Collapsed Riverfront Mired in Negligence, Waste

When a stretch of newly re­stored riverfront on Chroy Chang­va peninsula collapsed in Feb­ruary, RCAF Lieutenant Seak Sa­run, 37, was fishing nearby with his son.

He called the incident “laughable,” as scavengers climbed up with hammers and axes to knock concrete from the metal foundation and collect the metal, the remains of a $300,000 restoration project.

“The technique and the quality of the construction were very low,” Seak Sarun said. “Maybe the company spent as little as possible of the contract money.”

A 2-meter-high fence now surrounds the remains. The rubble has become a makeshift toilet for indigents and is pungent with the stench of urine and feces. On April 5, some visitors to the site said they worried the smell will worsen if the bank is not rebuilt before the coming rainy season.

Okhna Mong Reththy, the owner of Mong Reththy Group, said his company, which did the initial restoration, began work April 6 on the collapsed segment and aims to rebuild it before the rainy season. He said only 100 meters gave way, out of a total 270 meters restored.

He said the company would pay for the rebuilding using the remainder of the contract money, some $140,000. He couldn’t give an exact cost for the repairs be­cause a study has not yet been completed.

Phnom Penh City Hall commissioned Mong Reththy Group to rebuild the 270 meters of riverfront last June because the stretch collapsed after floods in 2002. The job, awarded without public bidding, was expected to cost $300,000.

Municipal officials said the collapse was the result of faulty construction.

“It all collapsed into the river because of poor technique,” Heng Vantha, deputy cabinet chief of the municipality, said April 5.

A municipal official speaking on condition of anonymity said the company violated its contract by not building a stairway to the river. The official accused the company of cutting corners on construction to increase their profit.

“The company earned a lot of money off this contract,” the official said.

Mong Reththy blamed the collapse on a leaking sewage pipe in the street along the river, which undermined the soil.

“It collapsed because a sewer pipe was broken for a long time, not because of bad building practices,” he said. “The company would not leave it incomplete.”

He said the responsibility for the collapse lies not only with his company but also with the municipal department of public works. But he added, “We will do it more carefully than last time.” As for a schedule, he said, “It would be dangerous if we don’t finish before the rains start.”

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