During his first official visit to Vietnam on December 11-12, Prime Minister Hun Manet assured the Vietnamese side that the Funan Techo Canal project would pose no harm to the environment or the Mekong River’s flow. 

Jean-Francois Tan, Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, highlighted this during a press conference following the two-day visit.

He noted the canal’s significance as an infrastructural project, with Manet affirming that it would positively contribute to environmental stability, ecology and the preservation of natural habitats vital for biodiversity.

“Overall, the Prime Minister is confident that, in the short and medium terms, Cambodia’s economic and commercial interests will not jeopardise water flow or cause environmental issues for neighbouring Vietnam. This practical study involves diverting water from the Bassac River, a Mekong tributary, to other rivers outside the Mekong River Basin,” explained Tan.

“Addressing Vietnamese concerns, Cambodia acknowledges the canal’s pivotal role in ongoing economic development. Consequently, we’ve offered clarifications to the Vietnamese side,” he added.

Back on October 25, Manet said that he views the Funan Techo Canal as a crucial connection between the sea and the river. Once the project comes to fruition, it will enhance the transport of goods from provinces along the Tonle Sap Lake to the sea more efficiently. Additionally, the Mekong River’s flow to the sea will quicken, contributing to the economic growth of communities along the river.

In early December, the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gathered for a meeting of an inter-ministerial commission chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and CDC first vice-president Sun Chanthol to boost the project’s implementation.

Chanthol said the canal will leverage Kep province’s topography to serve as a gateway to connect with the river. This initiative is poised to transform Kep into a burgeoning business hub. Furthermore, upon project completion, Cambodia stands to reap substantial benefits, including streamlined transportation with reduced time, distance and cost. The venture also entails the establishment of commercial and logistical hubs, the development of new satellite ports, the expansion of agricultural areas, improvements in irrigation, support for aquaculture, and growth in animal husbandry and tourism.

Notably, the 180km waterway is set to link tributary canals in the Mekong and Bassac river systems to Kep province. The route spans Kandal, Takeo and Kampot provinces, home to a total population of 1.6 million.

The project carries an estimated cost of about $1.7 billion and has an anticipated four-year construction period.