Preparations for the filling-in of one of Phnom Penh’s largest lakes, Boeng Kak, are underway with the construction of a pipeline that will pump sand from the Tonle Sap river into the lake, officials said this week.
The pipeline, which is expected to be complete in January, will allow a sand and water mix to be pumped to the lake from an area of the river nearby the Chroy Changva peninsula. Water currently in Boeng Kak is simultaneously being pumped out of the lake at a number of sites, officials said.
Much of the Boeng Kak area has been leased to a little-known Korean firm, Shukaku Inc, which was granted a 99-year lease by Phnom Penh municipality to develop the 133-hectare lake and surrounding areas, including Boeng Kak’s thriving backpacker tourist area.
The $79 million investment deal requires 4,250 families in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune to move, according to the lease agreement.
Keo Vuthy, 38, a topographer for Pisonoka International Corp, the company contracted by City Hall to officially map the leased area, said Monday that the lake’s eastern side will be filled in from the small island in the middle to the guesthouse-laden backpacker strip adjacent to Monivong boulevard.
“They are going to fill from the island in the middle of the lake all the way to [the east] side,” he said, adding that the firm HSC Co Ltd is responsible for the sand filling operation.
Sok Hong, owner of HSC Co Ltd, said Monday that construction of the pipeline between Boeng Kak and Chroy Changva began about two weeks ago. The pumping process will not affect homes and guesthouses surrounding the lake, he said.
“It will take about a year and three or four months to complete,” Sok Hong said, adding that he was contracted by Shukaku to build the pipeline.
Sok Hong said he had few details about the city’s plans for Boeng Kak’s residents, but he added that he had been assured by City Hall that the 4,000 families living there had already agreed to development of their area.
However, residents and business owners at the lake said this week that except for rumors, they had not been officially informed of the city’s plans for the area and that they had not made any agreements.
“I’ve heard no formal information,” said Chan Bopha, 40, owner of Bopha Guest House. “I lose sleep with worry,” she said.
Chheang Phanna, 25, owner of Number 10 guesthouse, said he and other business owners around the lake are also worried by the lack of information from City Hall.
“We do worry, but we have no choice. The government does what the government does,” Chheang Phanna said. “It’s better if the government lets us know what they plan to do, so we can know what to do,” he said.
Chan Sorya, chief of Srah Chak commune’s Village 6, said by telephone Tuesday that he has received no information about the municipality’s plans, but he added that the pipeline construction to the Tonle Sap river has raised concerns in the community.
“I don’t know how the draining of the lake will affect people’s homes,” he said.
Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong confirmed Tuesday that development of the lake is now underway, but added that there was no need to inform residents around Boeng Kak because the draining of the lake would not affect their homes or businesses.
“They have not been told yet because it will not affect their houses,” he said.
Pa Socheatvong declined to provide details of the development plan, claiming it was “complicated.”
All lakeside residents who are forced to move because of the development will be provided alternative housing in the Boeng Kak area, he added.
Lao Meng Khin, who is president of Shukaku Inc and also of well-known local firm Pheapimex, could not be reached for comment.
SRP lawmaker Ho Vann repeated his party’s stance that the filling of Boeng Kak lake is illegal and that the municipality is not prepared for the adverse affect it will have on the environment.
“The city does whatever it wants to do and then addresses the problem later,” he said.