Floodwaters Reach New Heights Around Lake, Residents Blame Firm

Boeng Kak lake area residents in Srah Chak commune’s Village 6 in Phnom Penh yesterday said this week’s rains have left their homes and neighborhoods flooded more severely than ever before.

All blame Shukaku Inc, the private construction firm that has been pumping the lake full of sand since 2008 for a massive development project.

Chum Touch stood in murky, trash-strewn water up to her knees in her own bedroom yesterday. Outside her back door, where a dry alley used to run, neighbors waded through olive-brown waters up to their waists.

“I have lived here for 21 years, and this is the worst ever,” said Ms Touch, whose family of nine has moved in with neighbors. After propping their beds on top of one another, she homed a few of them could start moving back.

All 4,000 families originally living around the lake have been slated by the city for eviction. Together with Shukaku, the city has been enticing them to move out with a variety of compensation offers: $8,500 in cash, an apartment in far-off Dangkao district plus $500, or an on-site home in the finished development.

With a job nearby and three children an easy commute away from their classes, Ms Touch has no interest in any of those options. “Tell the families of the company to take it,” she said. “I won’t agree to it.”

And with the rising waters have come fears of disease, electrocution and-for parents with small children-drowning.

“I am afraid my daughter will drown because she is too young,” said Kim Sara, who has sent his five-year-old to live with relatives in Takhmao after his own home flooded the night before for the first time in his 20 years living here.

Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath said the firm had temporarily stopped pumping sand yesterday morning at the government’s request. He said water levels would start to recede some time today.

Nouv Saroeun, director of drainage and sewage for the Public Works Department, said efforts to connect the area’s blocked sewage system to one in neighboring Russei Keo district were “almost finished.”

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