The Preah Sihanouk provincial authority plans to clear and expand five canals spanning some 26km starting on Monday, to mitigate city flooding which had previously affected areas in their vicinity.
Provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun asked the relevant authorities to inform and advise people to demolish properties built along the banks of the canals to accelerate the expansion.
The director of the Provincial Department of Public Works and Transport, Borey Vongsanith, said at a meeting with the governor on Tuesday that the width of the five canals is between 3m to over 60m.
He said the illegally built properties along the canals blocked the waterways, causing the city to be inundated during previous rainy seasons.
Chamroeun called on the Department of Public Works and Transport and other relevant authorities to demarcate the five canals so that the working group and machineries could easily clean it.
“[Right now] we are very busy constructing 34 roads, so the canal systems should also be cleaned at the same time to avoid flooding during the next rainy season,” he said.
Two Cambodians and a Chinese national drowned while hundreds of families were evacuated from their homes in August when the city was submerged in floods.
Provincial Administrative Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum said on Thursday that it was still unsure of when the canal restoration would be completed, but he promised to try and finish it before next year’s rainy season.
They had just announced the project, but they had already told the people much earlier to dismantle any unauthorised constructions from the canals.
“We have already done some work, but some areas are complicated and it takes us a lot of time [to reconstruct],” he clarified.
From Monday onwards, any construction which has not been dismantled would be cleared by the authorities without any exception, Phearum said. However, he said he is unaware of how many constructions were built illegally.
“The people who filled the canals with soil and built fences on it will not be compensated, but we ordered them to clear the areas themselves. We will look into how long they’ve lived in those properties and their standard of living and come up with some compromise for them,” he said.
Municipal governor Y Sokleng could not specify the number of people living along the canals, saying that it was the provincial Department of Land Management that collected such data.
Cheng Srong, the provincial department’s director, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.