Work on New Flyover Exacerbates Flooding in Stung Meanchey

Roads, homes and businesses in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district were submerged Wednesday as floodwaters rose rapidly due to heavy rainfall and construction workers partially filling in land where a canal channeling rainwater out of the city once flowed.

Up to 1,000 families raced to save electrical items and evacuate their homes in Stung Meanchey district, while an excavator worked to reduce the water level by digging away part of the filled in land under the Meanchey bridge, where work has begun on a new flyover.

District governor Kuoch Chamroeun acknowledged that work around the bridge had exacerbated the flooding but said that it was the volume of rain rather than the narrower channel for the water to flow that was the main reason for the flooding.

“The construction site needed more space in order to continue building [so we installed] a small release sewer [to narrow the flow of water] and allow more space for the workers,” he said.

“If it rained like normal, it would not have flooded, but there was too much rain for the new slow-release sewer,” he said.

According to the website of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which built Phnom Penh’s canal system in partnership with the government, much of the southwestern district’s rainwater eventually finds its way into the canal that runs under Meanchey bridge.

Many residents of Stung Meanchey commune’s Boeng Trea 4 village—some chest-deep in water as they waded down streets that had become tributaries—said that they had never experienced sustained flooding of this magnitude, and were quick to point to the work on the flyover as the culprit.

“We have these floods every year but usually the water runs away much faster,” said Moeun Sovann, 44.

“Recently, they put a new drain­age system at the [Meanchey] bridge and the water is now flowing through my house instead of under the bridge,” he continued as he packed his remaining be­longings onto a tuk-tuk and headed for higher ground.

“My house is this deep under water,” said Eng Chanthy, 44, as she drew her finger across the base of her neck.

“Last night many people could not sleep because all the beds were under water,” she said pointing to a shanty of waterlogged wooden beds set up under a row of tarpaulins. “I think it is because they blocked the drainage to build the overpass.”

Mr. Chamroeun said that 1,000 families had been affected by the flooding, but that no schools or factories had been inundated.

But at a garment factory on Street 820, workers wading waist-deep in filthy water were seen trying to save sewing machines.

“They [staff] don’t work today, they just help,” said a manager, who declined to be named.

Water could also be seen lapping up against the windowsills on the ground floor of the Sola Primary School, which had closed down for the day.

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