F EARS the Tonle Sap will overflow its banks and cause major flooding in Phnom Penh has led to the government announcing new plans for the construction of a huge dike to protect the capital.
A Phnom Penh Municipality radio broadcast on Sept 13 announced the Tonle Sap water level had reached a height of 10.38 meters.
The radio said it was possible the water level would continue rising and if it reached a height of 10.56 meters the Tonle Sap would begin overflowing its banks causing major flooding in low-lying areas of Phnom Penh.
The radio said the flooding threat, which could be exacerbated by typhoons and other catastrophes, was not expected to ease until mid October.
In response the Phnom Penh Municipality Flood Committee (PPMFC) convened an urgent meeting on Sept 14 and announced new plans to build an 80 cm high dike running along the Tonle Sap for 18.4 km.
The PPMFC said the dike would run from Tomnop Korp Srouv District, 10 km north of Phnom Penh, to the Preah Monivong bridge, 4 km of south of Phnom Penh.
The PPMFC said they would take measures to mobilize residents to start the project, and the meeting proposed the government spend $19,329 on sandbags and trucks to carry soil to help in the construction of the dike.
The PPMFC consists of representatives from all government ministries and the Phnom Penh Municipality Council.
Heavy rains have already caused thousands of Phnom Penh residents to become homeless after some low lying areas in the city became flooded.
Vegetable vendor Lou Sam, who formerly lived in front of the former Soviet embassy, said: "The water level rose near my house by one meter in five minutes [on Sep 6], by the end of the day the water had submerged the hut roofs which stood five meters high."
"Luckily the flooding was in the daytime, if it was at night it would kill many people. However, I know two children died in a locked hut while their parents were away from home [on Sept 6]."
Sam, along with about 400 other families, has been forced to settle in front of the burnt-out Bassac theater, while about 2,000 families have temporarily resettled nearby.
One woman said: "So far no aid has reached to us...We stay here [Bassac] during the daytime, but go to sleep under the overhanging roofs outside the front of shops at night to avoid rain wet."
Head of the PPMFC and Minister of the Urban Environment Vann Molyvann appealed to NGOs to help resettle the flood victims, and stop them from building temporary shelters in public places or constructing their houses near flood prone places such as near dikes and canals. Other flood-affected areas in Phnom Penh include Tomnop Korp Srouv District, Tomnop Beong Tompun district, and the area south of the Hotel Cambodiana.
Co-Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh distributed donations to 1,000 flood victims in the provinces on Sept 3-4.