Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mekong riverbank collapses as result of dredging: villagers

Mekong riverbank collapses as result of dredging: villagers

Mekong riverbank collapses as result of dredging: villagers

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090331_03.jpg

But authorities deny landslides in Russey Keo district are the result of sand extraction, saying natural erosion prompted collapses.

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A sand-dredging operation in Russey Keo district.

RIVERBANK collapses sent villagers' land tumbling into the Mekong River in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district Saturday, according to local residents, who claim sand-dredging operations have undermined a 100-metre stretch of land abutting the river.

Ktor village resident Long Bota said the landslide occurred Saturday at around 7pm, casting a 15-metre-wide swath of his land into the river and nearly claiming his house.

"Around 15 metres of my land collapsed and two other empty lots belonging to other people along a 100 metre stretch have collapsed," he told the Post Monday.

He said the riverbank collapse took place close to a former sand-dredging site, which had since been relocated around 5 kilometres from the site of the landslide. "Now I can't stay in my house because it is on the verge of collapsing into the river," he added.

Prek Leap commune chief Preap Mony told the Post that Saturday's riverbank collapse, which he estimated measured 10 metres by 20 metres, had not occurred because of sand dredging, since the operations were located far from the village, but because of natural erosion.

He said the village has experienced similar collapses around four times since 1999 because it sits on a promontory that is constantly buffeted by strong water currents.

In March last year, a similar riverbank collapse in Russey Keo's Sammaky village, about 6 kilometres from the city, sent 39 stilt houses into the waters of the Tonle Sap, leaving 61 families temporarily homeless.

But Long Bota said in this case authorities have deluded themselves about the cause of the erosion and affirmed that around 100 metres of riverbank land was lost, which they would have witnessed for themselves had they bothered to visit the site. "The authorities have never taken care about this. They are complicit," he said.

When contacted Monday, Russey Keo district Deputy Governor Kop Sless would not comment in detail but said that the bank collapse had taken place on reclaimed land.

Hun Sochara, director of the Department of Water Resources and Meteorology, said he had not yet heard about the collapse but would order his officials to investigate a possible cause.

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