Garbage-collection company Cintri yesterday denied claims that uncollected trash that piled up during the Khmer New Year holiday caused flooding in central Phnom Penh on Tuesday afternoon. Municipal officials on Tuesday claimed that garbage had clogged the pipes of the capital’s newly finished and much-anticipate $22-million drainage system, resulting in flooding as usual in central parts of the city.
Seng Chamroeun, vice president of Cintri Ltd, said his company had continued to work at 50-percent capacity during the three-day holiday last week and had been cleaning the streets as usual for two days when the downpour flooded parts of the city on Tuesday.
“We still have 50 percent of the workers at work on holidays…. The last two days we’re back at work [in full capacity]. I don’t think [it] impact[ed] the flooding problem,” he said.
Mr Chamroeun acknowledged extra trash from the holidays could have contributed to blocking the new drains and the ensuing flooding, but he said Cintri should not be blamed for any drainage issues.
“If you want to say someone’s wrong or right you have to be clear about their obligations,” he said, adding, “Maybe the drainage itself has a problem.”
Moeung Sophan, deputy director of the city’s Department of Public Works and Transport, maintained that flooding had occurred because of extra Khmer New Year trash that was not collected on time by Cintri. He said garbage had been found blocking the drains, which were renovated with funds from Japan and had involved years of work replacing pipes along the riverfront and other downtown areas.
“You can ask [Cintri] why did the trash flow into the pipes?” Mr Sophan said yesterday.
Mr Sophan said the flooding was also due in part to the fact that Tuesday’s rains were the first heavy showers of the year. He added that the drainage pipes were still filled with sand from the dry season, which will be flushed out over the course of the rainy season as more water passes through the system.
“After the second or third big rains, the sediment will wash from the system,” he said. “During the second big rains [this year] we will see.”
A cursory inspection of drainage points near Kandal market yesterday, one of the worst affected by the flooding, turned up all sorts of garbage blocking the steel drainage grates, including bricks and stones, discarded coconut shells and plenty of plastic bags and other rubbish.
According to project information provided last year by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the new drainage system, which JICA helped fund, is designed with the help of pumping stations to drain storm water inundation to a depth of 20 cm within one to two hours.
Tuesday’s murky floodwater was still knee-deep between Kandal Market and Old Market two hours after the rain stopped.