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Farmers urge authorities to replace local water supplier

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Kampong Thom authorities check irrigation water pumps for rice fields in January. Ministry of Water Resources

Farmers urge authorities to replace local water supplier

Nearly 400 families living in O’Kanthor commune of Kampong Thom province’s Stung Sen town urged the provincial authorities not to renew a company’s licence for pumping water from Stung Sen to irrigate their dry-season rice.

The families requested that the authorities provide a licence to some other capable company instead and let farmers vote to determine which firm will do the job.

Sin Sam Ath, a representative for the community, told The Post on February 17 that the firm – Kampong Thom Investment and Development Group (KTID Group) – did not set up a water pumping machine before farmers started planting dry-season rice, leading to a shortage of water for irrigation.

“Dry-season rice needs water at a fixed date and time. Once there’s a water shortage, farmers need to spend a lot of money to keep things on schedule.

“For example, farmers might normally spend only 100,000 riel [$25] for watering the rice field, but they need to spend 200,000 riel when there’s a shortage of irrigation water, which is damaging to their rice field,” he said.

Sam Ath said the KTID Group told him that the firm would not renew the contract when its 10-year term ended and that they would then return the machinery.

“They didn’t work with the district, they did it from the top down. They added another 10 years to their contract without consulting us, and our farmers are angry. Farmers want to decide by vote who they would like to receive the contract and limit it to a five-year term only,” he said.

He said the complaint against KTID Group, which had nearly 400 fingerprints affixed to it, is an expression of extreme dissatisfaction with the quality of their work.

Provincial governor Sok Lou said the only reports he had received indicated that the KTID Group had provided enough water for the farmers and that there was never any conflicts, so he approved the deal.

“So far, I have not received any complaints from the people, but if the people are unhappy and dissatisfied with this company, I will set up a team to deal with it,” he said.

Provincial water resources department director Yu La said on February 18 that many farmers had actually given their thumbprints to support KTID Group to continue their operations. He said, however, that each side had their own reasons and that authorities will look into it.

La noted that if the authorities revoked the firm’s contract and looked for a replacement, it will be even more time consuming and more damaging to farmer’s rice fields.

“If the reason for revoking the company’s contract is lack of water supply, then that doesn’t seem fair because we can discuss things with them and sign an addendum to their contract or stipulate additional rules.

“If the company still does not comply, then we can complain to the court and ask them to revoke their contract and licence to do business. However, it’s really the provincial governor who has to resolve this,” he said.

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