A city’s infrastructure is composed of not only buildings, roads, bridges, parks and shopping malls, but canals. These canals are even more important in Cambodian cities, which are inundated with daily downpours of rain for a large portion of the year.
The streets of Cambodia are often flooded due to an old, dilapidated sewage and canal system. But Phnom Penh City Hall has created a plan to renovate the current drainage canal system in Meanchey district within Stung Meanchey commune. Currently, the canal runs from Stung Meanchey to Prek Hor Bridge, Kandal province. The system will be cleaner and will help the city arrange waste disposal according to city officials.
But one of the main issues the government is facing concerns the people who live along the canal. Many of the canal’s issues relate directly to the people living along it. It is often filled to the brim with trash and mud, clogging the entire system and leaving fetid pools of sewage in various places in the city.
The canal is inhabited by over 500 families, and the government is planning to move them to a temporary housing site while they redevelop the canal before offering them official land titles along the new canal.
City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey told Post Property that the canal cannot function properly with people living along it, and the garbage that they dump into the canal was causing problems for the rest of the city.
“Living on the canal is illegal and has caused problems for people in the area and other people because the dams are not functioning,” he said.
“The City Hall governor aims to develop the Stung Meanchey canal into a concrete canal, as well as other canals which we will build in a very clean way that will be easy to manage.”
He added that the plan will be split into four stages. More than 150 families will be forced to live in temporary housing as the government “clears the land for development” during the first phase. According to City Hall, the temporary housing will have free utilities.
The Canal Development Plan will be launched later this year once current residents are moved to temporary locations in the area.
“The provision of temporary homes, toilets, water, medical services, security services and public services are free to the people, and the relocation of the new residences is guaranteed for housing, health and well-being,” he said.
Once the development is finished, people will receive land titles for a 24-square-metre plot.
“If people understand and cooperate they can serve their own interests together with Phnom Penh City Hall. They do not have legal land titles for the area, so it will be good for them to get land titles,” he said, adding that despite removing them from their homes, the development would benefit them and the rest of the city.
The 500 families will live in the temporary housing for up to three months.
“My family has lived near the Stung Meanchey canal for more than 10 years, and we bought land from the old property owner. We also attended a meeting and understood the project on the canal,” said 32-year-old Por Chanthorn. “My family bought this land for $7,000 and we are in the second stage of developing the canal here after many years of requests.”
She said the project had been discussed for many years but will start officially in December.
“We hope to receive land near the school and near a business after the project gets done because to move to another place will cause a lot of issues,” she said, adding that the land they are being given titles to is smaller than she would have liked. Despite the size, she said she was happy that they were finally doing something about the canal, which had not been working for decades.
“We hope that the drainage system will be able to get rid of trash, sterilisation and theft. It will probably take one year to complete,” she told `Post Property.
People in the area are excited for the development after seeing positive studies and plans for the development. The final meeting with residents was held in October.
Im Song, a 70-year-old resident with a house near the old canal, said he lived there for more than 10 years after moving from Prey Veng province.
“I have not heard about any development in this area,” he said. His family sells fish at the market near his home, and he was afraid that being moved away would make it hard to find work.
Dy Chanthan, a 49-year-old Stung Meanchey 1 resident, said her home would not be affected by the canal development project but that many of her neighbors would have to move.
“Whether or not it affects anyone, the development of the canal area can help reduce the amount of trash and other stuff,” she said.
City Hall claimed they organised many public forums to “consult” with the people in the community about the project. They also claimed that “100 percent” of people in the area agree with the development.