More than 4,000 families in an urban area of Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district are facing clean water shortages as the Mongkol Borei River has dried up due to farmers over-pumping water to irrigate their dry-season rice crops, officials said.
District governor Roth Da Sinong told The Post on February 28 that the Mongkol Borei River, which serves as the community’s primary water source, had recently gone dry. The local water utility company was now using water from a 2ha reserve pond which will last for just over a week.
“Right now, the water utility is using the water from the reserve pond, but that’s not going to last very long. So, in order to solve this problem before that happens, we need to pump water from the Sisophon River into the Mongkol Borei River to supply the central district,” he said.
Da Sinong said that so far there had not been any supply problems for the more than 4,000 families in the urban area of Mongkol Borei district and that pumping water from Sisophon River to Mongkol Borei River could solve the problem before any shortage occurs.
“Now, there is no problem, even though the river water is dried up, we can still supply people with clean water. These days the pumping machine is already installed and ready to use and we can turn it on as soon as we get the go-ahead from officials at the provincial level,” Da Sinong said.
He noted that the water shortages only affect the urban areas while people in the other communes still have enough water in reservoirs to meet normal demand.
He said the Mongkol Borei River dries up so quickly because people grow more dry-season rice than government planning calls for and it uses too much water. Some of this excess dry-season rice ends up being damaged because there is not enough water for irrigation.
“The plan was to grow 10,000ha of rice, but our people made it up to more than 25,000ha. This led to a water shortage for both irrigating crops and for regular daily use. Right now, more than 10,000ha of rice crops have suffered damages due to a lack of water,” he said.
Deputy provincial governor Ly Sary said that after the floods, water in the river was pumped by farmers into the dry-season rice fields because it yields even more than rainy-season rice cultivation.
Sary said the authorities had informed people to be careful and not to cultivate too much dry-season rice because it could lead to water shortages, but people did not heed the warning.
“We have issued an official letter calling for people to be reasonable when growing dry-season rice and limit their cultivation to once or twice only.
“That’s because everybody knows that the water available isn’t enough to support all the farmers attempting to cultivate it multiple times. But nobody listened, so that is why our Sisophon River and Mongkol Borei River ran dry, leading to these difficulties,” he said.
According to Sary, provincial authorities have assigned technical experts to work with the Bavel district administration in Battambang province to obtain enough water for regular use, but there was not enough water in that area to share either.
Officials have also studied the possibility of using the Sisophon River as a source of water for the Mongkol Borei River, but determined it was not feasible.