Prime Minister Hun Sen asked for the public’s understanding Thursday as he officially launched the start of what will be nearly three years of construction on Phnom Penh’s busy riverfront.
Building sites established along Sisowath Quay at the peak of the tourist season have blocked both river views and sections of the riverfront promenade.
“Our construction period is for two and a half years,” Hun Sen said at a groundbreaking ceremony on the riverfront. “Local people and foreign tourists are visiting but now there are walls and disturbing noises,” he said.
As part of the extensive renovations, four water pumps will be set up to speed the release of storm runoff into the Tonle Sap and prevent heavy flooding in the capital, Hun Sen said.
“Please understand about the construction site that is surrounded by fences: It doesn’t look good but when we finish it will be very good for people who live in this area,” he added.
“After the construction, everything will be fine. There will be no flooding from rainwater.”
The new drainage system will also help trap some pollution before it is released into the river. Currently, about 9,000 tons of untreated wastewater is released every day, the prime minister said.
“If Phnom Penh releases polluted water, people in Prey Veng and Kandal receive the polluted water,” he said.
Steve Tearle, owner of the riverfront bars Frog and Parrot Bar and Frogshack24, both of which face the construction, said the public and businesses had not received sufficient advance notice of the construction work. Foreign customers would be put off visiting the riverfront because the view of the river has been blocked, he said.
“I think it will discourage tourists once they’re here in town,” he added.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said construction was necessary and that tourism would rebound once it is complete. “We have a contract to make the city more beautiful,” he said. “I agree with the prime minister that we should apologize to the tourists. In two years, everything will be fine and the tourists will be even happier.”