A new flood control dyke has been completed in Neak Loeung, a town along the Mekong River in the southern province of Prey Veng. Asian Development Bank (ADB)-supported, it has transformed the lives of the once flood-plagued residents.

Before the dyke’s construction, tens of thousands of residents of Peam Ro district faced frequent flooding, which threatened their livelihoods. The cultivation of crops like maize, rice, and bananas was often disrupted, leading to potential food shortages, as well as economic hardship.

ADB country director Jyotsana Varma explained that the dyke mitigates seasonal flooding on Neak Loeung’s south-eastern side, promoting the town’s potential as a competitive economic centre.

During the ADB press tour to the Neak Loeung Pumping Station on December 6, she told the assembled guests that the dyke features a 4.3km barrier which encloses 363ha. The facility is equipped with climate adaptation measures.

“It features an access road which connects the dyke to main roads, a large retention pond, a pumping station which is powered by four large pumps, a drainage system, an electricity transformer, a generator and traffic safety signs,” she said.

“These integrated systems are designed to efficiently convey, impound, and remove excess water from the protected area, ensuring optimal water management,” she added.

Vong Pisith, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said similar flood control projects are underway in several other towns.

“We are working in Bavet, Neak Loeung, Battambang, and Poipet, along the Asian Highway 1 which connects Thailand to Phnom Penh,” he added. “The goal is to transform these cities into thriving economic hubs.”

The initiative aims to establish environmental infrastructure for the management of wastewater and solid waste.

It is anticipated that these efforts will contribute to a reduction in the carbon footprint of the towns involved, enhancing their cleanliness, greenery, and overall liveability.

The funding for eight subprojects in these towns is derived from the Mid-Term Review Mission conducted in November 2018.

Planning the dyke

During the design phase, consideration was given to the existing topography, with a focus on preserving natural waterways.

This design approach binds planners and engineers to maintaining the natural topography of the area, encouraging minimal land filling and the preservation of natural waterways and depressions to improve storm runoff management in future developments.

Varma said Neak Loeung town’s future development emphasises the necessity for secure flood-free land in the southeastern part of town, which is mostly designated for residential and commercial expansion.

The completion of the dyke will allow the transformation of unproductive central plains within the protected area, aligning with the envisioned government’s development plan, she added.

Construction cost $7.8 million over a period of three years, with the estimated total number of beneficiaries totalling 25,000 residents.

A history of flooding

Hy Thourk, deputy governor of Prey Veng province, explained that the 365ha area is now a model for rural development, as the space is suitable for the cultivation of a diverse range of crops, including rice, bananas, corn, and more.

“Rice cultivation, previously limited to one or two cycles – due to the fear of flooding and potential crop damage – has now tripled, without concerns about flood-related losses,” he said, as he addressed the ADB press tour to the pump station.

He urged local authorities to ensure the preservation and proper care of the new facilities, so they can continue to benefit the people of Prey Veng province for many generations to come.

Neak Sovath, chief of Neak Loeung village in Peam Ro district, explained that the his village, which is part of the 365ha lowland area, is home to 502 families with a total of more than 3,300 people.

“The newly built pumping station has effectively addressed the long-standing flooding issue in the area,” he said.

The construction of over 4km of main road dams serves a dual purpose. Not only does it prevent flooding, safeguarding people’s agricultural crops, but it also facilitates additional benefits for the people, particularly women and children. These include safer childbirth deliveries and improved student attendance.

Sovath expressed his gratitude to the ADB, noting that residents near the low-lying town are now cultivating crops such as maize, rice, and bananas.

He said rice is currently being harvested, while maize is just beginning to grow, and the bananas are yielding every month.

Agricultural benefits

In addition to protecting the land from seasonal and flash floods, the dyke also boosts agriculture production, enhancing economic activity, urbanisation, and promoting tourism.

Varma said farmers have been able to cultivate as many as three harvests of vegetables or crops per year, a huge leap over the one or two they could produce when they were subjected to unpredictable flooding brought about by the rainy season.

In addition, while it was being built, there were a lot of job opportunities, with a preference for local hires.

“During the three years of construction, this subproject created 1,720 job opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers, of which 15 per cent were women,” added Varma.

This period also saw increased trade and commercial activities due to the influx of construction workers.

“It would be a great value addition if relevant government authorities could encourage and support local growers and small-scale farmers to adopt and develop advanced farming methods (e.g., vertical farming, hydroponics, etc.) focused on producing high-value and marketable crops and vegetables,” she suggested.

Pisith acknowledged that the ADB plays a crucial role as a partner to the government in jointly developing the national economy. 

He explained that the project’s primary objective is to enhance the visual appeal of the region and convert the previously flood-prone area into a bustling economic zone.

“Several thousand people stand to benefit significantly from the dam project. They will have the opportunity to cultivate crops for one to three seasons, and their land can be utilised for housing purposes,” he said.

Additionally, he believed that the construction of the new infrastructure will lead to a five to tenfold increase in land prices.

“In line with the policies of the seventh mandate government, our focus is on establishing infrastructure that will stimulate the Cambodian economy,” he added.