While flooding in Phnom Penh is a relatively short-lived problem compared to other parts of the country, it costs the capital dearly across all sectors, particularly economically and socially.
Older parts of the drainage system had become dilapidated and inefficient due to narrowing, as well as the illegal occupation of canals, causing parts of Phnom Penh to suffer from flooding during rainy season.
Seeing the problem, the Phnom Penh Municipal Authority, under grant aid from Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has been restoring deteriorated drainage canals to prevent flooding.
Since 1998, the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration and JICA have been collaborating in the implementation of a four-phase flood prevention and drainage improvement project.
Canals and drainage covering the southeast and central parts of the capital have been enhanced, alleviating severe flooding during rainy season.
The Project for Flood Prevention and Drainage Improvement in the capital Phase IV was completed on September 17, 2021 at a cost of $36 million.
The Phnom Penh administration and JICA are currently studying the feasibility of implementing Phase V, covering the capital’s southwest, to prevent flooding, with some lakes in the area having been filled for the development of housing, said municipal hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey.
Meas Pheakdey said that, with a recent meeting between experts from the relevant units of the municipal administration and JICA, Phase V could be implemented in nine of 27 areas in the municipal administration’s master plan.
These are located in the southwest of Phnom Penh.
“Currently, the project is still in the impact study stage, with the municipal administration implementing some necessary and urgent measures to respond to the current flood situation in some parts of the capital.
“The administration has installed water pumps at 15 pumping stations and used 10 pumping trucks to pump floodwater out from Boeung Tumpun and other flood-affected areas during the rainy season.
“As well as this, the municipal administration has also excavated, restored and developed a number of sewerage systems and drainage canals, and set up new water storage and treatment station in Boeung Tumpun capable of pumping up to 30m of water per second,” he said.
Nonetheless, he called on all residents in the capital, particularly those in areas vulnerable to flooding, to keep the environment clean and collect rubbish that can block drains and canals, obstructing the flow of water and causing flash floods.
Sak Sophary, a 47-year-old resident of Boeung Tumpun II commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, told The Post that her home no longer floods during downpours.
“It does not flood during normal or even heavy rain after the authorities restored and widened the canals, and installed five more pumps at the Boeung Tumpun pumping station.
“In the past, when it rained even for only a few hours, my house would flood, with sometimes even plastic bags and rubbish flowing into my home. But now it does not flood as before, even when there has been heavy rain,” she said.
Heng Srey La, 42, a resident of Dangkor district’s Sak Sampov commune, told The Post that parts of her village had flooded last August.
“This August, my village has not yet flooded as authorities have restored and expanded the canals, and made them deeper.
“With the improved canal system and the newly developed dam, I believe that my village is unlikely to flood again this year,” she said.
The municipal administration is currently carrying out restoration work on a large number of canals to improve the flow of water and prevent flooding in urban areas in the south of the capital.
These include the Toul Pongro I Canal in Por Sen Chey district’s Chaom Chao commune, which, flowing from the National Road 3 area in Meanchey district to Choeung Ek Lake, and continuing on to the Chrov River, plays an important role in flood relief.
The work is almost 100 per cent complete, said Seng Kimsan, the deputy director of the Phnom Penh municipal department of Public Works and Transport.
“Currently, our team is continuing to restore the Boeung Tumpun Canal, which is 3.7km long and 30m wide, and stretches from the Stung Meanchey Canal to the Boeung Tumpun station on Street 371.
“This canal plays an important role in releasing water from the Doeurm Sleng and Baraing canals, especially in moving water from Por Senchey, Sen Sok and Toul Kork, as well as some parts of Chamkarmon and Prampi Makara districts,” he said.
According to Kimsan, the working group in 2021 successfully restored an approximately 1km stretch of the Boeung Trabek Canal in Chamkarmon district, a more than 2km stretch of the Boeung Ha Canal, and the Moul Canal in Dangkor district’s Moul village, which is 2.8km long and 20-30m wide.
He said the team was currently restoring two main canals on either side of the first line from National Road 4 to O’Lav canal for water to flow into the Kob Srov Dam Lake.
Connecting to Prek O’ Khsach, the second line is 16.8km long, of which 2km is in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district and 14.8km in Phnom Penh’s Kamboul district. It 26m wide at its upper part and 17m at the lower, and 3m deep.
The line is to release water from Bek Chan and Ang Snuol districts through Kamboul district’s Kamboul, Ov laok and Snaor communes, and parts of Por Sen Chey district, continuing to flow into the Ta Mok Lake.
“With these efforts, we expect that Phnom Penh in this year’s rainy season will not be at the same risk of severe flooding as previous years,” he said.