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Chinese clean water project helps improve livelihood in Cambodia’s rural areas

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Clean drinking water, courtesy of Chinese aid. KT/Siv Channa

For years, villagers in remote areas in Northern Cambodia have faced serious water shortages in the dry season, but the situation has improved as a Chinese aid project helped dig dozens of pumping wells and ponds.

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Launched in November 2019, the two-year China-Aid Cambodia Rural Water Supply Project-Phase II has been actively underway in rural areas of 10 provinces despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Banteay Meanchey province, where clean water is scarce in rural areas, is one of the selected provinces for the project.

Soth Sun, chief of Koklech village in O’chrov district, about 18 km west of Banteay Meanchey provincial town, said the 112-family village is always short of clean water in the dry season because it is difficult to find underground water. Under the project, his village has received three pumping wells.

“It’s not easy to get the underground water here,” he told Xinhua. “The Chinese team had drilled up to 60 meters deep and even 82 meters deep to reach the source of water.”

He said the water from the wells is very clean and villagers have used it for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and irrigating vegetables around their houses.

“This project is very beneficial to my villagers because it helps save their expense for clean waters and reduce illness from water-borne diseases,” he said.

A Cambodian proverb says, “When you drink water, think of the source.” Sun said the villagers will never forget China’s aid in constructing these wells.

Yery Bath, head of Anhchanh village in O’chrov district, said for decades, villagers used to walk several km for water during the dry season, but now clean water is at their houses’ yards.

“In the dry season, we used to queue to buy drinking water,” he said. “When we failed to get water, we borrowed water from each other.”

Bath said previously, villagers also struggled to drill pumping wells by themselves but never succeeded because the underground water sources are very deep.

“We thought that our village could not get underground water, but now it has changed thanks to the generous aid provided by the Chinese government,” he said. “We can finally end the history of buying water and drinking muddy water,” Bath said.

With approximately 77 percent of Cambodians living in rural areas, 58 percent of them lack access to safe and clean water, according to a government report.

To address this issue, the Cambodian government has set a goal to reach 100 percent access to improved clean water supply and sanitation in rural areas by 2025.

Keo Chhay, a project director at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Department of Rural Development, expressed his heartfelt gratitude to China, saying that the project was vital to address water shortages in rural Cambodia.

“The Chinese experts have successfully found deep-water sources in locations where we do not believe that there is water,” he said. “They have high skills and expertise in identifying water sources and drilling wells.”

Pu Zhengyu, managing director of the China Jiangxi International Economic and Technical Cooperation Co., Ltd.’ branch in Cambodia, which is the contractor for the project, said the project aimed to dig a total of 964 boreholes and 54 community ponds in the rural areas of 10 provinces, namely Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, Kampot, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, and Kampong Speu.

As of mid September 2020, the sub-progress of the borehole drilling reached 80 percent and the community ponds had been 66 percent completed, he said, adding that the general project progress had reached 75 percent.

“Most completed wells and ponds have been handed over to the provincial governments and local villagers for use,” he told Xinhua.

“These livelihood infrastructures will provide clean and hygienic water access for daily production, agricultural irrigation, and livestock breeding for hundreds of thousands of rural residents in Cambodia,” he said.

Through this project, the traditional friendship between China and Cambodia will bear more fruits, undoubtedly, Pu added. Nguon Sovan & Mao Pengfei/ Xinhua

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