With $130 million expected to be donated to Cambodia in the next four years for rural water supply, a debate has begun within the Ministry of Rural Development about whether to purchase domestically produced or imported water pumps, sources said Monday.
On the one hand, Rural Development Minister Lu Laysreng and Undersecretary of State Kim Sour are pushing increased use of Cambodian pumps; on the other hand, water supply department head Nov Say favors imported models.
“I care about quality,” Nov Say said. “We have learned that local, domestic water wells or hand-pumps are low quality.”
Nov Say said that of the 80,000 water wells installed in remote areas in recent years, most are made in India. He said that with $18 million from the Asian Development Bank already in hand, the government expects further donations for rural water supply from the World Bank and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. At a public meeting on improving water supply on Monday, Kim Sour read a statement by Lu Laysreng calling for increased reliance on domestic pumps.
“The ministry is concerned that there are not enough spare parts to fix imported water wells and hand-pumps,” Kim Sour said.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said the municipality would urge its own water supply department to buy Cambodian-made pumps.
“We follow the new concept of Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen to encourage the use of domestic products,” he said, adding that Phnom Penh will be expanding its water system into the outskirts soon.
Pen Chhum, the owner of Phnom Penh-based Angkor Hand Pump, said he has not received an order from the government since 1999. He said he has sold 3,000 hand pumps to private users since 1999. “Without encouragement from the government, I will soon close and 30 people will lose their jobs,” he said.
But he added that the Japan International Cooperation Agency has said they will purchase 55 Cambodian pumps and that the Asian Development Bank will order 1,000.
“We have a market but there was no transparency and there has been unfair competition,” he said. “I almost wanted to give up.”