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Evictees fighting to stay afloat

Evictees fighting to stay afloat

Kandal province
DURING the past few nights of heavy rains, Ny Chakteng and her children lay wide awake in their hut in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, where water leaks through a makeshift roof of tarp and cardboard and dry space is scarce.

The single mother of five used to take her children to higher elevation during flooding, but a new drainage channel means that her stilted hut is now liveable during storms. Still, the rising waters have her worried about the safety of her children.

“My son has infections on his legs from wading in the flood water,” Ny Chakteng said, pointing to scabs and open sores on her toddler.

“I don’t have much hope for the future.”

The villagers of Ny Chakteng’s Tang Khiev community were forcibly removed from their homes in the capital’s Dey Krahorm community last year by police and construction workers employed by 7NG Group, a local developer.

Yesterday, local rights groups Sahmakum Teang Tnaut and the Housing Rights Task Force visted the relocation site to assess the damage done by this week’s storms, which have affected communities across the country. Despite recent improvements, the evictees are still struggling in squalid conditions.

“The quality of living is not nice at all, and it’s not hygienic,” said Ee Sarom, advocacy programme manager for STT, who noted that there was just one washroom in the community.

Most villagers in the community live within a land depression, which causes floodwaters to pool around their homes. To avoid this problem, Ee Sarom said the land “must be filled in and raised”.

Some measures have been taken to divert the water. About six weeks ago, a group of NGOs carved a 230-metre drainage channel, about 2 metres in depth, to drain water from the village centre to a nearby rice paddy.

“Before the channel, the floodwaters were chest-high, about 5 feet deep,” said Thek Pheurum, a community representative. “It took three or four days to get rid of the water.

“Now the water level is waist-high and it goes down in four hours,” he said.

For Ee Sarom, the channel is an improvement, but only a temporary fix.

“[The channel] might make problems one day for the rice paddies, because the village is sending dirty water to it,” he said. “The owner might not allow it.”

Kandal provincial governor Chhun Sirun dimissed concerns about flooding in the community, and said the situation was improving.

“It is nothing serious because it was caused by the rain,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH

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