Seng Sreina and her husband abruptly cut their lunch short on Friday as a cloud of sand from the incomplete garden project on the city’s riverfront swept across their table and covered their food.
“During the past two days, the wind has been very strong and the sand from this site flew into the air making it very dusty. Around noon yesterday, I could not even open my eyes,” Ms Sreina said.
The riverside gardens, which stretch from in front of the Royal Place to the Old Market, were concealed from the public until the Water Festival in November as a project to reconstruct the city’s colonial-era drainage system required extensive construction work beneath the promenade.
The Japanese-funded drainage project is expected to be complete by March 2010 and while much of the riverside gardens have been reinstated with grass, shrubs and trees, a section in front of Wat Ounalom is still a veritable dust bowl.
Two construction workers at the site of the drainage project said on Friday their work was not connected to the dusty gardens and that City Hall is completely responsible for that work.
“The…sand was very strong and covered up this street,” said Srey Dy, 52, a worker on the site, while pointing to the intersection of Preah Sisowath Quay and Sotheros Boulevard in front of Ounalom pagoda.
“I saw tourists who were walking along here trying to use their hand to cover their faces,” Mr Dy said, adding that workers on the drainage project had worked through the night prior to the Water Festival so that the gardens could be reopened for the festival. But since then, nothing has been done on the sandy section at Wat Ounalom, he said.
Chreang Sophan, deputy governor of Phnom Penh and Sam Samouth, bureau chief of the municipal gardens, said they did not know when the garden would be a garden again.
“I do not know. The city is waiting to hear from Japan,” said Mr Samouth when asked when grass might replace the sand on the riverfront.
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema could not be reached for comment Friday.