Environment Minister Mok Mareth said Thursday that it would be illegal to begin filling in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak lake until his ministry has been provided with and approves an environmental impact assessment.
Construction firm HSC Co Ltd, on behalf of Shukaku Inc, is currently constructing a pipeline between Boeng Kak and the Chroy Changva peninsula to pump sand into the lake.
During Thursday’s National Assembly debate, Mok Mareth once again came under fire over Shukaku being granted permission by the Phnom Penh Municipality to fill in Boeng Kak without completing a mandatory EIA.
“There must be an assessment first before the ministry allows any construction,” Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan said of the lake filling plan, which is scheduled to start next month.
Mok Mareth responded by saying that his ministry takes EIAs seriously.
Outside the Assembly, Mok Mareth told reporters that Shukaku, which holds a 99-year lease to develop 133 hectares of the lake and its surroundings, should have provided the Environment Ministry with an EIA before starting construction of the pipeline.
“According to the law there must be the [EIA] first before they prepare to pump the sand,” he said.
Mok Mareth said that an EIA, which must be completed by an independent company, could take up to a year to complete.
“There must be at least six months to one year of study,” he said, adding that the company that Shukaku has hired to do the EIA started its research into the consequences of filling the lake only one month ago.
However, Shukaku is allowed to collect sand from the Chroy Changva peninsula while his ministry waits for the EIA, he said.
“Otherwise they would claim that the Ministry of Environment prevents their development,” he added.
Lao Meng Khin, who is president of Shukaku and also of prominent Phnom Penh-based firm Pheapimex, could not be reached for comment this week. Both Shukaku and Pheapimex share the same business address in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong defended Shukaku’s sand-pumping pipeline on Thursday, saying that the municipality was not given any instructions from the Ministry of Environment regarding the filling of Boeng Kak.
“The company has made no mistake-the company has done nothing wrong,” he said.
Pa Socheatvong also said that he disagreed with Mok Mareth on the length of time it would take to complete the EIA and that the completed study should be judged based on its own merits.
“Even if it takes one year or two years to study, what happens if the two year study is no good?” he asked.
City Hall, he added, is doing its own environmental impact assessment of the lake filling.
SRP lawmaker Ahmed Yahya said that he is concerned that the city is not taking the appropriate measures to ensure that development of Boeng Kak will be done correctly and will not adversely affect the area’s more than 4,000 families.
“If we don’t study it carefully it will affect many people in the area,” he said. “We don’t want them to stop, but we want them to be responsible,” he added.