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Inundated Lake Villagers Worry as Rains Approach

Worried residents near Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake say landfill from a private developer has blocked the area’s drainage, leaving them flooded in putrid water even before the rainy season has begun.

Authorities say they are looking into the problem, but that development of the lake will continue.

Village 3, located along the capital’s Russian Federation Blvd., in front of the Council of Ministers, has undergone flooding since late 2009, when a developer started filling the lake, and residents now say and they are facing health issues.

“In some homes, [water] comes up to the knees, flooding their houses,” said Eang Vuthy, an official with Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, a group monitoring the area.

“It is the water from the toilet and people’s daily consumption, because sand has blocked their drainage system,” Eang Vuthy told VOA Khmer.

Children are forced to wade through the sewage water to get to school, and villagers are worried they will have nowhere else to go if the water gets any higher.

Chom Vareach, a villager, said the water has reached her deck, thanks to the blocked drainage.

“My house is almost under water,” she said. “If there is rain, I will surely have nowhere to stay.”

Residents have complained to authorities, including city officials and the developers, but the situation remains unresolved, with the lake about half filled by Shukaku, Inc., which is to develop a massive commercial and residential area on the fill.

“The water is getting higher and higher,” said Tang Phoung, a village representative. “I have never had such flooding, since 1979, but since they filled Beoung Kak lake, we have been under water for four or five months.”

Residents in Village 3 are not part of the official development area, where some holdout residents demand to stay put.

But Shukaku CEO Lao Meng Khin, who is also a senator for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said development will continue, even if some refuse to take buyouts. Construction can help the flooding, he said.

“The government has given me the right to develop the Boeung Kak area because it stinks,” he told VOA Khmer. “The water smells. People relieve themselves and urinate in it. Therefore we have to develop it. The longer we keep it [the way it is], the more it spreads diseases to people.”

Meanwhile, officials say they are looking into the flooding problem.

“I told the local authorities to arrange another pump for them,” Mann Chhoeun, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer. “They told me that they already added another pump, so such an issue won’t happen again.”

Tang Phoung, who has surrendered the bottom floor of her house to floodwater, said the pumps aren’t working and the water keeps rising.