Riverfront Project Upsets Tourist Businesses

A large chunk of Phnom Penh’s famous Sisowath Quay riverfront has been closed off as part of a major flood protection and drain­age improvement scheme now underway.

Work on the $18-million project, which will involve digging up the riverfront from Street 108 for about 2 km up to Chaktomuk Confer­ence Hall, will be done in stages and is expected to take three years to complete, according to municipal officials.

There will be four pumping stations to help improve drainage and reduce flooding problems in the area, said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mob Sarin.

At present, work is being done from Street 108 to Street 154, with a small section left open to allow boats access to the river.

Businesses along the quay, who depend on tourists for whom the river is a popular strolling area, were taken aback by the riverfront closure.

“There was no discussion or consultation with businesses affected by this,” said Tassilo Brinzer, owner of La Croisette Bistro Restaurant. “It’s a bad idea to start this at the height of the tourist season.”

The 2-meter-high corrugated metal barrier, which blocks the view of the river, will “definitely” affect trade, he said.

Mekong River Restaurant manager Sok Phanna said he already had customers complain that the view of the river was gone. “If this fence is here for a long time, then this is a big problem,” he said.

“I was so surprised to see this fence,” boat operator Pich Tong said. “How will all the boats for tourists fit into such a small area?” he asked.

Municipal Deputy Governor Chreang Sophan said that some inconvenience was inevitable. “When we want to develop something, there must be consequences,” he said.

Japanese company Kubota Con­struction Co Ltd was awarded the contract for the project in October after a bidding process involving four companies, Mob Sarin said.

Onsite engineers said Sunday that the pathways and gardens behind the fences would be dug up, but returned to their former state afterwards.




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