Possible Pollutants in Sesan, Srepok Rivers Worries Locals, Causing Illness

Unseasonably muddy water in the Sesan and Srepok rivers is causing health problems for villagers in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces, NGO workers, officials and villagers reported yesterday.

Nang Noy, field team leader at the 3S Rivers Protection Network in Ratanakkiri, said that one thousand families living along the two rivers have been coping with severely dirty water in the months since flooding hit the province due to Typhoon Ketsana in September. Though muddy water is an annual occurrence, it has never before failed to clear up during the dry season, said Ms Noy, and it ordinarily carries no attendant health issues.

“In the dry season the water is fresh, but this year it is still muddy. The villagers cannot use it; when they use it they get skin problems,” she said.

Why the river is still muddy at this time of year is itself unclear but Ms Noy and others interviewed yesterday said they believe the problem might be linked to upriver dams.

The water level rises slightly during the day and reduces at night, said Thorng Bay Ngot a community chief in Talat commune adding that the muddy water may be due to the movement of floodgates.

Hel Sreypeou, water resources committee chief of Sesan district, said yesterday that the health problems are becoming unbearable for villagers.

“Some people itch on their skin when they bathe in the river…. They get diarrhea when they drink the water. My children also get the itch, and sometimes I boil water for them to bathe in but I cannot do this every day,” she said, adding that she suspected pollution was the cause of the deaths of about 30 cattle since December.

An analysis of the water, requested in late December by Stung Treng and Ratanakiri officials, is being processed said Mao Hak, director of water resources at the Water Resources Ministry, who added that the results should be available in a week or so.



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