Authorities in Kompong Chhnang province are drawing up plans to relocate around 1,600 families from two floating villages on the Tonle Sap river, claiming the villagers are polluting the river and causing congestion for boats traveling between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Provincial Governor Touch Marim said the idea was floated last year due to increasing numbers of families moving to live in the floating villages, Chong Koh and Kandal, in Phsar Chhnang commune, near the provincial town, and the ensuing pollution.
“The increase in the number of families has also affected [river] traffic. We should find a relocation site,” Mr Marim said yesterday.
A committee has been established to first conduct a census of the villages’ population and to identify a possible on-land relocation site for the estimated 1,600 families, the majority of whom are ethnic Vietnamese.
When the census is complete a request will be sent to the Interior Ministry seeking permission to move ahead with the relocation, Mr Marim said.
Kompong Chhnang city Governor Hay Monorom said that he had no information regarding the possible relocation site as officials have not yet met to discuss the plan.
A 2008 census of Chong Koh and Kandal counted more than 1,000 families, most of which were ethnic Vietnamese who had settled in Phsar Chhnang commune, said Chong Koh village chief and local Vietnamese association vice president Hok Mey.
Mr Mey said the increase in the villages’ inhabitant had led to pollution in the river as a result of human and household waste.
“I think it is affecting the environment but we don’t know what samdech [Prime Minister Hun Sen] will do to tackle this problem,” he added.
The Fisheries Action Coalition Team, a local fisheries organization, has conducted hygienic waste management methods for floating villages on the Tonle Sap, said Fact’s Tonle Sap coordinator Minh Bunly, noting that villagers are told to keep their waste out of the water.
The spike in residents at Chong Koh and Kandal could certainly pose an environmental hazard if all the residents were using the river as a disposal method, Mr Bunly said.