Cash earmarked for the now-cancelled Water Festival has been used to buy 60,000 litres of extra fuel to run pumping stations and bolster drought-stricken reservoirs ahead of dry season, a government official said yesterday.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources Chan Yutha said the fuel, bought from Sokimex, would be distributed to about 300 pumps and pumping stations in 14 provinces, with Kandal, Tbong Khmum, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom and Kampong Chhnang identified as priorities.
“In a regular year, we use around 1.5 million litres of fuel, this is a special additional [purchase],” Yutha said.
“This water collection is for the dry season. As you know, the Mekong River is very low this year; only 7 metres at Bassac Chaktomuk [the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap] . . . it’s more than 3 metres lower than last year.”
Yutha said he did not know the fuel’s cost or what percentage of the Water Festival’s total budget had been reallocated.
Prime Minster Hun Sen called off the popular event – which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Phnom Penh – late last month, saying water levels in the Tonle Bassac were too low for the traditional boat races to go ahead.
Pundits, however, have suggested the true reason was to stop the opposition from potentially mobilising supporters during the mass influx into the capital amid political tension following the beating of two Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers outside parliament.
Though the races are cancelled, some festivities will still take place.