Families Facing More Problems After Fires

Almost 4,000 families made homeless by fire in Phnom Penh have no potable water on land where the government wants to relocate them, according to UN and government officials.

A test of the water taken from six wells dug at the site found that it failed to meet international drinking water standards, said Ek Sun Chan, the director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Water Authority.

He submitted an emergency plan to the UNDP-Urban Poverty Reduction Project to construct a $50,000 water treatment plant—a 45-day project—but added that if the plant is not built the people will get by.

“The reality is that you can drink the water,” he said.

Some 70 percent of Cambo­dia’s population relies on water that fails to meet international standards, Ek Sun Chea said.

The water problem concerns the UNDP, said Peter Swan of the UN Center for Human Settle­ments.

“We are considering urgently the request from the municipality for the water supply plant be­cause there are so many people whose health security is at risk,” Swan said.

Families living at the site have to rely on bottled water or water trucked in by a tanker, Swan said. Water is available for laundry and cleaning, but even boiling the water available at the site will not make it potable because it contains too many minerals.

The families were moved to the site last month after two massive fires swept through squatter villages in the Bassac and Chbar Ampov areas.

The Anlong Kngann area, located about 16 km north of Phnom Penh, is accessible only by a poorly maintained dike road, making it difficult to deliver aid supplies or to work in Phnom Penh, where many of the displaced families had jobs before they were moved.

The water problem is only the first of several hurdles for families at the site. Schools, markets, pagodas and a sewage system are still needed.

Failure to construct even basic infrastructure at another resettlement area west of Pochentong Airport led to more than 50 percent of the families leaving the site earlier this year and returning to Phnom Penh, aid workers said.


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