The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology wants to dredge the small island that emerged last year at the point where the Tonle Sap, Bassac and Mekong rivers meet, officials said Sunday.
The emergence of Yukuntor Island sparked hope among Buddhists that the legendary Buddha would spring forth from the island.
To pay homage, worshippers helped build three small temples there to look like gold, silver and diamonds.
Officials said they would let the temples, which are visited by about 10 to 20 people each day, fall in the water as the island is dredged.
Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources, said dredging is needed because the 30-by-50-meter island has caused surrounding water to become too shallow for bigger ships to pass through.
The lower depth also makes it difficult for fish to survive, because the water gets too warm, he said. The island has caused the number of fish in the Mekong and Tonle Sap to decrease, he maintained.
“We have to solve the problem as soon as possible,” Lim Kean Hor said.
But the government will need help to carry out its plan, Lim Kean Hor said.
Lim Kean Hor said the project will cost more than $20 million.
A committee discussing how to undertake and finance the project met last week with representatives from the Ministry of Public Works, Phnom Penh Municipality officials and others. Funding possibilities include borrowing money from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, or looking for investors.
“I think the government has no money for the plans,” Lim Kean Hor said. “There is only one choice—looking for partnership investment.”
The committee also is studying the environmental impact of the dredging, and other aspects of the project.
Nao Thouk, deputy director of the Fishery Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the project is a good idea because it will improve water traffic from the Mekong to the Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers.
Before the 1970s, the government dredged dirt every year, Nao Thouk said.
But during the Khmer Rouge regime, no dredging was done. Afterward, the government did not have enough money to take care of the dredging.