Several villages around Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak lake have been affected by flooding following two days of heavy rains, some of them for the first time since the start of this year’s rainy season.
Residents yesterday, however, blamed the high waters on private construction firm Shukaku, which has been filling in the lake with sand since 2008.
“If there were no sand pumping there would be no flooding,” said Pich Sunly, who rents part of her Village I home in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune to a neighborhood restaurant that juts out over the water from the lake’s western bank. While the dining area was spared, guests must make their way past the flooded kitchen over a makeshift walkway of wood planks.
“I have been living here for more than 30 years, and there has been no flooding like this before,” she said.
The city and Shukaku have been offering lake residents various compensation deals to move, but Ms Sunly has insisted on staying.
“I am not leaving. I dare to die here. I came out of poverty and they want be to go back,” she said. “I was cheated by Pol Pot one time and that is enough.”
On the east side of the lake in Village 22, the rains have turned alleyways into fetid pools of trash-strewn water. Residents living just beyond the concrete wall running around the local mosque had no choice yesterday but to wade through water half way up to their knees in some spots.
The particularly unlucky, like Vann Neang, have also had their homes flooded.
“It gets worse and worse each year, and our house is decaying because of the water,” said Mr Neang, adding that the village only began flooding when Shukaku starting filling in the lake.
Though some pumps have been installed around the lake to help drain the floodwaters the rains leave behind, residents complain that they are unequal to the task.
Phnom Penh deputy governor Pa Socheatvong declined to comment yesterday and referred questions to Daun Penh district governor Sok Sombath, who could not be reached. Srah Chak commune chief Chhay Thirith also referred questions to one of his deputies, who could not be reached.
In a move housing rights groups have labeled illegal, the city granted Shukaku a 99-year lease to the 129-hectare site in 2007. The firm has since filled in well over half the lake.