Officials Express Concern Over State of Rural Water Supply Infrastructure

Despite Cambodia’s environmental advantages—generally predictable rainfall and rich groundwater resources—villagers in rural areas struggle in accessing quality water sources, officials said yesterday at a conference on the “Func­tional and Sustainable Rural Water Supply Services at Scale” in Phnom Penh.

The conference, originally scheduled to be held in Bangkok, was moved to Phnom Penh due to safety concerns in Thailand.

Rural Development Ministry Secretary of State Sao Chivorn said yesterday that having the conference in Phnom Penh presented an opportunity to focus on an a struggling sector that has not shown much improvement since the 1990s, a reality illustrated by the fact that only 41 percent of Cambodians had access to clean water in 2008.

Mao Saray, Director of the Rural Development Ministry’s department of rural water supply, said that villagers have not been sufficiently educated on how to transport and store water or on how to maintain existing wells.

“There needs to be more education on treating water sources, transporting water and storing water in the home,” he said.

Jan Rosenboom, Country Direc­tor for the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program, said that water supply has been treated by the Cam­bodian government and NGOs as a hardware project rather than as a service and that the lack of a supply chain for parts or technical knowledge at the local level resulted in many systems breaking down well before their planned obsolescence.

“There is simply not an effective decentralized system that puts people in a position of responsibility for maintaining their own water supply,” said Mr Rosenboom, adding that, as a percentage of government spending, Cambodian rural water supply and sanitation efforts receive less than a 100th of the funding provided by most nations in the region.

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