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Clean water access ‘improves’

A young woman pumps water into containers at a well in Koh Kong province
A young woman pumps water into containers at a well in Koh Kong province earlier this year. Heng Chivoan

Clean water access ‘improves’

Cambodia is making steady headway towards its goal of providing universal clean-water access.

“The 2013 population census shows that the percentage of people who now have clean water sources has climbed to 49 per cent. We will be able to achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goal [of 50 per cent],” Chreay Pom, director of the Department of Rural Health Care, said yesterday during the Ministry of Rural Development’s annual report launch.

In 2013, 450,000 rural residents, or just under four per cent of the population, were newly able to access a clean drinking supply.

Cambodia’s clean-water program began in 1993, according to Mao Saray, director of the Department of Rural Water Supply. Since then, clean water access has increased by about 1.5 per cent each year.

Last year, the national budget allocated almost 3.7 billion riel ($927,000) to the campaign, building hundreds of new wells, 41 reservoirs and 60 new water treatment plants. In addition to the government funding, Asia Development Bank contributed almost $679,000 for an array of projects supporting the clean-water initiative.

“Infrastructure has really improved. The large increase in road coverage has meant being able to reach some of these more remote and less served areas,” said Marc Hall, executive director of Resource Development International Cambodia.

The ministry built over 503 kilometres of new roads last year, and repaired 4,500 kilometres of roads that floods destroyed, according to San Visal, Under Secretary of State at the Rural Development Ministry.

But large hurdles – including lack of capital, contaminated water, sustainable projects and climate change – remain before the kingdom can reach the more elusive target of universal access in just over a decade.

An average of five Cambodian children continue to die every day of preventable diarrheal diseases due in large part to a lack of clean water and sanitation facilities, according to a UNICEF report released last year.

Officials yesterday ensured, however, that the government is “committed” to bringing clean water to all Cambodians.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAIGNEE BARRON

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