Nearly one hundred protestors in Takeo province’s Ang Knol commune rallied Sunday morning by burning tires and blocking Road 129B because authorities have failed to address their health concerns over the dusty road.
Nget Seav, one of the protesters, said the 18-kilometre road is dusty during the dry season, making breathing difficult for the people living along the side of the road. On the other hand, puddles created during the rainy season makes travelling very difficult.
“People are facing serious difficulties because of this road. It is dusty during the day, dusty during the evening – it affects the health of the people living here,” he said. “So the people have gathered to ask the authorities to solve the problems this road has.”
According to a resident living along the road, construction of the road began in 1998 and local authorities promised to continue development, but construction stopped before the project was completed.
“We don’t oppose the building of the road, we just want the authorities to start putting in asphalt to stop the dust,” he said. “And another thing, this road is vital to the economy, there are so many trucks coming from Vietnam, so it is important for this road to be an asphalt road.”
The provincial government responded to the rally by saying that authorities are facing budgeting issues and there is only one temporary solution − the spraying of water along the dusty road.
Chhour Sothea, Takeo deputy governor, said that trucks of water are sent regularly to control the dust. He also assured residents that the Transport Ministry is planning to resume construction soon.
“The problem can only be solved on a national level, along with the Transport Ministry. This is a big road. The governor regularly orders water to be spread to prevent the circulation of dust,” he said.
When asked when the government is planning to resume development, Mr Sothea said the asphalt will be applied sometime this year. However, with no deadline in sight, residents can only rely on the word of their local authority.
According to Transport Ministry spokesperson Nou Vathanak, the road is under maintenance, despite the failure of the previous construction company to finish the project.
Mr Vathanak said heavy trucks are to blame for the high levels of dust.
“The road lacks the budget to make the project a government priority,” he said. “Authorities are requesting for an asphalt road but people need to understand the budgeting issues.”