Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM calls for drought aid preparations

PM calls for drought aid preparations

Young boys plant rice seedlings along a small patch of wet ground in an otherwise dry Kampong Speu paddy during rainy season this year.
Young boys plant rice seedlings along a small patch of wet ground in an otherwise dry Kampong Speu paddy during rainy season this year. Victoria Mørck Madsen

PM calls for drought aid preparations

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on local authorities and government ministries to be ready to distribute water to farmers around the country due to the ongoing shortage in the Kingdom’s reservoirs.

“Drought . . . has been threatening our agricultural production, therefore relevant authorities and ministries have to be ready to help farmers,” the prime minister wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday.

He added that if people had trouble contacting local authorities, individual farmers should post their requests for help directly to his Facebook account, along with their names, phone numbers and locations.

Chan Yutha, a spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources said that the government is using 600,000 litres of fuel set in reserve to run 300 pumps to distribute water in hard-hit areas.

“The Mekong River is very low this year, only 7 metres, therefore the water could not flow into the natural reservoirs or other main sources of stock waters,” said Yutha.

“However, I think that the government is well prepared, so the crop collection this year will not be bad. My estimation is that the year’s rice production is still around 99 per cent of the target of about 2.5 million hectares,” he added.

According to Yutha, the drought only hit 4,000 to 5,000 hectares.

However, Ian Thomas, an adviser with the Mekong River Commission, said that this is too rosy a picture.

The provinces in Northwest Cambodia and those bordering the Tonle Sap lake have been badly hit this year, which will lead to water shortages and food insecurity on a greater scale than the government predicted, he said.

At the moment, official rice figures are “underestimating the damage that was done”, Thomas said.

“There is one dirty secret – when production figures go down, they bring in more rice from Vietnam” to pad the numbers, he said.

An unusually powerful El Niño cycle has contributed to this year’s drought, with next year promising to be even worse, Thomas said.

Thomas expects the effects of El Niño to “peak” in January or February of 2016.

Additional reporting by Igor Kossov

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the

  • Royal Group's Koh Rong luxury hotel officially opens

    The Royal Sands Koh Rong hotel on Monday marked its official launch as the first luxury resort on Cambodia’s most visited island. Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the inauguration of the hotel, which has been open since December, and features rooms priced at