The Ministry of Environment will relocate its offices to a plot of land near NagaWorld Hotel and Casino in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district after its planned new headquarters in Meanchey district were declared too far from the city’s center by the new environment minister, an official said Monday.
The ministry is currently located on Sihanouk Boulevard in Chamkar Mon’s Tonle Bassac commune, but was supposed to move to a custom-built office on a 9,000-square-meter plot of land on National Road 1 in the city’s distant Meanchey district after it swapped the land with an unknown company.
Now, the ministry has decided to move to a 5,000-square-meter plot of land about 1.5 km away, said Sao Sopheap, cabinet chief to recently appointed Environment Minister Say Sam Al.
“The Ministry of Environment will begin constructing its location next month along the Bassac River near Koh Pich,” Mr. Sopheap said.
He said the switch was because Mr. Sam Al thought the new office on National Road 1 would be too far for workers to travel.
“It is not a big reason. The new minister saw that the first location is far, and it is difficult to travel to work and there’s traffic jams. The new location near Koh Pich is easy to facilitate contact with our partners and it is easer for our ministry’s officials to go to work,” Mr. Sopheap said.
Mr. Sopheap said the ministry returned the not-yet-complete building on National Road 1 to Ratana Cooperation and Construction, the company contracted to construct the building.
“We gave the first building [on National Road 1] back to the Ratana Cooperation,” he said.
Mr. Sopheap declined to discuss the details of the ministry’s latest move.
“It’s not [Ratana Cooperation and Construction] constructing the new building. Now we are negotiating with a construction company, so I cannot give you the construction company name,” he said, declining to discuss the cost of the new building.
Khat Narith, Tonle Bassac commune chief, confirmed the ministry’s new location, but declined to elaborate on the swap.
“Environment officials and the construction company went to survey the land in January,” he said.
The site is across the street from NagaWorld Casino and is currently a parking lot for NagaWorld.
As for the building and land in Meanchey district, Klaing Sokhoeun, a former manager of Ratana Cooperation and Construction, said Monday that construction was halted in September because of money and location.
“I heard that there was no money to build. At the same time, the new environment minister was appointed, and I heard that the new minister did not want that location,” he said.
After the change to Meanchey district was announced, staff at the Ministry of Environment complained that the location was too far from the city center and wondered why they would not be paid more to cover transportation costs, particularly because the government was expected to earn a lucrative sum for swapping its prime real estate.
At the time, in 2012, the ministry’s original location on Sihanouk Boulevard was worth between $9.6 million and $12 million. It was unclear Monday what would happen to that prime location once the ministry moves opposite NagaWorld.
(Additional reporting by Joshua Wilwohl)
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