Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Ministry Builds Canal To Save Phnom Penh, Kandal From Flooding By Diverting Water

View of the water system restoration and canal project in Kampong Speu’s Kong Pisey district aimed at preventing floods in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. (Picture: Facebook page Kampong Speu’s Administration)
View of the water system restoration and canal project in Kampong Speu’s Kong Pisey district aimed at preventing floods in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. (Picture: Facebook page Kampong Speu’s Administration)

Parts of Phnom Penh and Kandal province would undergo flood mitigation works, implemented by the Water Resources and Meteorology Ministry with the construction of canals, and the restoration and modernization of water release and water diversion systems, which are expected to be completed by 2028.

Kampong Speu Water Resource Department director Nhanh Cheap Horng said the canal will divert flood waters in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Speu and Takeo to prevent flooding in Phnom Penh and Kandal province.  

There are two main canal lines under the project. One is located on Samrong Tong district’s Rolaing Chork commune and the other links Rolaing Chork commune to Takeo province. It will be built using concrete.

“With the canal, we will be able to reduce flooding in Phnom Penh between 70% and 80%,” he said, adding that he does not have any information on the project’s budget.

To date, the project has seen a 30% completion, Cheap Horng said, adding that there will be no floods in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. Both areas were badly affected by the floods in the last few years, as Prek Tnaot river burst its banks.

The 57 kilometer-canal would be 100 meters wide and up to seven meters deep. It is expected to divert the water from Bati river in Takeo province and Bassac river while experts are also considering diverting water to Tonle Sap river. 

Meanwhile, ministry spokesperson Chan Youttha declined to disclose the budget, as he was in the meeting. However, he mentioned that the project will prevent flooding caused by the Prek Tnaot river with villages along the river no longer experiencing floods. 

“This project will reduce the water flow from Kampong Speu via Prek Tnaot river,” he said.

Deputy governor of Kandal province Kruy Malen said Ang Snoul and Kandal Stung districts, and Takhmao city have previously experienced floods due to the overflow of the Prek Tnaot river.

Although he cannot be certain if the project would completely prevent flooding in those areas, he believes it would help ease the problem by diverting flood waters from Kandal province and ensure that farmers are not impacted by the floods. 

“Sure, the project will have a lot of benefit as it will divert flood water to other areas and would be able to store water for use in the dry season,” Malen said.

View of the water system restoration and canal project in Kampong Speu’s Kong Pisey district aimed at preventing floods in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. (Picture: Facebook page Kampong Speu’s Administration) 

Phnom Penh Water Resource Department director Mao Bunthoeun said the modernization of the water release system and diversion canal play an important role in preventing floods. However, he is not able to talk about its effectiveness unless the project is completed.

“We have to put all our effort into preventing Phnom Penh from flooding. We are doing it now but [to gauge] its effectiveness, let us wait and see after the project is done,” he said.

Over at Prek Tnaot, villagers who live along the river applaud the project on the notion that they would not be affected by flood and are able to save their crops from damage.

Horn Sokhorn, 73, a villager living in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, said he is happy to hear about the project, saying that the project will improve his livelihood. 

“I am happy with the project. If there is no flood, we can cultivate crops easily and without [fear of it] being damaged,” he said. 

Sokhorn claimed that flooding had worsened in the last two years, with people not being able to go to work as they had to make sure their house and properties are not destroyed by rising waters, while some are evacuated to safe places.

He said after the flood water receded, the Prek Tnaot riverbank also collapsed into the river, which he said was a “second impact” to the villagers following the flood. “I lost my land spanning two to three meters into the river. That is a lot.”

Chea Vibol, another villager, who lives along the river, said the project would help him “sleep well” as he need not worry about the floods anymore, and he could raise animals for a living. 

He recalled that during the flood last year, the water level reached the roof of the house and his family members had to move to a safe place. It was very hard to access healthcare too, as he suffered from diabetes. 

“We faced many difficulties during the flood, as we couldn’t leave our house to go to work,” he said.

Prek Tnaot river during dry season in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, on Feb 1, 2024. (CamboJA/Pa Tongchen)

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, commented that the project is good for the people who have been waiting for a long time and wanted the government to solve their flood problem. 

“[The government] has to implement a temporary solution to help people from the impending floods. Everyone will be affected when the flood comes,” he added.

San Chey, executive director of ANSA, said the ministry should ensure people’s safety during the rainy season and make sure they have sufficient water in the dry season. Many farmers complained about insufficient water for their crops during the dry season. 

“This year, our farmers experienced shortage of water for their dry season rice cultivation while in the rainy season their paddy rice was damaged by flood. Thus, if they couldn’t grow their dry season paddy rice. Their livelihood, like the agricultural sector, was affected,” he said. 

According to the National Committee for Disaster Management, 107 districts and cities, and 406 communes were flooded in Cambodia in 2023. Over 80,000 families were affected by the floods while 4,000 families were evacuated to safe places. Ten people died due to the floods while nine were injured.