Villagers Hit as Pond Dries Up

Residents of a southern Cambodian commune spend more money on water than food.
2013-02-01
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A businessman sells water to villagers in Sre Ronnong commune, in an undated photo.
RFA

Hundreds of residents in five villages in southern Cambodia have been deprived of their sole source of water as a massive pond in their area has dried up, villagers said.

The affected villagers of Sre Ronnong commune in Takeo Province's Tram Kork district have been buying water from businessmen since the pond could not be used from late last year, with each household forking out about 15,000 riels (about U.S. $4) per week for the vital resource.

It is a relatively big sum in Cambodia where poverty remains a fundamental issue and a majority of the population live on less than U.S. $2 a day.

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Local authorities had tried but failed for the last two months to restore the 22-hectare (54-acre) pond for residents of five of 17 villages in Sre Ronnong commune relying on it as their sole source of water, villagers said.

Those in the 12 other villages had also used the pond, but they have wells as alternative sources of water.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has promised to restore the pond this month amid increasing pressure from the villagers.

Villager Thun Trol, 46, said that each week, she had to buy water three times for consumption by the family and their livestock, blaming CPP politicians for failing to honor their promise of swiftly restoring the pond.

“I am buying water, it is very difficult,” she said. “Each time, it costs me about 5,000 riel (U.S $1.20). We are already poor, now we are buying water. We pay less for food but much for water. "

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Part of the dried up pond (RFA Photo).

Thun Trol said the lack of rain has compounded their problem.

“The authorities have promised to restore the pond for two months already but there is no action,” she said. “Now, there is no rain, they can’t do it. Now, even the cows can’t find enough water to drink.”

A villager who gave his name as Vannak said he and at least five others are making a roaring business by selling water fetched from other areas.

“Now there is no water, I am making good income. The villagers don’t have equipment to fetch water from other places,” he said.

A village official from Sre Ronnong said two companies are negotiating with the authorities to restore the pond.

"It is still uncertain for now,” he said, adding however that efforts are being made to restore it by the end of February.

About half of the rural Cambodian population does not have access to safe drinking water and 20 percent of the deaths of children under five are due to waterborne diseases, according to Water For Cambodia, a nongovernmental organization that builds and installs water filters that produce clean drinking water directly from contaminated sources.

Reported by Savborey Ouk for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.