A plan to renovate canals in Sihanoukville was announced yesterday by Preah Sihanouk provincial Governor Kuoch Chamroeun.
Mr Chamroeun told reporters during an inspection visit that all canals in the city will need to be repaired, and some will also be expanded, in order to mitigate the impact of flooding.
“The government has decided, in principle, that sub-national authorities must continue to repair and expand the canals in the city in order to alleviate serious flooding,” he said.
“I am sure that we have already received machineries from the Water Resources and Meteorology Minister Lim Kean Hor, the Public Works and Transport Ministry and generous people [donors],” he added. “We now have 14 excavators and some dump trucks.”
There are challenges when it comes to repairing and expanding canals: The authorities said people who built their homes along canals contributed to making canals more narrow, while residents said floods occur because a canal was closed in order for it to be exclusively used to carry wastewater into the ocean.
In March, local authorities closed the canal in order to transfer wastewater from one of four water treatment plants before the water is released into the sea.
However, Mr Chamroeun said the work must continue in order to reduce flooding.
“We are going to remove all mud and rubbish from the canals,” he said. “The floods over the past few days have shocked Sihanoukville residents […], although floodwater has receded, our intervention continues.”
“We will repair all canals in order to make sure that floodwater can be reduced in the city,” Mr Chamroeun added. “It is true that I may not be able to solve the problem or ensure Sihanoukville will be floodless, but I have to identify the root of the problem.”
He noted that the authorities will provide compensation to residents who legally own properties along canals.
“Please stop any construction and land encroachment because it affects everyone in the city,” Mr Chamroeun said. “[Floods] damage people’s properties and people can die.”
“For those who have a house on the bank of a canal, those who build walls, and those who encroach, I am appealing to them to work with our working group to repair and expand canals,” he added. “[The expansion] could affect your legal properties, but we won’t take your land.”
Excavators continued to clear canals yesterday as floods hit parts of Sihanoukville and Prey Nop district.
So far, three people have died during floods in Preah Sihanouk.
Keo En, a 54-year-old resident from Sihanoukville’s Bet Traing commune, yesterday said water flooded her house and heavy rain continues to pour.
“As you can see, most of my things have been flooded over the last few days,” Ms En said. “My rice can no longer be cooked, and other appliances, such as fans, a freezer, a TV are damaged.”
“The water in my house is 0.5 metres deep and I don’t have a place to sleep because my house is only one floor,” she added.
Keo Mom, Ms En’s 51-year-old neighbour, said this year’s floods have been like no other. Ms Mom said the authorities must solve the problems with the canals.
“I have rarely seen serious floods like this,” Ms Mom said. “The authorities must solve this problem immediately.”
“I am like an empty hand; all of my chickens and ducks were lost because the flood took them away,” she added.
According to the National Committee for Disaster Management, seven provinces have been affected by heavy rainfall since last week, resulting in at least four deaths and thousands of families displaced.