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Frontal assault on flooding

Frontal assault on flooding

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Parts of Phnom Penh's famed riverfront are getting a complete overhaul as part of a larger, three-year city-wide flood protection and drainage rehabilitation project.

The big green fencing cordoning off the riverfront and blocking the view of the Tonle

Sap river from the K'West hotel to the end of Psar Chas, will be up for at least

a year while a riverfront flood protection project is under construction.

Some business owners say the fencing is driving away customers, but others are taking

the long view. They say that when the project is finished, the area will be cleaner

and at less risk of flooding.

The fencing was put up to wall off the public from the Phase II flood protection

and drainage improvement project underway by the government and the Japan International

Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The project is funded with $20 million in aid from the Japanese government. It focuses

on the central and east side of the city. Phase I, completed in 2004, covered southwest

part of the capital.

The riverfront protection is part of a bigger two and a half year project to be finished

in 2010 that also includes drainage improvements at Wat Phnom, Central Market, the

Royal Palace and National Museum.

Four underground reservoirs and four pumping stations are being built.

According to the project's master plan, the project will protect the Phnom Penh Municipality

against flooding of the Mekong, with safety levels according to 30-year flood probabilities.

It will also minimize flooding from heavy sudden rainfalls and mitigate river pollution

by diverting wastewater away from the river bank.

Some owners of riverfront cafes said fencing off large areas of the riverfront park

and the view are hurting their business.

"It seriously affects our business because the clients didn't like the narrow

view, " said Chim Monesota, manager of Restaurant & Coffee River Front.

He said business is off by 5 to 10 percent. He said about 30 of his 200 regular clients

have gone elsewhere since the wall went up.

Others said they know their business will be better when the project is finished.

"It is good, for not only the public, but also businessmen. The park will be

cleaner, no flooding, less bad smells. The environment will be much fresher for the

people," said Som Sam Oeur, the owner of Café Rendez-Vous.

At the project's ground breaking ceremony on October 13, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked

for the public's understanding, explaining the walls were necessary to protect the

construction and to ensure the safety of the public.

"It creates difficulties since the area is one of the important tourist sites,

but please understand that it will be for the good of the public after the project

is finished, with good environment and traffic," he said.

The project began with an exchange of memoranda between Japan and the Royal Government

of Cambodia on June 14, 2007 after the government requested assistance following

the successful completion of the first phase.

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