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Japan builds on long history of water work with irrigation project

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Water Resources ministry secretary of state Bun Hean (right) and JICA’s Cambodia office chief representative Kamei Haruko. MOWRAM

Japan builds on long history of water work with irrigation project

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have signed a four-year project to develop national irrigation standards in Cambodia to improve irrigation systems as part of the industry.

The signing ceremony held on January 5 between ministry secretary of state Bun Hean and Kamei Haruko, chief representative of JICA’s Cambodia office, to officially kick off the technical cooperation project.

According to the water resources ministry, the project will run for four years and is scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2022 and finish in 2025.

The “Strategic Plan for the Development of Water Resources and Meteorology 2019-2023” has set priorities to increase the capacity of the existing irrigation system and expand the irrigated area to 1,952,000 ha by 2023, the statement said.

However, national standards for irrigation have not yet been developed and the ministry’s officials require additional human resources capacity building to effectively implement these action plans while maintaining water quality and staying on budget.

“In this context, the project will set standards for two major types of construction: Headwaters and canals with construction standardised in accordance with Japanese criteria,” the statement said.

Theng Savoeun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), said that once the irrigation system is in place, it will be possible to improve water storage and supply.

However, he said that there would be no improvement if the project was implemented without the transparent participation of the people who face the current challenges.

“For me, the process of organizing the development of irrigation in Cambodia should be done openly and each project must have a broad dialogue to avoid irrigation restoration or development that doesn’t respond to the actual needs of the people who will be most impacted,” he said.

He said that in his view the current challenges to the irrigation system are due to waterways and water shortages. He suggested the ministry should use strategic resources to cover for these deficiencies while developing infrastructure solutions.

The ministry says that while the remarkable achievements of the past year have supported the increase in agricultural productivity through the repair and construction of irrigation systems, the stability of the water supply is sufficient.

In addition, the need to ensure stability and adequate irrigation water has increased significantly as agriculture has been the basis of livelihoods in many countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ministry stressed that modernization of agriculture needs to be promoted, in which irrigation also plays an important role in ensuring water stability and efficiency for watering.

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