City Schools Forced to Pay Large Water Bills

Municipal officials are warning some schools in the capital that they may soon be paying for their own water because of suspiciously high rates of usage, officials said earlier this week.

Um Hoeung, director of the municipal department of education, confirmed Monday his office issued a directive last month requiring some city schools to shoulder the cost of soaring utility bills.

Although the government was prepared to pay the schools’ 1999 water bill of about $5,000, Ung Hoeung said, it is in no position to absorb a water bill totaling about $100,000, which has accumulated since 1995.

Therefore, some schools will be required to share the cost of utilities, he said, noting the move will affect Phnom Penh’s primary and high schools, which are under the municipality’s jurisdiction.

Ek Sun Chan, director of the Water Supply Authority, blamed the accumulated debts on “careless” use of water but did not confirm one government official’s suspicions that some schools are illegally supplying water to nearby vendors and residents in adjoining neighborhoods.

Citing the $100,000 in unpaid water bills, Ek Sun Chan said on Monday, “Under the law, the water supply should be cut off if it is not paid for.”

He added, however, that only one school’s water supply has actually been shut off. Water was shut off at Don Penh Primary School “after repeated warnings that the school was wasting too much water,” Ek Sun Chan said.

Meanwhile, Sam Sophalla, a math instructor at Russei Keo High School, complained that if schools are required to pay for their own water, the burden will fall on students and their families, particularly the poor.


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