Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority Awash in Success

Graft-busting General Director Had Zero Tolerance on Corruption

Phnom Penh’s water system has been recognized as world class even though nationwide less than 14 percent of households had running water in the 2008 census. The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority won the Stockholm Industry Water Award 2010 last week for bringing water to 90 percent of the city, the Stockholm International Water Institute announced last week.

Since Ek Sonn Chann’s appointment as general director of the water supply authority in 1993, he has led the transformation of Phnom Penh’s formerly dilapidated system.

Back then, the city’s war-torn infrastructure meant bad quality water reached less than a quarter of the population for 10 hours per day, Mr Chann said yesterday.

“Now drinkable quality water is available 24/7…. It is drunk straight from the tap,” Mr Chann said, noting the water costs a riel per liter.

The authority continues to fix leaks, lay pipes and collect payments, Mr Chann said, adding that an 8-kilometer pipeline around the city’s ring road in Dangkao district’s Choam Chao commune is under construction. “I have a dream to bring all water supply in Cambodia to the same level as Phnom Penh,” Mr Chann said.

“The PPWSA has successfully fought corruption and shown this can be achieved in a developing country on a large-scale basis using simple but effective management techniques,” the water institute said in announcing the award on June 2.

According to the statement, the PPWSA will next take on the city’s sanitation system and sewage system and the water authority is to make an initial public offering when Cambodia’s stock exchange opens.

Mr Chann, however, said the authority was waiting for government instruction on these issues.

The PPWSA is financially autonomous and its director can offer private sector-level salaries, Jan-Willem Rosenboom, country team leader of the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank, said yesterday.

“Its an incredible success story driven by Ek Sonn Chann who had a personal vision of what to do then the integrity to carry that through,” Mr Rosenboom said. Yet the authority’s achievements are unmatched in provincial towns where water supply systems cover less than 30 percent of the population, he added.

The award will be presented by the water institute in September.


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