Ministers Silent on Russei Keo Flooding Report, NGOs Say

As swathes of Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district remained underwater yesterday, NGO representatives said that they had received no official response from the Council of Ministers regarding a July presentation linking high water levels in the area to the filling of the city’s Boeng Kak lake.

Hallam Goad, an adviser for housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, repeated the presentation yesterday that he made for the Council of Ministers, which outlined an Australian report that predicted flood levels in Russei Keo district would rise by up to 40 cm if filling of Boeng Kak continues.

Mr Goad told an audience of NGO workers and reporters yesterday that when he spoke with the Council of Ministers in early July, government officials seemed impressed with the Australian study, but “that’s the last we heard from them.”

Mr Goad added, “At the moment, it seems just like hitting a brick wall…. This case would need intervention at the highest levels.”

He pointed out that Phnom Penh is a city built below the level of the Mekong River. “Drainage and pumping: This is not just one of many mu­nicipal issues. This is a fundamental issue for Phnom Penh.”

In the Australian report, released in December, a team of consulting engineers described an environmental impact assessment completed for the Boeng Kak lake-filling plan as “insufficient” in its description of solutions for draining the water.

Mr Goad also estimated yesterday that approximately 3,742 families living at Boeng Kak will be displaced by the residential and commercial housing development planned by the firm Shukaku Inc once the lake is filled in. Some of those families are currently awaiting the results of a complaint filed with the World Bank last month, alleging that they were unfairly excluded from the Bank’s land titling program.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said by telephone that he had no knowledge of the Boeng Kak issue. “I know that someone takes care of that one, but not me,” he said.

Hing Thoraxy, an advisor to Cab­inet Minister Sok An, said that he had attended the July presentation. “I just listened. I am not responsible for this lake,” he said. “There are many other people in the municipality who are responsible.”

Mr Thoraxy referred questions to Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun, who said yesterday that he was in a meeting and unable to comment.



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