Ministry Wants $10 Million for Tonle Sap Canal

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is asking the Me­kong River Commission for rough­ly $10 million to pay for a canal to be dug through the Tonle Sap lake be­­cause its water level is so low that speedboats are un­a­ble to travel be­tween Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the director general of Phnom Penh Port said Mon­day.

The proposed canal would be 60 meters wide, 2 meters deep and about 106 km long, Hei Bavy said, adding that it would run through to the Chong Phneas area of Siem Reap province.

“The canal is necessary for boat business and for fish stock in the lake,” he said. “It is time to dig a canal.”

If the government and the MRC commit to the canal, it could be in operation by 2007, he said.

The Asian Development Bank and the government are also planning to build a $30 million port for tourist boats in Chong Phneas, he said.

Sun Chanthol, Minister of Pub­lic Works and Transport, visited the lake last week with a MRC official to see how shallow it was, Hei Ba­vy said.

“The MRC official saw our problem, and hopefully he will write a re­port to the head of the MRC and hopefully they will consider this im­portant project,” he said.

Speed boat companies said Mon­day that they have had to suspend their operations from March to mid-June because of the plunging wa­ter levels of the Tonle Sap.

“Within several months my com­pany loses about $3,000,” said Kim Sen, owner of the Chann Na Speed Boat Co.

“We are waiting for the rainy sea­son. It is too shallow now, we can’t do business,” she said.

She also voiced concerns that bus and taxi firms are proving more attractive than the speedboats, as they are considerably cheaper.

The speedboats charge foreign tourists $25 each to get to Siem Reap, while buses charge only $4.





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