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Floods in Phnom Penh likely to worsen

Floods in Phnom Penh likely to worsen

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Cars, motorbikes and pedestrians struggle through knee-deep water last May around Phnom Penh’s Kandal market. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

During this year’s rainy season in Phnom Penh, new obstacles facing the city’s drainage system will probably outweigh improvements, experts said this week.

Key to that prediction is the recent completion of the scheme to fill Boeung Kak lake with sand, which they say will increase flooding, and the fact that the ongoing drainage project supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency remains years away from completion.

Nora Lindström, advisor at urban NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, which published a 2008 study on the effects of filling in Boeung Kak, said the lake can no longer hold run-off that previously drained there.

“The Boeung Kak area [where people have been given land titles] has been flooded this year already during heavy rains, as it appears drainage pipes have been blocked by the sand,” Lindström said.

She added that supposed mitigating measures taken by the developer, ruling Cambodian People’s Party Senator Senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc, were not “based on sound engineering”, according to the 2008 study.

Meanwhile, the new phase of JICA’s Project for Flood Protection and Drainage Improvement in Phnom Penh that begun in March is still in its early stages.

“This project is expected to finish at the end of 2015, so unfortunately, the effect of this project will be limited for this year’s flood season,” said Uchida Togo, Environment and Climate Change specialist for JICA’s Cambodia Office.

The project’s US$44.2 million new phase will involve several neighbourhoods across the city. Drainage systems installed in previous phases in the city’s northeast and southwest have already helped minimize flood damage, Uchida said.

But he stressed that the public must “try to avoid leaving the garbage outside on the street so that it would not clog the drainage system.”

National Committee for Disaster Management’s Pey Sopheap said that regarding the severity of flooding this year, “for the estimation, we cannot say anything”.

According to the municipality’s website, Phnom Penh’s district governors met on July 18 to coordinate emergency flood management.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at [email protected]

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