Interior Minister Sar Kheng bemoaned Phnom Penh’s sewage infrastructure and criticised the Ministry of Environment for allowing untreated waste water to flow into the Mekong and Bassac rivers in unscripted remarks on Monday.
Speaking at an unrelated ministry meeting, Kheng said that water downstream of the capital was dirty because of untreated sewage from the city.
“The water is from Phnom Penh. It looks like it has not been filtered,” he said, before questioning how the Ministry of Environment could keep the country clean if they could not clean up the purported sewage problem right in front of their offices.
The Environment Ministry did not respond to requests for comment, though San Chey, head of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said water management is the domain of municipal authorities.
The capital has no wastewater treatment plant, but municipal spokesman Met Measpheakdey pointed to canal restorations and natural reservoir filtration when confronted with the Kheng’s remarks.
Still, Chey noted, “we see most of the water flows from Phnom Penh into the river because the lakes were filled [in] and that causes a lack of reservoirs”.
“This is a big problem, not small,” Kheng said, adding that the pollution is plain to see downriver, and that “smart officials” have already taken note of the “black water” and built their homes upstream.