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Japan plans water infrastructure projects

A woman washes dishes at the White Building in Phnom Penh yesterday. Earlier this week a Japanese-funded plan to improve water infrastructure in 11 provincial capitals was unveiled.
A woman washes dishes at the White Building in Phnom Penh yesterday. Earlier this week a Japanese-funded plan to improve water infrastructure in 11 provincial capitals was unveiled. Pha Lina

Japan plans water infrastructure projects

Japan is planning to help Cambodia design, build and operate water infrastructure projects in 10 of its largest cities, a delegation from the city of Kitakyushu said yesterday.

The projects will “most likely” include tap water systems and wastewater treatment plants. The funding, with an amount yet to be determined, will come from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Engineers and consultants from Kitakyushu will form the backbone of the project.

“Our people will support Cambodia in developing and managing the water infrastructure,” said Kiyama Hatoshi, a member of Kitakyushu’s international policy division. “We also want to bring in some Japanese companies [as developers] to improve technology,” by installing advanced filtration systems, for example.

Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, said that Kitakyushu Mayor Kenji Kitahashi briefed Prime Minister Hun Sen on his plan for cooperation yesterday. A cooperation agreement, mainly focused on water, is set to be signed at the end of March.

Kitakyushu specialists would work with the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft’s Department of Potable Water Supply, which delivers water to 11 provincial capitals and 60 small to medium towns. It would also work with the water supply authorities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Provincial water supply authorities lag behind Phnom Penh in providing water access to citizens and recovering their costs through tariffs, according to a 2014 report by analyst Global Water Intelligence.

The Asian Development Bank, in a 2012 assessment, said a number of problems plague urban water systems in Cambodia. These include lack of strategy and planning, low implementation capacity, inadequate monitoring, limited coordination between ministries and a lack of private sector involvement.

Yim Mongtoeun, a waste treatment expert at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said yesterday that Cambodia currently lacks any water treatment plants for sewage, which is pumped into wetlands. From there, water makes its way into rivers and ground sources.

“It’s better than nothing, but the [runoff] water still contains heavy metals, coliform bacteria, nitrates and other toxic elements,” he said. “I hope that the government will construct wastewater treatment plants.”

According to state news agency AKP, Hun Sen also asked the Kitakyushu mayor for help on flooding preparation in Phnom Penh, where Japanese development agency JICA has worked to develop the city’s drainage system since the late 1990s.

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