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Ministry planning to tackle flooding, drought

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Officials restored reservoirs in Banteay Meanchey province. FACEBOOK

Ministry planning to tackle flooding, drought

Amid this rainy season, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology is focusing on water management in major reservoirs to avoid flooding and to meet the needs of the public, and to avoid shortages either when the dry season arrives or should the weather change.

Ministry spokesman Chan Yutha said on May 26 that the management of water to meet the daily needs of the people and supply enough water for rice crops after the rainy season has passed is important.

“Although the rainy season was upon us, the management of water resources could not be neglected,” he said.

“If the weather changes a lot, some areas may not have significant rainfall. If we just drain floodwater away without considering this, we may face water shortages in the future,” he said.

He added if serious flooding takes place, the nation should have measures prepared in advance. This means releasing water before more arrives, but always making sure that sufficient water is available. This is the key to the ministry’s water management strategy this season.

“In the dry season, Cambodia has higher demands for water than in the rainy season. This year, there was little rainfall and some rivers and lakes – especially in rural areas – have dried out somewhat. Our main strategy is to keep these bodies of water as full as possible. We have not pumped them out, because if they are allowed to dry up, fish stocks will decline. We need to preserve as much water as possible,” he said.

He added that dry season rice cultivation has increased year on year, and over 600,000ha will be harvested this year. Prey Veng and Takeo provinces are the largest growers of dry season rice in the Kingdom. Prey Veng farmers originally planned to grow around 70,000ha of dry season rice, as did farmers in Takeo. However, 2021-2022 dry season rice cultivation in Prey Veng alone increased to more than 110,000ha. This growth came from large-scale irrigation systems and the main systems of the Vaiko River irrigation system which were already built.

Yutha expects these figures to increase further in 2022-2023 because the Vaiko River irrigation system holds enough water to cultivate even more.

Dry season cultivation is planned to reach one million hectares across the country in the next four or five years, he added.

He said that in the past, three provinces – Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin – had cultivated only 500ha of dry season rice each year. Now, in just one district of Banteay Meanchey – Mongkol Borei – nearly 100,000ha were cultivated. Some people also grew two harvests.

“Even in the rainy season, we must have careful water management measures in place to serve two goals. The first goal is to reduce flooding and the second is to meet the future needs of the people for both agriculture and daily use,” he said.

Water resources minister Lim Kean Hor, along with the officials from the provincial administrations of Battambang and Banteay Meanchey, on May 15 inspected irrigation systems in the provinces. They assessed the situation, saying that this year’s rains had come sooner and were heavier than in previous years.

The Kamping Puoy Basin, in Battambang’s Banan district, contained 60 million cubic metres of water, about 40 per cent of its maximum capacity. The minister advised that modernisation work on the basin be accelerated. The upgrades are currently 80 per cent complete.

The delegation then inspected the Sala Ta On dam irrigation development project in Ek Phnom and Sangke districts, also in Battambang.

The Sangker River project, financed by South Korea, is an automated irrigation computer control system which can to close aqueducts to store water. The project will be able to irrigate 11,000ha of rainy season rice and 4,700ha in the dry season. It was begun in January 2019 and is 97 per cent complete.

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