Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered families living on the Boeung Trabek sewage canal in Chamkarmon district to temporarily move their home while the authorities restores it to prevent flooding during the rainy season.
Sreng made the announcement during a field visit to inspect the canal in Phsar Doeum Thkov commune on Tuesday, when he urged a speedy construction of concrete walls on both sides of the canal. The construction has been 50 per cent complete.
The governor said with the population in Phnom Penh growing while the canal remains in its current state, the release of flood water from Phnom Penh through the Boeung Trabek pumping station would not satisfy demand. He said a restoration of the canal would ease the flow to the station, which has the capacity to pump water fast.
“As you all can see with your own eyes now, the Boeng Trabek station has 11 water pumps installed. But despite this, we still have a problem – settlements on the canal. We need to construct canal walls, but the settlements make it difficult to remove mud from the canal,” he said.
Sreng said the authorities had managed to remove only around 6,000 cubic metres of mud from the canal, with its total amount estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 cubic metres. He added a timely in-depth assessment is needed in the restoration process.
Chamkarmon district governor Theng Sophal said the canal restoration had been slow due to disorderly settlements on the canal. He urged families living on the canal to cooperate and make way for the construction.
“When we previously made an announcement [about the restoration], many families agreed to the request. Now we need to resume the restoration so families would need to move their home so that we can use machinery to dig out the mud.
“This is not a relocation – families are only required to move their home further as requested to make way for the construction. They can move back to their old location when the canal restoration finishes,” he said, adding each family will also be given a financial assistance of 200,000 riel ($50).
Soeung Saran, the acting executive director of housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut which has created a community for families living on the canal, called for more transparency.
He said the families had been reluctant to move their home out of concerns that the authorities would not follow through with their promise.
“Of course, the canal restoration will help release flood water from Phnom Penh, and people are also happy with development. But the authorities need to make sure it does not meet the same fate as the Boeng Tumpun lake, which has become smaller and smaller after the authorities granted development rights to private companies.
“The problem with people living on the canal can be solved when there is an open talk between the families and relevant parties. The authorities should find a compromise through a negotiation with stakeholders to avoid rumours [of privatisation],” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey said on Wednesday the authorities were working to determine the total number of settlements on the canal, while experts were conducting a study and assessment.
“We made the announcement to let the families know whether their home would be affected. In this case, they can be well prepared to cooperate with the authorities. We are currently conducting a study and assessment, so they have time to prepare,” he said.