store water, divert water to irrigate hundreds of thousands of hectares, including cash crops and minimise other risks caused by nature like flooding.

He also boasts of the Stung Sangke irrigation system which consists of three major dams: the multipurpose Sek Sak, Kanhot and Sala Ta On. The three dams can supply water for hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural crops in Banan, Ratanak Mondol, Moung Russey, Kors Kralor and Ek Phnom districts as well as Battambang town.

“We just completed the construction of the Sala Ta On dam on September 16, 2022. The dam also serves as a scenic tourist destination and we can further convert this area into a green environment. The more water we store, the more useful it is for fishing too,” he added.

Provincial governor Sok Lou said Battambang has strong potential for agriculture because of the current and planned irrigation systems.

“This is a huge achievement. For example, the Sala Ta On dam serves agriculture, including dry and rainy season rice and also will help tourism,” he added.

He continued that the province has about 400,000ha of cultivatable land. Over the last five years, the province had produced over six million tonnes of rice per year and exported over 100,000 tonnes of milled rice to neighbouring countries, and especially to the EU, Canada and the US.