Phnom Penh residents living near an open-air sewage canal that runs through Chamkar Mon district said yesterday that the canal is negatively affecting their health, while business owners complained that its malodorous reek is driving away customers.
A municipal official said that the bad-smelling canal, which, according to a realty firm, has lowered property values in the area, is not a problem.
The canal spans 2.4 km of Phnom Penh, flowing from near the Royal Palace, west along Street 288 and south more than 30 city blocks to a reservoir in Boeung Trabek lake.
Neang Oun, a 76-year-old resident of Chamkar Mon district living only a few meters from the 2-meter-wide sewage canal on Street 105, said that it is responsible for weekly fevers and headaches suffered by her and her family.
“When the weather becomes very hot, the canal begins to smell very badly and causes us to feel sick,” she said, adding she has lived by the canal since 1993 but has no means to move from the area. “I suggest the government take action to improve the situation right now.”
Another resident, Phol Long, 35, said that he moved into his studio apartment three months ago, but both he and his 3-year-old son are already constantly battling illness.
“I am going to move out of here as soon as possible,” he said. “The smell is terrible and often gives me a headache.”
Many residents feel powerless, but have not approached City Hall to change the situation.
“We haven’t done anything yet to get the district authorities to try and solve the problem, because not enough of us believe we can do something,” said Hang Daret, a 47-year-old local restaurant owner, who said the smell of the canal drives away customers.
“When the wind blows from the canal, it becomes difficult,” she said. “My business depends on a small group of residents who have become immune to the smell after being here so long.”
Complaints about the canal are not only anecdotal. According to Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty, the fetid canal has lowered property values in the area by 20 to 30 percent.
“The demand along that street is low, and it will take longer to sell those properties than other streets,” he said.
The canal has been a common topic of conversation in the real estate sector, according to Mr. Bonna, who said individual tenants have not been able to convince City Hall to change the situation.
“Some property owners don’t want to talk to the authorities, or have any idea how to ask…but a larger company may have more luck trying to develop the area,” he said. “It is an idea that we support because it is good for the country. The canal is not good for anybody.”
Neou Saroeun, director of the municipal drainage and sewage system, said that he had never heard a complaint on the issue, and as a re
sult, no actions have been taken to resolve it.
“We do not know how many families are living near the drainage, but there are no health effects because they are used to living with the situation,” he said, adding that the city has never tested the water for contaminants or microbes.
“If we cover the canal, it will make it difficult to clean the rubbish out of it and probably make it smell more,” he said.