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Government aims to tackle drought

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Children fill their water jugs in O’Beichoan commune in Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrov district in 2016. Hong Menea

Government aims to tackle drought

The Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts on Monday said that 100 per cent of people in urban areas will have reliable access to clean water by 2025 as the government takes action to tackle drought and other effects of climate change.

The World Health Organization has predicted that between 2030 and 2050 climate change will kill 250,000 people a year, with 38,000 deaths from extreme heat. Food shortages are expected to kill 95,000 children.

A 2015 UN Risk Report showed that Cambodia is the world’s ninth most vulnerable country for disaster, with the economy, agriculture, health and education sectors likely to be affected.

Ministry secretary of state Um Sotha said government policy aimed for 100 per cent of people living in urban areas to have reliable access to clean water, with 90 per cent part of the piped water system and the remaining 10 per cent to receive it from other sources.

Sotha was speaking at a workshop on Monday hosted by the ministry and attended by civil society organisations and around 200 sub-national government officials and representatives of clean water supply operations from across the country.

He said the ministry has expressed concerns over future droughts and has ordered its municipal and provincial officials to study the matter.

“We are worried about this problem and have instructed our provincial and municipal departments to work with their counterparts at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to study it."

“We regard the study of how the supply of water will be affected during dry seasons with no rain and how many cubic metres can be supplied as an urgent task."

“Private clean water suppliers get their water from existing sources, but if a natural disaster was to occur, it is possible they will not be able to do this."

“Therefore, the state needs to intervene because water sources depend on geography – some areas have it but some do not. This is the challenge,” Sotha said.

He said that while some areas were facing water shortages, private suppliers nationwide were yet to fill the need.

Ieng Vongrithy, representative of Prek Thmey Water Supply in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district, told The Post that while his operation has not faced water shortages as it is located on the Mekong River, it does face technical issues.

“I do not worry because I can supply the people with enough clean water, both in rainy and dry seasons. But I want to ask for technical and financial support because we run a small operation and usually face such issues,” he said.

Chheang Sokha, a representative of Kampong Trach Clean Water Supply in Kampot province’s Kampong Trach district, told The Post on Monday that though his operation was yet to experience water shortages, he was worried about the situation as the weather was predicted to become hotter in the future.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A boy carries a bucket of water during a drought in Banteay Meanchey province in 2016. The government has said all people in urban areas will have reliable access to clean water by 2025 to combat drought from climate change. Hong Menea

“[Droughts have occurred] several times and caused difficulties for people when my operation does not have enough water for them."

“At the moment, the ministry informs us beforehand and we are prepared. When my area lacks water, we try to find it from another source as we have the main system to control the flow of water,” he said.

Ministry of Water Resources spokesmen Chan Yutha, Yin Savuth and Mao Hak could not be reached for comment on Monday.

In January, the Ministry of Water Resources forecasts that this year’s dry season will be hotter than normal, especially during April and May, with temperatures hitting 40-42 degree Celsius as the weather is affected by the El Nino cycle, which last occurred in 2016.

Ministry of Rural Development spokesman Chan Darong told The Post on Monday that the ministry has set goals for 100 per cent of people living in remote areas to have a reliable supply of clean water by 2025. The ministry is prepared for drought in remote areas this year, he said.

“The ministry’s measures are to bore deep wells to ensure enough water for the whole year when we are faced with drought."

“However, we do not dare to think our measures will be 100 per cent effective because we do not know how serious the drought will be,” Darong said.

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