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Ground water may be over-exploited: NGOs

A young child refills a bottle with water from a well pump in in Preah Vihear’s Chheb district last year.
A young child refills a bottle with water from a well pump in in Preah Vihear’s Chheb district last year. Hong Menea

Ground water may be over-exploited: NGOs

Over-exploitation of the Kingdom’s underground water sources has contributed to the water scarcity problem faced by the country during the past two years of drought, relief organisations said yesterday.

Socheath So, humanitarian and emergency affairs manager for World Vision International-Cambodia, said that based on their fieldwork in several provinces, there is actually an excess of wells.

“One well should serve 15-25 families,” he said. But in some areas “we see one well for five to eight families”, a count that does not include private wells.

“In Kampong Thom, it’s the case that they dig a little deep and used to get the water and now they cannot,” he said.

Loek Sothea, resilience programme manager for Oxfam, an organisation that builds wells itself as part of their operation, said that year-by-year he has similarly observed wells needing to be deeper, but cautioned that the causes may be a combination of over-exploitation and a natural phenomenon. “More research is needed on that.”

However, wasteful agricultural practices may also contribute. Where irrigation is lacking, farmers may resort to using well water, “and there is blame [being put] on that,” he said.

Regardless, as wells run dry, deeper and costlier wells are dug. And World Vision’s So said that where 20 metres of depth once sufficed, now one must dig 50 metres or more.

“This is a really bad sign.”

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