Work is underway on a large residential housing resort being built on land created by filling in sections of Kob Srov lake, which government officials say is an essential flood-drainage site for northern Phnom Penh.
On Monday afternoon, several large trucks and at least two earth diggers could been seen working on a 60-meter-wide strip of man-made land stretching around 500 meters into the natural lake.
Doung Sam Ang, who is in charge of construction at the site for the Long Chhin Resorts company, said the firm was building an “entertainment site” on the land, which is being created by filling in the lake.
Doung Sam Ang said the company plans to build into the lake on land approximately one kilometer long and 60 meters wide.
“This is the only land we intend to build on,” Doung Sam Ang said, adding that his company had bought the land from villagers in 1994 and that permission for filling the lake in had come directly from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We have permission from the government and a document signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said.
According to a plan posted at the site, Long Chhin Resorts’ development may include several hundred housing units, and there also appears to be a marina.
Kob Srov lake in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district is abutted by a several-kilometer-long earth embankment and roadway which was built with millions of dollars of Japanese aid money. The dike has protected Phnom Penh’s northern regions from flooding for decades.
In May last year, after phone numbers of land-speculators trying to sell what they claimed were their submerged properties inside Kob Srov lake were daubed on the Japanese-built embankment, Phnom Penh municipality responded with a decree that all lake land would be taken back by the state.
The order stated that ownership claims to Kob Srov lake would be disregarded and warned that the city faced the danger of flooding if the lake was encroached upon.
The 2001 Land Law also states that lakes are state public property and cannot be sold.
Pa Socheatvong, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said Monday that the part of Kob Srov lake being filled by the construction company is the responsibility of Kandal provincial authorities. However, Pa Socheatvong said that he did not believe anyone had been given permission for the company to fill in the lake.
“It is a bad place for a resort because Phnom Penh floodwater is going to be pumped into that lake in the future which will pollute the water,” the deputy governor said.
“The person who is making this is doing so just to take the land for their business,” he said. “I think they will face the law in the future,” he added.
Tep Sothy, governor of Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, said that Long Chhin Resorts had permission from the government for their construction project inside Kob Srov lake.
“It has followed the law,” Tep Sothy said, though he added that he had ordered that a section of the construction be halted after receiving another complaint from a family in the area that the development was encroaching on their land.
Hor Bun Thoeun, 47, a resident of the lakeside Khmuonh commune in Russei Keo district, said filling in the lake would destroy an important flood drainage area for the city.
“If they fill the lake, where will the water flow when the river gets high?” he asked.