Though only a quarter of Cambodians currently have access to safe drinking water, the Ministry of Rural Development is hoping to boost that number significantly in the next several years.
With $1 million donated by the Swedish International Development Agency and the French Development Agency, the ministry is developing a plan to bring safe drinking water and sanitation to rural areas, said Ly Thuch, secretary of state for the Ministry of Rural Development.
He said the goal of the project is to increase access to safe drinking water to 60 percent to 65 percent of Cambodians. “But right now, with a population of 11.4 million people, only 26 percent have safe drinking water,” Ly Thuch said.
The Rural Water Supply and Sanitation project, discussed Tuesday at a meeting of ministry and provincial officials and NGO representatives, will help the ministry build infrastructure vital for improving the water supply, Ly Thuch said.
For future projects, such as digging wells, donors will be petitioned for funds.
Safe drinking water is defined as water from a drilled well, treated water from a piped water system or treated water purchased in jugs or bottles.
According to a 1998 census, access to safe drinking water in nine provinces is less than 10 percent. In 12 provinces, less than 10 percent of the population has access to water from drilled wells, which is the most practical source of safe drinking water in rural areas.
Unsafe drinking water has led to millions of people becoming sick with diarrhea—especially women and children—and has resulted in many deaths, Ly Thuch said.
The census also found that only 9 percent of Cambodians have access to toilet facilities. Access is higher than 10 percent in just seven provinces.
“Rural water supplies will help narrow the gap between the rich in the city and the poor in the countryside,” Ly Thuch said. “Water is a necessity of life. There should not be a difference between the rich and the poor.”