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Natural drainage routes replaced by concrete cause severe floods

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A fully submerged house lies desolate in the southwest of Phnom Penh on Monday. Moeun Nhean

Natural drainage routes replaced by concrete cause severe floods

As floods have been raging on in many provinces, especially in the outskirts of the capital, locals are demanding the government inspect all boreys, factories and other developments in affected areas to ensure that there are proper drainage and road systems.

These are large areas, including part of National Road 4 in communes Choam Chao and Kontouk, while many ongoing construction projects continue to block almost all natural draining routes – akin to gorges – outside of the capital city.

Et Ban, deputy commune chief of Kontouk commune in Por Senchey district, told Post Property earlier this week that the current flooding situation along National Road 4 and the villages in his commune was very rare.

“But ever since early October, there has been severe flooding until the point where National Road 4 and some roads in the village were submerged, and this has really impinged on the local people’s livelihoods.”

He added that the threat of flooding has been occurring more frequently after the construction of developments in Kontouk. He explained that 10 years ago, the district was mostly filled with rice fields, canals and natural bodies of water like ponds and lakes. Now, however, these have ceased and are becoming shallower because construction companies are filling them up with sand to ready them for projects.

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Locals navigate heavy flooding in the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Moeun Nhean

“On the south of National Road 4 there is only one main natural draining route called Oh-reng, which allows water to flow from here to the surrounding dry lakes and rivers, before flowing to Steung Prek Thnot,” Ban said.

“However, the problem now is that a lot of people are building their houses along the creek, and this blocks the water flow.”

Yong Sithol, Kontouk’s commune chief, said, “Prior to this, the total rice field area in Kontouk [all 13 villages] was 1,000 hectares. It was also a water reservoir. Right now, only 290 hectares of the rice field is farmable.”

He added that the rest had been bought, some had been filled, and others had been built over.

“The authority dug some canals and installed many sewer pipes to ease the floods, but it doesn’t flow fast enough because the rain is heavy and the pipes are small. Besides, there are also blockages,” Sithol said. “Recently, the district and city authority and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology came to inspect the area once to find solutions to the problem.”

“As a local authority, I would like the upper level authority to expand the existing water canal system to make it bigger and deeper,” he urged, as well as increase the number of new canals in the area.

Nem Touch, Kontouk Jerng village chief, situated on the north of National Road 4, said, “The roads in our village are still experiencing flooding, while over 20 hectares of rice field on the east of the village are suffering from flood to the point of becoming a lake.” He continued, “The village has never experienced flooding this bad before.”

“Normally, rainwater would flow along the old water routes and along the underground sewer of National Road 4. But now, the water just remains because the natural draining routes on the east of the village, which used to be the opening of the waterways, have been filled and turned into high land plots,” Touch said.

These plots, according to him, belong to Sokimex, and are part of the area that is experiencing the worst flooding. Besides that, there are also two borey projects, Borey Lim Chheanghak and Borey Sen Monorom.

The village chief explained that although the two boreys have sewage systems, “[they] may be too small and blocked by trash.”

40-year-old Dara, resident of Kontouk, said the current developments in his area “seem to lack consideration for roads and waterways”, as they only think about selling the houses.

Developers of nearby major projects – Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, and borey New World – have filled up vast areas of rice fields and natural water bodies with land, causing inconvenient flooding in all other linked areas.

“I’m unsure if the government asked all these project developers to take into consideration the natural draining routes when they allowed the developers to build boreys and other projects here [in the west of Phnom Penh],” Dara said.

As a local resident, he also urges the government to truly pay attention to such a huge problem which could only exacerbate in the coming years.

In regards to the severe flooding that occurred last week along National Road 4, about three kilometres from the Phnom Penh International Airport, “I have never seen a flood this bad in all my life,” said Dara.

While many areas in the district used to be rice fields, lakes, and ponds where water could naturally flow to, these have now been irresponsibly replaced by boreys, factories, and unsold land plots.

“So the water only has the roads to go to,” said Dara.

“Some boreys even try to prevent water from flowing along the sewer system into their borey.”

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