More than 500 families in Tuol Ampil commune of Kampong Speu province’s Baset district have expressed concerns about water shortages for rice fields and crops. Currently, traders use pumps to extract large amounts of water from the ancient Prey Peay dam, threatening shortages.
Kuy Hoeurn, a 68-year-old Sangkream Bour villager who represented the families, said the dam is in the middle of three communities – Prey Peay, Sangkream Bour and Angk Rongeang.
He said more than two months ago, a clean water supply firm had installed a large water pump that operated day and night until the water was gone. Residents fear they will not have enough water for rice fields, crops and vegetables.
“Now, the problem is that a clean water firm has pumped water in the dam to sell. Authorities only permit it to conduct business but not to transfer water from the reservoir. Its business is supplying clean water but has no water of its own and takes people’s water,” he said.
District governor Chhoeun Sothorn said the problem is the responsibility of the Department of Water Resources and Meteorology and business owners as the dam is under the management of the department.
“District authorities have nothing to do with it. The reservoir belongs to the state but residents want to take ownership. The water resource side has its own plan, so no one can take any of it. However, residents rely on it for their livelihoods and they need it, so they take it,” he said.
Water resources department director Nhanh Cheabheang said those who conducted the business could do it legally. The authorities have prepared clean water for residents to use in line with the government’s goal for citizens to have clean water by 2025.
Cheabheang said in this case, he had prepared to dig the dam deeper for public use so that they will have sufficient water supply and can raise fish during the dry and rainy seasons. However, he said some people incited others to protest, bringing about difficulties in development of the area.
“Factories and enterprises have sprouted up in Kampong Speu province, so they need raw materials to fill potholes to build other factories. We have worked with businesses to take soil from the reservoir so that it will be deeper.
“When they take the soil, they help the villages and pay taxes. But some residents try to mobilise people everywhere [in protest],” he said.
Cheabheang said development of the area failed because the residents obstructed it.
“We can do nothing. When machinery is deployed, they stop it. When water is pumped, they stop it. They don’t listen to the authorities,” he said.