Work has been completed on more than 10 km of canals designed to bring water to nearly 3,000 hectares of land in Battambang province—Cambodia’s frequently drought-prone rice bowl.
Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng last week inaugurated the Battambang, Banan and Thmar Koul district canals, aimed at allowing farmers to grow two crops per year instead of one, said Veng Sokhon, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.
“We will not be able to reduce poverty until we spread out the water system,” Veng Sokhon said
The Italian government paid for the irrigation of 1,900 hectares as part of a $3.2 million grant that will also go to schools and small roads.
The Japanese government funded irrigation of 950 hectares, provincial officials said. Construction began in 1998.
Battambang officials hope to continue canal-building to irrigate 7,000 hectares in the three districts, said Third Deputy Governor Prak Doeun.
Ministry of Water Resources officials have asked the Japanese to build a dam in Treng commune, but Japanese officials said they will wait to see if a good road is built through the commune, Veng Sokhon said.
Sar Kheng urged local authorities and residents to cooperate with the government and donors on the canal-building project. He discouraged local authorities from buying land where new canals are planned. And he encouraged local residents to permit new canals to run through their properties, he said.
The canals will distribute water from the 110 million cubic-meter reservoir of the massive Kompeang Pouy dam, which was built with forced labor during the Khmer Rouge regime.
An improved irrigation system will help Cambodian farmers compete with Thailand and Vietnam, both of which have more-developed irrigation systems, Veng Sokhon said.