Despite the presence of rain across the country this week, officials say not enough has fallen to relieve or benefit drought-stricken villagers because of the state of the country’s irrigation systems.
“We have many problems,” said Meas Touk, governor of Kroch Chhmar district in Kompong Cham province. “The rain is coming, but most canals and ponds are shallow and have big holes. When it is raining, very little can be stored.”
Soeng Phon, governor of Svay Chek district in Banteay Meanchey province, also decried the damage to the irrigation systems in his area for exacerbating the effects of drought.
“We have some rain in the last few weeks, but it was not enough because of the drought, and it flowed into big holes in the ground,” he said.
To combat the loss of water, Soeng Phon said authorities are encouraging people and institutions to build irrigation systems.
“We have to restore some canals and dams and build new ones to ensure we have no shortage next year,” he said. “We have to do it now.”
Toek Tong Lim, governor of Kiri Vong district in Takeo province, said the lack of water is affecting people and their livelihoods.
“It is not only the people who are affected but the animals, crops and farms,” he said. “Cows and buffalo are drinking dirty water in ponds and canals.”
Battambang provincial Governor Prach Chan said he has already asked the Ministry of Water Resources for help in restoring and building more canals and dams in the province but hasn’t received a response.
Seth Vannareth, director of the Ministry of Hydrology’s meteorology department, said there will be enough rain this year for farmers but not as much rain as in 2000.
Kuy Sun, a villager in Battambang province, questioned why Cambodia is so far behind Vietnam in terms of irrigation systems.
“I wonder why Cambodia is still asking for donor aid and does not have the same development as Vietnam,” she said. “It is moving, but too slowly.”