Residents of Phnom Penh endure flash flooding on a regular basis in the rainy season. Siv Meng asked them who is to blame, and what might be done about it.
Cambodians and experts have put the blame for the floods in Phnom Penh squarely on the city authorities and the residents themselves, but some observers say the capital’s frequent floods have little effect on the real estate sector.
Hem Satya, who lives in Village 71 in Boeung Kak II Commune in Toul Kork District, has already posted critiques on social media regarding the floods in Phnom Penh. He said that while numerous areas in Phnom Penh always flood whenever it rains, he thinks the surface water drains more quickly than it used to. The floods do damage people’s motorbikes, but he says fly-tipping and littering are the main causes. “A reason that I can relate to, though it’s a small one, is because the people put litter into the sewers or leave their trash near the sewers. This trash blocks the pipe when it rains, hence, it doesn’t flow.”
He added that litterbugs were not the only culprits, however. “The authorities share a part of the blame because the sewage system hasn’t been expanded sufficiently.”
When asked what to compare Cambodia with other flood-hit nations, he said, “When there’s a lot of rain, Thailand and the United States also get flooded, but in Cambodia, the flooding is because [planning authorities] don’t develop the city based on their master plan. That’s why the drainage system makes the water out slowly.”
Another Phnom Penh resident, Nget Chou, lives in Thmey commune and thinks the flooding has an impact on the city’s economic life. He said the flooding was predictable and said planning authorities should pay more attention to developing infrastructure robust enough to last for a long time. “To solve this problem, I think the authorities have to plan some long-term infrastructure development. Our city used to have many lakes, but most of them are now filled in already. When most of the lakes are land-filled, it reduces the city’s capacity to contain extra water. Therefore, a certain development plan for the next 50 to 100 years is very crucial.”
Information minister Khieu Kanharith recently called those who posted critiques about the floods in Phnom Penh “pitiful”.
Chrek Soknim, CEO of Century21 Mekong, said that floods in Phnom Penh could be worse, but a community effort would help improve the current situation.“If the floods happened over a long period of time, it would affect people’s businesses and properties. The worst-case scenario is that water will get into an electricity substation and cause a short. This will be a much bigger problem for the people.
“If it rains heavily for one or two hours, it’s okay. It won’t affect people’s properties either. I’ve recently seen much improvement, thanks to the commitment of the city authority. I can tell that the water really flows out much faster than before because the government has paid a lot of attention to it, but what’s more important is that the people have to partake in solving this by not littering everywhere as it blocks the sewage system.”
Even so, Soknim said the government should invest in more water pumps, and should also maintain more of the city’s water overflow system instead of filling in lakes for development.
Kim Heang, president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association, agreed that the water flows out faster these days, but when it comes to the question of whether or not residents are affected from the floods, the answer is that it does.
However, he says the authorities have really worked hard to drain water out faster. “I think we shouldn’t put all the blame on the authorities, because the people don’t cooperate and still litter all over the place.”
Phnom Penh city hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said that every time it comes to the flooding problem in Phnom Penh, the city authority never looks away. He said the city authority is planning to build a new water pumping station in Steung Mean Chey II Commune, Mean Chey District, Phnom Penh City.
However, he could not confirm when this plan would be finished nor how much its budget is.