City Hall is moving forward with the development of Boeng Choeung Ek lake after it sacked one of its development partners and residents living near the lake are expressing concern over a plan to reclaim and designate 190 hectares for development.
In May, the city’s administration revoked five land titles granted to tycoon Ing Bun Hoaw after his company, ING Holdings, failed to develop infrastructure along the lake and erect a satellite city in Phnom Penh and Kandal province’s Takhmao city.
The new satellite city reportedly covered more than 2,500 hectares of land in the Boeng Tompun and Choeung Ek wetlands. The satellite city was to be divided into four areas: commercial, industrial, residential and administrative areas.
Renderings of the project on the website of ING Holdings showed the expansive Boeng Choeung Ek lake replaced by government office buildings, retirement homes for Chinese nationals, factory outlets and an amusement park.
Despite losing its development partners, the work to develop the lake into a commercial hub continues.
In a letter issued on Monday, City Hall said a working group was ordered by the Council of Ministers to measure and define land borders in the lake’s area.
“[The working group] has identified 190 hectares for development and 181 hectares for a reservoir,” it said in the letter. “The working group has also identified families living in the 190-hectare area.”
It added that the measuring and defining of land in the area are almost complete, but some land owners have yet to fully cooperate in the work.
It noted that the working group gave the land owners until August 15 to cooperate in order to have their land measured.
“If the owners fail to comply by the deadline, the working group will not be responsible for measuring their land or resolving any problems,” the letter said.
Met Meas Pheakdey, spokesman for City Hall, said yesterday that he does not yet know how many families will be affected by the project.
“We will wait to see after the one-month deadline to know how many families are involved following land measuring,” he said. “After we display results of the land measuring, if they disagree, they can complain to City Hall.”
He added that he is also not yet aware of any compensation plans.
Lor Sarom, 35, said he fears losing his daily income from growing and selling vegetables.
“My vegetables are located inside their planned area,” Mr Sarom said, adding that he started planting water mimosa in 2015 and that his plants cover approximately one hectare of the lake. “We will lose our jobs if they intend on reclaiming the lake.”
“We do not have other places to plant vegetables,” he said. “Now I am able to earn up to about $20 from selling mimosa.”
A 45-year-old man who identified himself as Louy said his mint farm covers 5,000 square metres of the lake. He said he is also worried about losing income when the authorities fill a part of the lake with sand.
“It will affect people who are relying on planting vegetables on the lake,” Mr Louy said.
Pech Bun, chief of the Chhoeung Ek commune’s Kva village, said the lives of residents will not be impacted.
“There is not effect on families because [city officials] have demarcated land borders close to the lake area,” Mr Bun said. “I don’t know who is in charge to develop the 190 hectares because we are low-ranking officials and we do not know about their development project.”
When asked about ING Holdings, Mr Bun said the company never developed the area, despite receiving permission to do so.
“We only saw the company pump sand,” he said. “We never saw any development.”
Regarding compensation to residents, Mr Bun said “it’s a decision for the top leaders, I am just a low-ranking official who cannot deal with the issue”.