Experts are forecasting that the Mekong's water level will be slightly higher than
2005 and the government has warned residents along the river to be wary of potential
flooding-although warning levels have not yet been reached.
Kampot town pulls a passable impression of Venice due to heavy flooding. High rainfall has caused flooding across Cambodia.
Mao Hak, director of hydrology and river work at the Ministry of Water Resources
and Meteorology, predicts that the water level at Bassac-Chaktomuk will rise to 10.2
meters, a full meter lower than in 2000 when Cambodia suffered its worst flooding
ever. Last year, the level at Bassac-Chaktomuk peaked at 9.95m.
Hak said in Bassac-Chaktomuk the warning level is 10.5m. Water began rising in mid-June
and will continue to rise, and flow up the Tonle Sap, until early October.
"We can see that according to the water level, people along the Tonle Sap and
lower Mekong provinces should not be concerned," Hak said, "More water
means more fish. Farmers can save the water for farming their dry season rice."
Troung Hong Tien, flood management and mitigation program coordinator for the Mekong
River Commission, said water levels in the upper parts of Cambodia, Stung Treng,
Kratie and Kampong Cham, are a little lower than last year. The water level in Phnom
Penh is nearly the same.
"When there have been floods in Cambodia, they have mainly been caused by heavy
rainfall which caused flash flooding or forced other smaller rivers to swell beyond
their capacity," Hong Tien said. "The flood conditions in Cambodia are
not simply related to the water level in the Mekong River. Much of the water contributing
to floods in Cambodia come from the country itself in the form of heavy rainfall."
Nhim Vanda, first deputy president of the National Committee for Disaster Management
(NCDM), estimated that the Mekong water level this year will be lower than last year.
He is concerned, however, that in the next few weeks the water will rise due to drainage
from the upper Mekong.
On August 14, the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Lim Kean Hor, issued
a letter telling people living along the Mekong, Sap and Bassac rivers to be careful
of the rising water levels.
Children play on the river front road in Kampot last week, after flash floods inundated the province.
Koh Kong, Kampot, Kampong Speu, Kandal, Kampong Thom and Ratanakkiri provinces were
inundated with flash floods spurred by heavy rain in mid-August. Rural villagers
and livestock moved to higher ground, and roughly 1,000 hectares of rice paddy fields
were damaged. Six people in Kampot, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh's Dangkao district
reportedly died by drowning.
Vanda said the NCDM, in cooperation with the World Food Program and local authorities,
had already provided 700 tons of rice to nearly 10,000 families affected by the recent
flash floods in the provinces.
Kampot Governor Thach Khorn said the water level in his province is going down, although
four people in the province died during four days of heavy rain beginning on August
15. More than 4,000 hectares of rice field were damaged, he said.
"We are still concerned if the rain continues to come down from the mountains,"
Khorn said, "We have set up a committee to observe the water level before the
Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster management at the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), said
that on August 20 the CRC visited two districts in Kampot and provided 75 tons of
rice and packages to 3,000 flood victims.
Sam Ath said CRC has prepared 31 tons of rice for 1,234 families facing food shortages
in Ratanakkiri province, 17 tons to 667 families in Kampong Thom and 24 tons to 939
families in Koh Kong.
"The water is still a threat in Ratanakkiri, Kampong Thom and Kampot and we
are concerned about Kandal and the Dangkao district of Phnom Penh," Sam Ath
said. "CRC is appealing for assistance from other charities. CRC will not let
any people die by starving."